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Indoor pro football team, the Dawgs

Southland Dawgs football team officials include, from left, linebacker coach Dustin Kosteroski, co-owner/general manager Mike Dortch, head coach Tim Arvanitis and defensive coordinator Mel Hay. They were at a Thursday news conference held by the new professional Arena League team, tentatively named the Dawgs.

MERRILLVILLE | Local media had been to this dance several times in the past. New pro sports team has press conference. Ready to draw fans and win championships. Big promises and high hopes.

But within weeks, months, that dream dies on the vine.

Griffith native Mike Dortch knows all about the ensuing media negativity and had obviously done his homework for Thursday's news conference at the Radisson Hotel to announce indoor pro football coming to the region.

Dortch and Brian Brundage are co-owners of the Southland Dawgs of the new Champions Indoor Football League, consisting of former Arena League affiliates from the southwest.

The Dawgs are looking at three sites for their home field and could drop "Southland" depending on the area they choose. A Times source said the Ho Chunk Sports Complex in Lynwood is the leading candidate.

A decision is expected next week.

Though the Chicago Rush arena team failed, Dortch said his league has a different business model that is not cost prohibitive. His staff has strong local ties and valuable coaching contacts at the pro level and with NFL agents.

He knows there are doubters with that "oh-here-we-go-again" attitude and can't wait to prove them wrong.

"We have a fan base already. We've been self-promoting ourselves the last two months," Dortch said. "We've been on Facebook since early August and have almost 1,000 likes. We took our time with this to make sure we had all our ducks in a row and our budget was clear."

The Dawgs' regular season runs Feb. 28 to June 7. They will have a free preseason game Feb. 17 for fans to check out the product.

"I have a great staff top to bottom, one that will work to be successful," Dortch said. "I'm married and have two sons. Everything I have and we've built together, I've used on this. This is my job. This is all I do. We're going to do everything the right way."

Head coach Tim Arvanitis, a 1984 Lake Central grad, played for Bob Komara and has coached at Bishop Noll, L.C. and Andrean.

Defensive coordinator Mel Hay coached at Clark, Thornwood, South Central, Roosevelt, West Side and will handle recruiting in Europe.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Karras has a rich NFL bloodline — father Ted played for the Bears, uncle Alex for the Lions — and Jeff has coached at Andrean, South Central and Roosevelt.

"We're ready to get started right now. His energy is intoxicating. I told him 'you had me at hello,'" Arvanitis said of Dortch. "This is a collective commitment to being the most dominant professional arena football franchise now and for years ahead in a fan-friendly environment.

"Practices will be run at a high tempo. We want our coaching staff to outwork the competition. We feel we can bring championships to our area sooner than later."

Dortch and Arvanitis said they've been contacted by former Arena League and NFL players interested in trying out.

Demetrius Jones, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound quarterback who began his college career at Notre Dame and finished at Cincinnati, is one of them, according to both men.


Sports Copy Editor

Jim is a copy editor for The Times who works out of Valparaiso. A South Central High School (1984) and Ball State ('89) grad, he’s covered preps most of his career. He received the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association’s Media Award in 1997.