THE RUMORS THAT ARE flying around the Arena Football League aren't pretty.

They range from suspending operations for a year to folding the league completely. At this point, though, they are just rumors.

League spokesman Chris McCloskey declined to comment beyond a statement the AFL recently issued.

"The AFL is working on long-term structural improvements which have unfortunately delayed some important events, such as the release of the 2009 schedule, the Dispersal Draft, and the beginning of free agency.

"We thank our fans for their enthusiasm for these events and ask them to be patient a little longer while we finalize our long-term improvements. All AFL teams are working towards winning ArenaBowl XXIII."

Among the prominent issues that has the figurative buzzards circling: The league has been without a commissioner since David Baker abruptly resigned in July; the folding of the New Orleans franchise; and the uncertainty of the upcoming season, which usually starts in March. Today's New Orleans' dispersal draft and the beginning of free agency on Thursday are expected to be postponed once again.

A source within the Soul's front office, speaking anonymously, said the team expects to be able to defend its title.

"If there's an AFL," said the source, "we'll be there."

The Soul's most pressing order of business is re-signing Arena Bowl MVP Matt D'Orazio, a free agent. Things will remain on hold, however, until the league gets its house in order.

Sloan's milestone

The Timberwolves' firing of Randy Wittman marked the 223rd NBA coaching change since Utah handed the reins to Jerry Sloan 20 years ago today.

Perhaps equally amazing is that assistant Phil Johnson has been with Sloan the entire time. *

- Ed Barkowitz