WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - The Wichita Falls Nighthawks have joined a new league for 2018 after three years in the Indoor Football League.
They announced Tuesday they will join the CIF, or Champions Indoor Football, for next season.
For owner Drew Carnes, the league was a perfect fit.
"Our goal is to keep this here," Carnes said. "We haven't put the time, effort and resources into this to take it somewhere else."
In an exclusive interview with Newschannel 6 back in July, Carnes said he was investigating a new league. That led to a lot of people putting those pieces together.
"It's probably one of the worst-kept secrets," CIF commissioner Ricky Bertz said of the news. "Just because the Wichita Falls Nighthawks playing in the CIF just makes too much sense for it not to happen. You look at the CIF and it's the only indoor football/arena league in the United States that's growing. If you look at the other ones, they're contracting."
Carnes said Tuesday that travel costs, both financial and on the players' bodies, were a major factor in joining a league that will have four teams in Texas.
"Really, in the CIF probably the furthest we will travel is shorter than what we traveled in the Indoor Football League last year," Carnes said.
"We're going to have rivalries from Frisco to Mesquite to Amarillo, possibly Salina as well," said head coach Billy Back, who announced that he and his entire staff will return in 2018. "Fans can come and enjoy games, home and away."
As for the game between the boards, don't expect any drop-off from last year, especially with the Sioux Falls Storm joining the Nighthawks in switching to the CIF.
"You will see no difference in the level of play or the talent here," Bertz said.
"It's the exact same style of play as what we were in last season," Back added. "The talent, the caliber of play is going to be equal as well."
"You'll see a lot of familiar faces, and you'll see a lot of new talent," Carnes said. "You're going to see guys that haven't been discovered before. Guys like Tyler Williams, Tyron Laughinghouse, Charles McCullum."
Carnes said today he did consider moving the team... But in the end, he felt he was led to keep them here and keep making an impact in the community.
Drew: "My wife and I love this community. And this is a product that we feel like adds a lot of value to the community.... As long as what we're doing in the community is worth more than what we're having to put into it, we'll do this in perpetuity."
The CIF plays a 12-game schedule, with three rounds of playoffs which means the Nighthawks will have a shorter regular season, and a better chance of making the playoffs.
The league is composed of 13 teams, including the Amarillo Venom, Dallas (Mesquite) Marshalls and Texas Revolution, who are relocating from Allen to Frisco for 2018. The four Texas teams, plus the Wichita (KS) Force, Salina (KS) Liberty and Duke City (Albuquerque) Gladiators will make up the South Conference.
The season is set to start at the beginning of March.