Thanks to AFL bankruptcy, league change, COVID, Kevin Guy has never stopped building
When Ron Shurts became majority owner of the Rattlers in 2011, he sat down with coach Kevin Guy and talked about what they were going to do over the next 10 years.
He wanted to build the Rattlers brand and build the Guy brand.
The two were accomplished in a partnership rarely seen in professional sports.
Shurts gave Guy his blessing when he got involved in Tucson ownership to start the Sugar Skulls franchise with his wife Cathy in 2019 to help grow the Indoor Soccer League in the West.
“He could have stopped this altogether, if he didn’t want this to happen,” Guy said.
The Rattlers were on their own in the West after moving from the failing Arena Football League to IFL in 2017. Most of the IFL teams were located in the Midwest with Sioux Falls – the team the Rattlers are on. faced Sunday at the Footprint Center at 3 pm, to open the playoffs – dominating the league.
The move prompted San Diego, Albuquerque and northern Arizona to create franchises. Next year, the East Bay (San Jose) Panthers will begin playing in the IFL, alongside the Las Vegas Knight Hawks.
As if he didn’t have enough to do already, Guy was given the opportunity to be the team president, as the Rattlers came out of 2020 when the IFL closed early due to COVID-19.
Guy looks back on that first conversation with Shurts, about being a partnership.
“He said it was a partnership and building these brands together,” Guy said. “He was amazing. I don’t know of any other owner who would have allowed his employees to spread their wings and grow like he did.
“I am very grateful. He has done a lot for me and my family. It is not just trust. There is loyalty there. For any business to be successful you have to trust and communicate. Us have it. He is a 100% believer. “
This is year 10 of the Shurts / Guy partnership with Guy who runs the ship. They have participated in the playoffs every year. They won four championships together, three in a row in the AFL and in their first season in the IFL in 2017.
Even before Shurts arrived midway through the 2011 season, the Rattlers reached the playoffs in the 12 seasons that Guy was head coach.
The Rattlers enter the eight-team IFL playoffs as the No. 1 seed with the best record at 12-2. They can host every round of the playoffs, right up to the United Bowl. And this time, they will be able to play in downtown Phoenix.
Out of their element for the 2016 ArenaBowl and the 2019 United Bowl, playing those two games at Glendale because the downtown arena was unavailable, the Rattlers lost both of those championship games.
Together Guy and Shurts have played in seven league games between the AFL and IFL. They lost at the ArenaBowl in their first year together in 2011 on the last play of the game, a touchdown pass from Aaron Garcia that gave the Jacksonville Sharks a 73-70 victory in Phoenix.
They nearly reached the Arena Bowl for a fifth straight season in 2015, but lost to San Jose in a controversial semi-final game.
They returned to the Arena Bowl in 2016, losing 21-0 early to Philadelphia Soul in a 56-42 loss to Glendale.
“There is no doubt that we have a great professional and personal relationship,” said Shurts. “Kevin took on more responsibility last year to help us navigate the COVID era, forging new partnerships and other relationships in advertising.”
Now, with the sports betting laws in Arizona, the Rattlers were able to partner with Rush Street Interactive, Inc., to bring online sports betting BetRivers to Arizona, which Shurts calls “a game changer.”
It shows how great the Rattlers brand is.
And it was the Shurts-Guy relationship that made him grow, even during the darkest days of the AFL and IFL.
A year after Guy was hired to rebuild the Rattlers in 2008, the Arena League filed for bankruptcy and had no 2009 season. It looked grim with rising player salaries and no TV income. coming to condemn the league.
A new business model brought the AFL back, but it was difficult to prevent struggling franchises from falling back quickly. Even Orlando and Tampa Bay, both league debutants before the Rattlers, couldn’t keep up with the changes and left the AFL.
The Rattlers didn’t want to be the only western team playing in the AFL and decided to move on to the IFL and develop that league, a more running-oriented and more defensive league, in the West.
The AFL closed its doors a few years ago, and now the IFL has 11 teams with maybe four more coming next season.
Shurts had no doubts Guy would farm it in the west.
“Kevin was instrumental in all of this,” said Shurts.
Guy says the day Shurts called him a day with the Rattlers, he was gone. So to keep Shurts and Guy together, the Rattlers can look forward to more playoffs, more titles, more milestones.
“I know that as a coach I was very fortunate to have a position to work for him,” Guy said. “There’s a lot of confidence there. I’m grateful for that. That’s not the case in a lot of sports organizations. At the same time, I feel like myself, my team, my staff here, have won It’s true. But I still call him all the time, I bounce things off him. He has a great vision for this organization.
“There’s no way, no way, if I was working for another organization, I don’t think I would be close to being successful if I hadn’t worked for Ron. He certainly was a game-changer.”
To suggest ideas for human interest stories and other news, contact Obert at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-316-8827. Follow him on twitter @azc_obert.
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