By: Jonathan Hull
The Wichita Falls Nighthawks are suspending operations for at least the 2018 season.
Owners Drew Carnes announced the news in a Facebook Live video with KAUZ’s Adam Ostrow and then reiterated it in a news release Monday afternoon.
“Due to legal actions we will not be playing the 2018 season,” Carnes told Ostrow. “The (Indoor Football League) claimed we withdrew improperly. Basically, they felt we didn’t dot an ‘I’ or cross a ‘t’ properly. It left us no legal option to play in 2018.”
Carnes said he and his wife, Teri, are evaluating the option of playing in 2019.
The decision to halt operations was made when the IFL sued Carnes after he moved the Nighthawks to the Champions Indoor Football League last month. The IFL was hoping to integrate franchises located in Bloomington, Illinois and Muskegon, Michigan for the upcoming season. However, those two teams had signed an agreement to play in the CIF for the 2018 season.
The IFL proposed a trade that would see Wichita Falls and the Sioux Falls Storm, which also announced it was leaving for the CIF last month, join the CIF in exchange for the release of the Bloomington and West Michigan franchises.
The CIF didn’t accept the deal and then told Wichita Falls and Sioux Falls it would not help them with legal costs for fighting the IFL’s injunction. Carnes estimated a cost of at least $150,000 in legal fees should he go to court.
Returning to the IFL, which Sioux Falls opted to do, wasn’t an option, either, due to the large travel costs of playing in that league. It was the biggest reason Carnes had opted to leave the IFL for the CIF.
“The fact is our closest game is still 500 miles away,” Carnes said. “That doesn’t make sense for us financially. Sioux Falls fits the footprint for the IFL. They were probably going to have more travel costs playing in the CIF.”
Carnes would not comment when asked to give a percentage for the chance the Nighthawks would resume operations in 2019. If he should decide to do that, the team could look very different than the one that emerged as one of the best in the IFL the last two seasons.
Carnes has released coach Billy Back, who had moved his family to Wichita Falls, from his contract, allowing him to find other opportunities. Obviously, every player has also been released without the obligation of returning to Wichita Falls should the Nighthawks return for the 2019 season. Several players had also moved to Wichita Falls, starting careers and families.