USFJ-AFL on the brink?

Troubled times, these are, for the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League, which may enter its 14th season as an absolute mess, if one is played at all.

For one, two teams - the Courtney Wolfpack in the South Division and the Misawa Jets of the North Division - each lost their head coaches. Jason Stravers is due to deploy soon and Jeremy Sanders is stepping aside to handle personal issues.

Neither team has a replacement in sight. One of Stravers’ top assistants is also due to leave Okinawa, and Sanders says he’s having trouble scaring up a successor at Misawa.

That could very easily leave two teams in each division, Yokosuka and defending champion Yokota up North and Foster, the 2011 champion, and Kadena in the South Division.

There’s the issue of who’s in charge of the league. It’s been done by committee the past three seasons, and over that span, nobody has shown any interest in filling the post, last held by Sean Dath, a civilian with Fleet Activities Yokosuka’s public affairs office.

James Price, Yokosuka’s coach, comes close to fitting that bill; few have more love for the league and interservice football than he does, but he also wants to continue coaching, and that simply wouldn’t work.

If the league could ever locate Bob McFarling, a retired Navy officer who founded the old senior Greyhawks team in 1975 and the old Atsugi Flyers in 1983 and is reported to be living in retirement near Mount Fuji, I think he’d be the model man for the job. He's a gruff but good-hearted soul who would get things done.

But if we’re left with two teams in each division, there’s the issue of how to get teams from mainland to Okinawa and vice versa to play regular-season games. If the military does chug over the Fiscal Cliff along with the rest of government, the pool for such transportation options as Naval Air Logistics Operations flights could disappear completely.

Tough times, which could get tougher. The 2013 season is due to begin in late April and end with the Torii Bowl in July at the site of the North Division champion.

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Ornauer on AFN


Stars and Stripes reporter Dave Ornauer talks about the Pacific sports scene on AFN Radio. (Click on right arrow to play file.)


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