The Duke City Gladiators are movin’ on up.
It was announced on Tuesday that after winning back-to-back championships in Champions Indoor Football, the Gladiators have joined the more-prestigious, better-established Indoor Football League.
The Gladiators will begin IFL play next spring.
“The Gladiators bring a strong winning tradition to the IFL while solidifying our geographic footprint,” IFL commissioner Michael Allshouse said in a news release. “We look forward to the intense southwestern rivalries the Gladiators will bring to the IFL and to a long and productive partnership with the team and the city.”
The IFL, headquartered in Grand Island, Neb., will enter its twelfth season of play in 2020. It began with a merger between the Intense Football League and the United Indoor Football Association in 2008. The league fielded 10 teams in eight different states this spring.
The league’s easternmost franchise is located in Moline, Ill.(Quad Cities). The San Diego Strikeforce are the IFL’s westernmost franchise.
The league has two teams in Arizona: the Phoenix-based Arizona Rattlers and the Tucson Sugar Skulls.
The San Diego and Tucson franchises were new in 2019.
The Sioux Falls (S.D.) Storm are the defending champions, having beaten the previously unbeaten Rattlers 56-53 in the title game in Phoenix on July 13.
Arguably, the IFL can claim to be the strongest indoor football enterprise in existence. The Arena Football League, founded in 1987, fielded only six teams this year. The Rattlers, a five-time AFL champion, left for the IFL in 2017.
The Gladiators, formed in 2015, finished fifth, fourth and fourth in their first three seasons in the CIF. Under coach Dominic Bramante, they defeated Sioux City (Iowa) for the 2018 title and Salina (Kan.) for the 2019 championship.
With the departure of the Gladiators, Champions Indoor Football is left with six teams for 2020. Over its five-year life, the CIF has had several teams fold and others, like the Bismarck (N.D.) Bucks and the Quad City Steamwheelers, leave for the IFL.
The Gladiators, who play at Tingley Coliseum, went 11-3 this season. Attendance figures were missing for some home games, but when those figures were available the average was about 4,350.