Baker resigns as AFL commissioner after successful 12 years

Updated: January 6, 2009, 4:29 PM ET
Associated Press

Arena Football League commissioner David Baker surprisingly resigned Friday, two days before the ArenaBowl championship game.

Baker ended his 12 years on the job by telling the league's board of directors that he was stepping down. The 55-year-old Baker, who received a contract extension last year, simply told the board he felt it was "time."

Under Baker's leadership, the AFL has become a profitable league, including part ownership by ESPN. Its attendance, TV ratings and merchandise sales all have increased this year.

Baker said that Ed Policy, his deputy commissioner, will assume the commissioner's role while a committee seeks his successor.

"I've been thinking about it for a while. I never thought I would do this for the rest of my life," Baker told The Associated Press. "The league has never been stronger ... it gives me the opportunity to look into doing other things."

Under Baker's leadership, the AFL has had 17 expansions -- some teams either relocated or folded -- and currently has 17 teams. Baker said he believes Arena Football could have 32 teams in the future, including international franchises.

In fact, the AFL is discussing holding an exhibition game in Germany in December.

"There's a lot of great opportunities for this league." Baker said. "So this is a good time for me. If I didn't go now, there would be no other career for David Baker.

"Like my good friend John Elway, I am going out on top."

Elway is part-owner of the Colorado Crush. Baker said getting the quality ownership of Elway, Jon Bon Jovi, Mike Ditka, Ron Jaworski and several other NFL franchise owners was among his proudest accomplishments.

When Baker became commissioner, an Arena League franchise was valued at $300,000. Now, an expansion team goes for $20 million, and the Philadelphia Soul -- partly owned by Bon Jovi and Jaworski has been valued at $32 million.

The league's TV ratings are up 58 percent during the playoffs this year, heading to Sunday's ArenaBowl between the Soul and the defending champion San Jose SaberCats.

"When I took over as commissioner, I thought it would be for one year," Baker said. "It turned into 12. But now it's time."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press