Before the Duke City Gladiators’ Indoor Football League season was canceled last month because of the coronavirus pandemic, the team was looking forward to this portion of the schedule. Beginning on Saturday, the Gladiators were to play five straight home games in Tingley Coliseum.
So much for that.
Now team headquarters is in 2021 mode, signing two newcomers in addition to re-signing 15 players on this year’s roster.
Plus, owner Gina Prieskorn-Thomas said in a phone interview she also is looking for a new coach to replace Cornelius “Pig” Brown.
“Our coaching staff has been released, although we’ll be bringing back our assistants next season,” she said of offensive coordinator Martino Theus, defensive backs coach Fred Griggs, offensive line coach Sherman Carter, defensive line coach Fatu Ulale and special teams/quarterbacks coach Robert Kent.
As for the new head coach, Prieskorn-Thomas said she has narrowed her search to two veteran sideline bosses who have had success in previous years against the IFL’s powerhouses, the Arizona Rattlers and the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Storm. She declined to identify the candidates.
As for Brown, who had yet to coach his first game for the Gladiators, Prieskorn-Thomas said the two had an amicable split and that Brown received severance of 35 percent of his pay for the season. The players, meanwhile, did not earn money from the league because there were no games played, but those who were interested have gained income working for the Gladiators’ marketing department.
Brown, who won out for the job over 31 other applicants in September, sent an email to the Journal confirming he was no longer coach, but didn’t respond to a request to elaborate on the situation.
In September, Brown was hired to replace Dominic Bramante, who was released after winning back-to-back Champions Indoor Football titles.
“We just decided to look for a coach with a little bit more experience as a head coach,” Prieskorn-Thomas said of her current search.
Brown had one of year of head coaching experience, with the Nebraska Danger of Champions Indoor Football last season.
FORGET ABOUT IT: Last month the Gladiators had been hoping to play exhibition games in Tingley later this summer. But those dreams were quashed with the continued pandemic.
LEAGUE NEWS: Despite the financial hardships the canceled season has caused the 13 IFL teams, league commissioner Todd Tryon said things are looking up for next year.
“As of now, I expect ALL current teams to return!” he wrote in an email to the Journal.
In fact, the league is growing.
“We’ve already expanded to 14 teams by the addition of Columbus (Ohio) that has already been announced,” he said. “Any other expansion would be premature to announce at this time. We are working with several expansion markets for the 2021 season but there is quite a vetting process before approval.”
He also confirmed that the league will increase its scheduled from 14 games to 16 next year to give teams another home date.
SIGNINGS: The new players signing with Duke City were former Florida State/Valdosta State receiver Greg Dent Jr. and ex-Florida Gator Joseph Putu, a defensive back who was an undrafted free agent in 2018 with the NFL Atlanta Falcons but didn’t stick.
DOCUMENTARY: Prieskorn-Thomas said the team received a $2,500 grant from the city to create a documentary of how the team has persevered during the pandemic to aid the metro area.
Directed by Julian Mendez in association with the City of Albuquerque Creatives DIY Media project, the documentary will premiere 6 p.m. Friday on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/DukeCityGladiators/) with downloadable links on the Gladiators Official YouTube with later broadcasts on Albuquerque City platforms.