Two rookie head coaches who teamed to help the Rhein Fire win World Bowl 2000 will be in opposition when the NFL Europe League’s ninth season kicks off on Saturday, April 21, 2001.
And the number of current NFL players appearing in Europe next season will increase to a minimum of 186 following a move by NFL owners to allocate at least six players from each of the 31 NFL teams. The figure represents a 20 percent increase over the 153 players allocated for the 2000 season.
The Rhein Fire will begin the defence of their championship at home in Düsseldorf against the Amsterdam Admirals. The game pits new Fire head coach and former defensive coordinator Pete Kuharchek against new Admirals head coach Bart Andrus, who directed the Fire offense as they won their second World Bowl in 2000.
Also on opening day, veteran coaching campaigner Jack Bicknell kicks off his ninth season with the Barcelona Dragons on the road against his former offensive assistant Peter Vaas, who begins his second season in charge of the Berlin Thunder.
Meanwhile, two head coaches new to the NFLEL get their first taste of action at Hampden Park, Glasgow, as Gene Dahlquist leads his Scottish Claymores against the Frankfurt Galaxy, now coached by Doug Graber.
The 2001 season, which marks the 10th anniversary of the league’s inaugural season in 1991, is set to feature the highest quality of play ever seen in the NFLEL following the NFL owners’ decision to guarantee a minimum of six allocated players per NFL team.
John Beake, the NFLEL’s Vice-President of Player Development, said: ‘This is another example of the NFL’s commitment to providing the finest quality product on the field. You only have to look at the achievements of many of the NFLEL’s former players during the current NFL season to see the benefits of developing players in this league.’
The increased player allocation follows the NFL owners’ demonstration of support for the league through their adoption of the NFLEL’s three-year business plan. Other developments in a busy off-season include the NFL Players’ Association expanding its financial support of the league and the imminent extension of the league’s U.S. broadcast agreement with FOX.
When attention returns to the playing field on April 21, the Amsterdam Admirals will have plenty of motivation. They are still searching for a first title and have the incentive of hosting World Bowl IX at the Amsterdam ArenA on Saturday, June 30.
Admirals general manager Ronald Buys said: ‘The fans in Amsterdam will embrace the World Bowl and support the two teams taking part – but it would be nice if the Admirals could be one of them. Opening weekend is where the road to the World Bowl starts and we mean to get off to a winning start against the Fire.’
Fire head coach Kuharchek commented: ‘Facing Bart Andrus, with whom I enjoyed success last year will give a fierce contest an added edge. He knows how I operate defensively and I have a good idea about his offense, so it should be an intriguing matchup.’
Dragons head coach Bicknell looked forward to his meeting with Vaas and son Bob Bicknell, an assistant coach with the Thunder, saying: ‘There’s no room for sentiment when it comes to competing on the football field. Every team wants to make a winning start and to open with a victory on the road would be great.’
Kicking off a season in Glasgow for the first time, Scottish Claymores Will Wilson said of the game against Frankfurt: ‘Naturally we want to give the crowd at Hampden Park a win to shout about and we have a history of close, exciting and high-scoring games against the Galaxy. This should be a real treat for the fans.’
The ten-game NFL Europe League regular season ends on the weekend of June 23-24 and the top two teams in the overall standings qualify for World Bowl IX at the Amsterdam ArenA on Saturday, June 30.
Contact: David Tossell or Michael Preston at NFL Europe League
Tel: 44 207 225 3070