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Rattlers coach Kevin Guy ‘frustrated’ by lack of market stability in IFL, AFL

Arizona Rattlers head coach Kevin Guy addresses the crowd after his team won the Intense Conference Championship over the Nebraska Danger Saturday, June 24 at Talking Stick Resort in Phoenix. (Photo: Vince Marotta/Arizona Sports)
LISTEN: Kevin Guy, Arizona Rattlers head coach

Last fall, after spending 25 years (24 seasons) as members of the Arena Football League, Arizona Rattlers owner Ron Shurts made the decision to join the Indoor Football League.

The reason was clear. The Rattlers had been one of, if not the premiere franchises in league history, but ownership issues in other markets painted a dicey picture moving forward in the AFL. The 2016 season featured only eight teams — the lowest number of participants in the league since the Rattlers joined as an expansion franchise in 1992.

After the ArenaBowl, which the Rattlers lost to the Philadelphia Soul at Gila River Arena in Glendale last August, franchises in Portland, Los Angeles and Orlando shuttered operations, leaving just five participants. For a team with a rabid fan base (the Rattlers averaged a league-high 12,586 fans in 2016), the idea of sticking around in a league that would have to suspend operations for a season due to a lack of franchises wasn’t feasible.

“I couldn’t take a chance, for the fans, that potentially the AFL wouldn’t play in 2017,” Shurts said last October.

The Rattlers jumped to the Indoor Football League, an outfit that began in 2009. Arizona wrapped up their first season in the IFL with a 50-41 win over the Sioux Falls Storm in the United Bowl last Saturday.

But much like the AFL, the IFL is facing challenges with membership. The Spokane Empire ceased operations Wednesday, while the Colorado Crush, Salt Lake Screaming Eagles and Cedar Rapids Titans have all also been mentioned as candidates for a shutdown. Meanwhile, the Wichita Falls Nighthawks, Green Bay Blizzard and Nebraska Danger all plan to relocate to Champions Indoor Football League for geographic and travel reasons.

Kevin Guy, the head coach, who just won his fourth championship with the Rattlers, is frustrated by the lack of stability.

“I can’t speak for Ron, but it is for me,” Guy told Bickley and Marotta on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station when asked about the frustration he feels. “It’s never been about the Arizona Rattlers. The Rattlers is a very strong organization, but where the doubts come in are with the partners we’re in business with.

“For whatever reasons, some of those other markets have had trouble not only getting it going but keeping it going, so it has been frustrating.”

When looking toward his personal future, Guy is torn. He could opt to coach in another league — he’s hinted at outside interest from other teams — but he’s loyal to Shurts and the Rattlers. Therein lies the rub.

“You ask me about my future — when you look out there and see that kind of stuff, those are things that we don’t have control over. We only control what we can control, and that’s our own market,” he said. “We’ve got a great fan base here that follows us. We’ve got some top-notch sponsors involved with the team and we really have built our business over the years, especially when Ron Shurts bought the team, he was a game changer.

“We feel really good about where we’re at in our own market, but when you look out at what’s going on in other markets — I can’t tell you what’s going on, but I can tell you there are some things going on right now and we’ll see how that evolves over the next week or so. But at the end of the day, we’re always going to be looking out for the best interest of the Arizona Rattlers and what we need to do to be successful.”

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