Labor, QB issues undermined team

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In the time since the Power's season ended, coach Derek Stingley has spent time visiting family in Chicago and Louisiana, taking some time away from football.

After a season that involved quarterback changes, labor disputes and a last-place finish, he likely could use the break.

The Power (5-13) lost to Jacksonville, 64-39, July 20, wrapping up one of the most turbulent seasons imaginable for a pro sports team.

The campaign started five months ago with the bizarre sequence of events that involved team owner Matt Shaner firing the entire roster hours before the kickoff of the season opener in Orlando. The game continued with replacement players -- the Power won, 40-26 -- and most of the players ended up re-signing, but Shaner said the publicity hit the team took in a pro-union town like Pittsburgh had long-term repercussions.

The team returned to a crowd of just 7,094 for its home opener against Philadelphia at Consol Energy Center. For comparison, the home opener against the Soul a year earlier drew 13,904.

On the season, the Power averaged 5,163 fans per game a 43.9 percent decrease from its first-season average of 9,197.

"Having a labor issue certainly hurt our attendance," Shaner said. "It hurt our attendance a lot. There are a lot of labor families that used to come to our games that didn't come out because we had a labor issue this year."

Shaner said that since game-day ticket sales are the Power's main revenue stream, the team did not turn a profit this season.

"It'll be back next year, but we certainly need to put more fans in the seats and we can't absorb [financial] losses like we had this year forever," he said.

While the labor situation may have kept fans away initially, the Power's play on the field didn't do much to draw them back. The team won one home game and one of their five wins came by forfeit.

Part of the struggle was finding consistency at quarterback. The Power used four quarterbacks on the year, none of whom were the presumed starter heading into the season.

Kyle Rowley practiced as the starter for the entire preseason, but was fired before the Orlando game and did not re-sign with the team. He ended up signing with Spokane and finished the season averaging 289.9 passing yards per game, fifth best in the league.

The Power rotated through Bill Stull, Derek Cassidy and Bryan Randall before settling on Andrico Hines. Hines led the team to victory in two of its final four games.

"They did the best they could under the circumstances," Stingley said. "What if they stayed in one system all year? What if we just had those two or three quarterbacks all year and not going back and forth with a revolving door of quarterbacks? There's a chance we might have won more games."

Stingley insisted near the end of the season that the team had turned a corner. He started the season as the Power's defensive coordinator, but took over as interim head coach when Chris Siegfried was fired with eight games remaining. Before the team's final game, it announced that Stingley would return as the full-time coach in 2013.

"You get the opportunity to basically start over and say, 'This is my meal. I'm going to add these ingredients and make it this way,' " Stingley said. "Then, you're going to try and serve it make sure everyone is enjoying the meal. So, yeah, I'm very excited."

As Stingley works this offseason to prepare for a more successful year on the field in '13, Shaner and the rest of the league owners will try to ensure that there will be no labor unrest next year.

The Arena Football League and AFL Players Union agreed in principle last month to a new five-year collective bargaining agreement. Despite some last-minute hiccups, representatives from both sides said they expected the deal to be signed within a few weeks.

"To not have that uncertainty of is the game going to kick off or is it not going to kick off will help us in getting sponsorships, will help us in expanding our league," Shaner said. "I think it'll show our fans that we're committed to playing football for a long time here in Pittsburgh."

sportsother

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.


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