ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE: West Texas Desert Hawks officially fold

The West Texas Desert Hawks are no more.

The team’s journey into the newly reformed Arena Football League ended after less than one season.

The announcement, which came after days of rumors of the team’s demise, was made by owner Zack Bugg in a live video Friday afternoon on the team’s Facebook page.

The Desert Hawks became the eighth team in the re-launched AFL to fold this season.

The team finishes the season with a 4-4 record.

The Desert Hawks, which played their home games at the Ector County Coliseum, were supposed to face the Salina Liberty this weekend.

The original AFL shut down after the 2019 season after filing for bankruptcy.

The league’s return this season has already been a bumpy ride.

During the live feed, Bugg pointed the finger at former AFL commissioner Lee Hutton.

“Lee Hutton has definitely put a lot of people in situations,” Bugg said. “…To start from the beginning, we were promised a lot of things in the Arena Football world and the most important thing is player salaries. Deals were worked between different teams. All 16 markets had a different deal in place on how they would pay their millions of dollars back, whether it was ten years or five, whether it was over tickets or merchandises … It became a very complex situation … It was a scam deal … Everybody was promised a lot of things. There were great owners and Hutton promised a lot of things and didn’t fill that end of the bargain.”

Hutton exited the role after being ousted as league commissioner on May 14, being replaced by former National Football League head coach Jeff Fisher.

Bugg talked more about where things went wrong in the AFL.

“False promises,” Bugg said. “It was a scam to begin with.”

The redeveloped AFL has been filled with numerous problems.

When this season started, there were 16 total teams.

Since then, the Georgia Force, Iowa Rampage, Louisiana VooDoo, Minnesota Myth, Oregon Blackbears, Philadelphia Soul, Rapid City Marshals and the Desert Hawks have all folded.

The league is now down to only eight with the Albany Firebirds, the Billings Outlaws, Nashville Kats, Orlando Predators, Salina Liberty, Southwest Kansas Storm, Washington Wolfpack and Wichita Regulators currently still in business.

“It was straight dishonesty all around, and we’re still talking about the Arena Football Management LLC team,” Bugg said. “From player apparel to travel to salaries, everything, all this big dream of what they’re supposed to do, we paid this money and for some of us, it was over a duration of time-because there’s not a lot of people that are going to dump a million dollars into something they don’t believe in- and build that structure with teams and that didn’t happen.”

He also commented on expenses that were paid for by the team instead of the league which includes the team’s season opener against Georgia back in April when Hutton was still the commissioner.

“To start with, for the Georgia Force game, I paid to have the entire Force team to come to West Texas. Anything they needed, West Texas paid for which is another expense that’s not supposed to be. The AFL was supposed to pay for that. West Texas did that so we could have a game.”

The league also supposedly had a deal to have games broadcast on the NFL Network which ended up not happening.

“As for the NFL Network deal, there was supposed to be this whole amazing deal that was going to happen,” Bugg said. “They sent us emails about what it was and what it isn’t (and) we come to find out that now we have to pay the NFL Network … I forked over money so that we could have the NFL Network on April 28 against the Georgia Force … I paid money to have that game broadcast and it still didn’t happen.”

During the live feed, Bugg also talked about the other owners in the league and is skeptical of the future of the AFL.

“The owners, they’re struggling,” Bugg said. “There are owners who have canceled home games and owners who have taken bye weeks just for financial reasons. Owners are struggling in the AFL. Mark my words, teams will not be a part of the AFL next year if it continues like this.”

As far as any mergers with the Indoor Football League, Bugg said he doesn’t see that happening.

He says he will not continue as the owner.

“As for myself and my family, I will not continue as an owner for Arena or Indoor Football. It doesn’t make sense, financially. It doesn’t make sense through the heartache and stress and losing family time. It’s just not it for me. I’m 31-years-old. I have a long life to live. I’m going to focus on my kids.”

The Desert Hawks were founded in 2019 as the Warbirds.

The Warbirds were originally in the Champions Indoor Football league. The team’s debut season in 2020 was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team joined the Lone Star Series for the 2021 season before moving to the Arena Football Association for 2022.

The Warbirds played in the National Arena League for the 2023 season before moving to the AFL and changing their name to the Desert Hawks.