Schedule releases are some of the most fun fans can have in the offseason. The crazy rematches from last season, the rivalry matchups, the planning of road trips and trying to predict how every team can make it to the championship game are something every fan dives into while waiting for that first game.
But the offseason struggles continue for Champions Indoor Football, as a basic analysis of the schedule shows major holes in the schedule. It's worse for some teams than others, but from the league this creates an issue. Here are the five biggest problems for the CIF schedule this year.
1. No Kansas City, Idaho or West Michigan
Teams were lost this offseason for the CIF as Quad Cities and Bismarck made the jump to the IFL. League jumping at this level isn't unheard of but it did create some positive momentum for the CIF when Omaha and Sioux City stated that they were staying.
However no official word came from the KC Phantoms as the team eventually folded with little fanfare. A large market right in the heart of the CIF's geographic footprint, Kansas City was a great travel partner for all teams in the league and provided good regional media coverage.
Idaho was another potential team with the Horsemen front office saying that they were investigating joining the league. But that statement came as part of a larger press release announcing the American West Football Conference.
The West Michigan Ironmen was supposed to play in the league last year but didn't after costly and messy legal action involving them and the Bloomington Edge. West Michigan spent last year in a smaller league, was trying to find a new part-owner and has been rumored to join Professional Arena Football this upcoming season.
However the CIF announced that West Michigan would be the first expansion team for the 2019 season. The press release was removed from the CIF website, but still pops up on search engine results.
2. No Championship Rematch
Last year's CIF Champions Bowl was another amazing title matchup. The league has a great standard for high intensity, compelling games to determine their championships. It's one of the best aspects of CIF. Unfortunately for fans, they won't see a rematch unless both teams make it to Champions Bowl V.
Duke City and Sioux City are one of three possible matchups this season that won't happen before the playoffs. The Gladiators also won't face the Omaha Beef and expansion franchise Oklahoma Flying Aces will not play Salina.
To be fair, it's an 18-hour bus ride between the two cities, the longest trip in the league. The next longest trip is with Omaha and Duke City, which is also not on the schedule. What isn't fair is that three teams (Wichita, Texas and Amarillo) are playing every team in the league while five aren't. It will impact fair play ideals and tiebreaker scenarios for many teams.
3. Conference Series Are Unequal
Despite the lack of equal schedules, the bigger concern isn't how they impact the individual franchises but the conferences. Conference affiliation -- Wichita, Omaha, Sioux City and Salina in the North; Oklahoma, Duke City, Amarillo and Texas in the South -- are determining the playoffs this year. So why is there so much inequality in conference games played?
In the North it isn't too bad. Wichita and Omaha both play six games against the North, while Sioux City and Salina play seven. Conference home games are a little iffy as Omaha has a true home-and-home schedule with three games each, while Wichita has just two home conference games. The Bandits and Liberty play each other three times, so one game held in Salina could not count for conference standings and it would be a good situation for those teams.
However the South is just a disaster. Every team plays a different amount of conference games. Oklahoma plays five (two home, three away), Amarillo plays six (two home, four away), Texas plays seven (five home and two away) and Duke City plays eight of their 12 games inside the conference with four games home and away.
What happens if every team in the South goes six and six this year? How will the tiebreakers be broken down? Texas and Duke City has more conference home games individually than Oklahoma and Amarillo combined. Tiebreakers have shifted from year to year based on divisional alignment, but anything in conference or common opponent is going to be a logistical nightmare. Better hope the playoff race ends before week 14.
4. Bye Weeks Make No Sense
Bye weeks are important for teams as they give teams a needed break. Injury recovery, a week off after a large trip or simply avoiding some other major events in the team's market or arena. However, the byes are coming at awkward times for almost all the teams.
Three of eight teams in the CIF have both byes in the first third of the season. Sioux City has the opening week and week four to rest their players, while Omaha and Oklahoma have weeks two and five off.
Wichita is the exact opposite, having their byes on weeks 10 and the last week of the season in week 14. Texas doesn't really have any bye weeks, because they play all twelve games between weeks 2-13, taking off the opening and closing weeks of the season.
The three remaining teams -- Amarillo, Duke City and Salina -- have some good bye weeks in weeks three or four and then nine or 10. But that is less than half the league. Again, another thing that makes you rack your brains trying to figure out what is important to the CIF schedule makers.
5. Some Teams Playing Two Games On Road Instead of Home-and-Homes
The CIF has done a good job with some teams making sure that there is an attempt at home-and-home games. However there are some exceptions to the rule.
Amarillo (vs Salina), Texas (vs Amarillo), Oklahoma (vs Sioux City) and Sioux City (vs Wichita) all get to play two games at home without ever travelling to their opponents.
For Texas and Sioux City, these are in conference games. That will impact the playoff hunt and take meaningful matchups away from certain fan bases. Remember the inequality in conference games played? Yeah, that comes into factor here too, seeing that Wichita and Amarillo have the league lowest amount of conference home games.
All these things add up to a problem for individual franchises to market their team. Texas plays four of six home games against the same two opponents. They play away games against all of the North Conference. Duke City plays Texas and Amarillo three times, but doesn't play two teams in the league. It just isn't a good look for the league to have this many holes in the CIF schedule.