Champions Indoor Football brings Dodge City team back

Vincent Marshall
Dodge City Daily Globe
After 4 years, the Dodge City Law of the Champions Indoor Football league is coming back.

Over the last few weeks it was announced by the Champions Indoor Football league that the Dodge City Law football team would be returning to Dodge City for the 2021 football season.

The announcement came on the heels of the CIF board approving the team after the Oklahoma Flying Aces out of Enid, Okla., would go inactive due to "Unforeseen workman’s compensation insurance issues (that) would prevent participation for this season."

The Dodge City Law will fill the Flying Aces' position on the schedule, including inheriting the team's current roster.

According to the CIF board, there had been plans to bring the Dodge City team back for the 2022 season as an expansion team before the issues with workman's comp insurance expedited the process.

The move comes after the Dodge City Law had previously been a team in the CIF in 2017.

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The Dodge City Law started in 2014 playing their home games at United Wireless Arena. During its stint, the team made the playoffs in 2014, 2016 and 2017.

Previous team left trail of controversy

However, with the Dodge City Law coming back, with it comes the controversy on why the team left in the first place.

As reported in the Dodge City Daily Globe in July 2017, the owner at the time, Sean Ponder, said, “The ownership of the Dodge City Law professional indoor football team have spent the last month weighing options and outcomes and, with a high level of confidence, have decided to withdraw from the Champions Indoor Football League effective immediately.

“The decision comes at the end of a franchise-best season that ended in controversy.

“Options are still being explored for the team’s future.”

The controversy involves the team being stripped of two wins during the season for failure to provide team footage to their opponents, according to CIF league officials when the wins were stripped.

Ponder, along with his wife Joi, were then blitzed with a call for refunds from season ticket holders for the next year's season.

A call that went unanswered.

"I purchased two season tickets to the Dodge City Law and then they skipped town," said previous season ticket holder George James of Dodge City. "I never got reimbursed. I tried to stop payment on my check, but it had already been cashed. I was very upset with the situation."

"To top it off, I was also stung by the Dodge City Legend basketball team for $10,000 plus some equipment when they folded.

"Due to these facts, I am very hesitant about purchasing or supporting any other pro sports endeavors in Dodge City.

"I still don’t know why there was never any charges filed against them for skipping town and for forgery.

"In addition, she had me make a check out for an additional amount because she was supposed to provide us with some T-shirts and promo items too."

The woman, according to James, was former co-owner Joi Ponder.

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New owner, new coach

Enter new Dodge City Law head coach Richard Davis.

Davis was the coach of the Oklahoma Flying Aces and made the move as coach along with the team to Dodge City.

According to Davis, the new owner of the Dodge City Law is Craig Tirey, a private-business owner from Oklahoma City, Okla.

"His primary business over the years has been oil and gas mostly on the minerals side," said Davis. "This is not the Oklahoma franchise. The Dodge City Law is a new expansion franchise which was planned for a 2022 kickoff. When the Flying Aces franchise ran into the worker's comp issue, the Dodge City owner working in conjunction with the CIF board of directors, decided to launch their franchise now versus waiting until next season."

When the workman's comp issues arose in Oklahoma, Davis said he informed the players on what the future would be for them. 

"I kept the players informed the best I could about what could happen, and what their options might be moving forward," said Davis. "The guys all wanted to stay together and play the season if possible, which ultimately played a major role in the decision making process to fast track the Dodge City franchise.

"Our plan prior to that was to introduce the return of the Dodge City market at the league championship game in July and then begin play on the field in 2022."

'Earning back the trust'

Now with the team back in Dodge City, Davis was met with questions on what went on with the previous team and the previous owners, saying he wasn't aware of any previous lawsuits and that the new Dodge City Law is a separate entity with zero ties to previous owners, the Ponders.

"We plan on earning back the trust and loyalty of the community by working hard, putting a good product on the field, and conducting business in a professional and fully transparent manner," said Davis. "The first step in that process is for all monies to be paid to the arena this year, and we only receive our proceeds after we fulfill our promises/responsibilities from the event."

The Law will return its home games to United Wireless Arena with the first home game slated for April 22.

Despite the controversy, according to Davis, there were more positives that came with the team returning saying multiple local businesses and fans already reached out.

Davis added, to put more minds at peace, that the new Dodge City Law may not sign with any corporate sponsorships for the 2021 season.

"We feel like the best course of action for us at this stage is to focus on putting a good product on the field, get to know the folks in the community and vice versa, then slowly work from there," Davis said.

In keeping the name Dodge City Law, Davis said, "We believe the name Dodge City Law represents the fans of the franchise, as well as the entire Dodge City community/region much more so than it represents the previous owners.

"The indoor football product is now, and also has been community driven. Not to mention the fact that we also felt like people aren't stupid. Just because we named ourselves something new, we would still face the same questions and uncertainty - and rightfully so. So out of respect for everyone involved, we decided the best course of action was to simply work towards restoring the value in the brand through hard work and honesty."

With the negative parts of the new Dodge City Law still fresh, one thing Davis said was there is an entirely new story yet to be told.

"There is another aspect of this story - our story - which deserves legitimate attention," said Davis. "That aspect is the fact that the Dodge City market genuinely and passionately supported this product. The fans loved the team, and they consistently showed up to support the team. So knowing that was the case, why in the world would the CIF as a league, and an individual ownership group looking for a good place to bring a new franchise, not seriously look at Dodge City?

"My goodness, it has so many positives already in place, any legitimate ownership group would be crazy not to at least consider the market. Which is exactly what we did, and after weighing the positives against the negatives, risk versus reward, we felt like we could make this work and Mr. Tirey is willing to put his own money at risk to do that."

The Dodge City Law said it has asked the arena, City of Dodge City, Ford County and regional economic development groups for no special favors.

"Our plan is to earn our way to those discussions by putting a good product on the field this year, operating in a manner which people respect, and slowly building relationships which will help usher in those longer-term discussions," said Davis. "Why does it have to be anything other than that in the eyes of others? Because it's not. We have no ties to the Ponders. Frankly speaking everyone in our league knows I couldn't stand Sean before the whole situation in Dodge went down, much less have anything to do with the guy from a business and/or personal perspective."

For the CIF, two Texas teams in the league will be playing independently for the 2021 season due to timing issues with the 2021 schedule but are expected to return in 2022.

Fans can follow the Dodge City Law, and get updates on the team by following them on social media.

Ticket prices will range from $12 to $30 depending on the seating location.

For future scheduling, visit www.unitedwirelessarena.com for game times, dates and team information.

To contact the writer email vmarshall@gannett.com