Longtime USFJ-AFL commissioner to step down
January 11, 2009
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — His fifth year in the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League commissioner’s post was apparently Kyle Rhodus’ last one.
Rhodus, 34, announced his intention to resign the position in the spring in an e-mail Friday to league coaches and base athletics directors. No replacement has been announced. Rhodus says he’ll remain in the post until a replacement is found and a transition can be made.
Contacted by phone Friday, Rhodus said a “conflict of interest doing my job and being commissioner” led him to decide to step down. The native of Key West, Fla., did not elaborate.
“It has been a great five seasons since I took over the helm and I will miss my involvement with the league,” Rhodus said in the e-mail. “Once a successor has been named, I will turn over all the info I have so that they can continue to keep this great league afloat.”
From his predecessor, Joe Howell, a former Yokota player, Rhodus took over a league that faced numerous problems since it formed in 2000.
In its first four seasons, 32 games were postponed, forfeited or canceled, including the 2001 and 2003 league title games. The league’s three Okinawa teams left to form the now-defunct Okinawa Football League, leaving USFJ-AFL with just four teams.
If it did not thrive, the league stayed afloat under Rhodus’ stewardship, completing all five seasons, with just six games postponed or canceled. The league competed with just three teams last season; Atsugi Naval Air Facility’s Falcons folded after the 2007 campaign.
“Part of it was organization, part of it was staying in constant contact and stating our expectations at the beginning of the season,” Rhodus said. “Setting firm guidelines up front of what was expected if they wanted to continue to be members of the league.”
If there’s one thing Rhodus hopes will be remembered about his stint, it would be “keeping it alive,” said Rhodus, whose main job is as athletics director for Yokosuka Naval Base.
League coaches and one athletics director expressed surprise at Rhodus’ decision, praising him for representing stability, especially after the turbulent 2003 season.
“It’s a shock. Wow,” Yokota coach Selwyn Jones said. “This just floored me. It hurts.”
“He’s kept everything pretty organized,” Yokosuka assistant coach James Price said. “He was always fair, he always kept the seasons and schedules on track. He did a great job of maintaining the league.”
Speculation began almost immediately, centered as much on Rhodus’ replacement as the future of the league.
“I hope this doesn’t cause our league to fold,” Jones said. “I hope somebody can step in and keep it going. He (Rhodus) left a legacy of stability and vision, and that’s going to be hard to replace. But to keep it alive, we have to.”