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Flint Phantoms forfeit CIFL finale; opponent quits league
by Dan Nilsen | The Flint Journal
Sunday June 08, 2008, 11:47 PM
FLINT, Michigan -- The Flint Phantoms were forced to forfeit Sunday's Continental Indoor Football League game in Rochester, N.Y., when not enough players showed for the bus trip, and the Raiders in turn have dropped out of the league a week before the playoffs begin.
Flint coach Keith Tunstall said he had nine players on the bus and two more waiting in New York, but five extra players who were to join the club for the season finale never showed up. CIFL teams are required to field at least 16 players for a game.
The Flint roster was depleted by players disgruntled over backdue pay and bounced checks. But the Phantoms thought they had enough outside players lined up for the trip.
Tunstall said he kept the bus waiting an extra 2 1/2 hours past the scheduled departure time but gave up "about 4:30 or 5 in the morning" Sunday.
"They abandoned ship on me," he said. "We had called them and worked things out with them, but nobody showed.
"I told them we were going through the Canadian border and they needed their birth certificates. That might have been a problem. But nobody called. They didn't even call their friends on the team."
The Phantoms could owe some renumeration to Rochester, which was expecting about 3,000 fans, according to Tunstall.
"I haven't really spoken with the league yet," said Phantoms director of operations Jeremy Torrey. "I don't know what the ramifications will be."
The 12-0 Raiders, defending league champions and the only unbeaten team in the regular season, apparently were miffed by the forfeit and quit the league.
"My apologies go out to them," said Tunstall. "They were obviously innocent victims of this and they got affected by it.
"I think there are a lot of things behind the scenes that people don't know about. Not many teams challenged them in this league, so they might have had it in their minds to go elsewhere anyway."
The Phantoms finished their inaugural CIFL season at 1-11, and plans to return next year are up in the air. Low attendance was a cause of the payroll problems that eventually led to the forfeit.
"We'll sit back and evaluate the season," said Torrey. "Obviously, something like this makes the decision even more difficult. We'll see what shakes out."
Regardless if they return, Tunstall said he is resigning as coach.
"This is clearly about the rift between players and management, and it came down to this (forfeit)," said Tunstall. "You just can't run a business like this and not expect any type of personal retribution in return. People's feelings and pride got hurt and some people react differently when they're hurt.
"From the way we started the season, with the field not being prepared in time, all the way down to this, it's not good, and the city of Flint deserves better."
Tunstall said he would remain as a high school assistant coach with Nate Williams, who recently coached Hamady and will take over at Carman-Ainsworth this fall.
"I'm sticking with kids that have a burning desire and love for the game," he said.
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