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World Football League

Here are some fast facts I managed to dig up on the WFL as I did some more research on the league. Thanks to the New York Times index books for the help.

  • The logos of each WFL team were created or coordinated by Ray Engle Associates of Los Angeles to project a corporate image. The team uniforms, coaches attire and officials uniforms were designed by the Sand Knit Company of Wisconsin.
  • Did you know the Washington-Baltimore Ambassadors had an agreement to play their home game at Navy-Marine Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland? It's true.
  • Everyone knows the Chicago Fire forfeited their final game against Philadelphia, but why? In Fire owner Tom Origer's words, he called the game "meaningless." I guess that's why the Fire folded, right?
  • Did you know that when the Detroit Wheels folded, its players were selected by other teams in a four round, special selection process conducted by the league, aka a dispersal draft. I do not have information concerning this dispersal draft. This may have also taken place when the Jacksonville Sharks folded.
  • Now, here's an example of a city supporting its team. When the financially troubled Portland Storm head to Honolulu to play the Hawaiians, the team was fed with $2,500 of meal money collected by local Portland citizens. A very moved Portland coach Dick Coury said, "Itís beautiful for the people of Portland to do something like that. Itís amazing." During the game, however, the Storm players didnít stay around for the final gun. When Honolulu scored a late touchdown to make it 23-0, the Portland players stalked off the field and headed for the showers with two seconds to go.
  • Did you know the WFL tried to sign Joe Namath to play there? He was offered a three-year, $5 million deal to play in the WFL. If he signed it, he would be assigned to the Chicago Winds. Needless to say, he turned it down.
  • Did you know the WFL had its own players association? Scary, huh? Formed in late September of 1974, the WFLPA featured Charlie Harraway of the Birmingham Americans as its president. John Huarte of the Memphis Southmen was named first vice-president while Ike Lassiter of the Jacksonville Sharks was named second vice-president. Jon Henderson of the Detroit Wheels was its secretary and Joe Robb of the Shreveport Steamer was its treasurer. The WFLPA had Alan Miller serve as its legal counsel.
  • The WFL was supposed to have Memphis in the fold originally, but when that broke down, the franchise was transferred to Houston and became the Texans. Of course, Memphis was to be heard from again.
  • At a league summit on November 22, 1974 to discuss the next season of the WFL, dubbed "WFL 75," several new cities were mentioned as having investors ready to begin play in 1975. San Antonio, Louisville (Kentucky), Tulsa (Oklahoma), Akron (Ohio), Connecticut, Syracuse, Montreal and Toronto were named. Chris Hemmeter also assumed the role of commissioner at this meeting.
  • The reason the media gave in the resignation of WFL commissioner Gary Davidson was that Chicago Fire owner Tom Origer threatened to withdraw his team from the season (big deal!). Actually, Davidson claimed it was personal problems that forced him out.
  • At a two-day conference on December 14th, 1974, commissioner Chris Hemmeter expressed optimism that not only would the league play in 1975, but saw as many as seven of the first year clubs and as many as six new ones participating.
  • Did you know that it was a New York systems analyst who invented the "action point?" It's true. That man was Bill Finneran and he also proposed a new rule before the 1975 season, which was one of the weirdest rules ever proposed. At the same conference, club owners considered a rule change that would require the players in the three distinct areas of offense and defense - linemen, receivers and backs on offense, linemen, linebackers and defensive backs on defense - to wear different color pants. According to Finneran, the idea is to enhance fan enjoyment and understanding by being able to see, for example, a wide receiver isolated on a defensive back or to more clearly see a linebacker blitzing a quarterback. Finneran made two other proposals, aimed at opening up the passing game. One would require four down linemen, eliminating defenses with five defensive backs, and the other would prohibit the ďbump-and-runĒ tactics employed against receivers by defensive backs.
  • Did you know that if the WFL made it to 1976, it would have a team in New York and would have had it play its game at the renovated Yankee Stadium.
  • Did you know that former Green Bay Packer Willie Wood became the first black head coach in football's modern era when he was hired to replace Ron Waller as head coach of the Philadelphia Bell in 1975?
  • Did you know that the bill to keep the WFL out of Canada, specifically Toronto, was table by the health minister, Marc Lalonde? The bill, designed specifically to stop the Toronto Northmen entitled the "Canadian Football Act," was tabled on April 10 and passed in principle by April 26. Naturally, John Bassett had no choice but to head south (no pun intended) to Memphis.
  • Did you know the original 1974 playoff format was supposed to have as many as eight teams? From what I could figure, it would see the best eight teams advance. The format was revised three times during two days before the playoffs started (November 16 and 17, and it's no joke). It started at four teams, then went to the aforementioned eight, then went to as low as three teams (division winners), then to four (division winners plus wild card), then finally at six. It was speculated by then-Hawaiians' co-owner Chris Hemmeter that the playoffs would be cancelled outright. Yikes, shouldn't they have done this BEFORE the season?
  • Did you know that the 1975 World Bowl playoffs would have gone on after New Year's Day of 1976? IT'S TRUE! I did some research and found that the World Bowl quarterfinals would have been held on December 20, 1975. The World Bowl semifinals would have been held on December 27, 1975, with World Bowl II, had the WFL survived, being held on January 4, 1976.
  • It was also speculated that the Birmingham Americans wouldn't be able to host any playoff games because of their outstanding debts pertaining to state, county and local taxes.
  • Did you know that the WFL used a device to make yard measurements easier? In 1974, the WFL introduced a device called a "dicker-rod," a device which was three yards in length. One end would be placed on a five yard line and a movable marker would then be moved to the position of the first down, thus only one official need run out onto the field for a measurement. The announcers on TV made many, many jokes about it. So many, in fact, that the league used the standard box and chains in 1975.
  • From what I could gather, here is a portion of the WFL's front office in 1974. Of course Gary Davidson was the commissioner, but he also had Donald Regan as president/CEO, Don Anderson as vice-president of public relations and Henry Lee Parker as director of operations. Needless to say, everyone at the WFL office had their jobs cut out for them!
  • Did you know that the WFL had an all-star game planned? If the league saw the 1976 season, the game would have been held in Honolulu.
  • When the WFL officially folded on October 22, 1975, there was a proposal put forth of Birmingham, Memphis and Southern California immediately playing two games, one playoff and then World Bowl II, but that proposal was voted down.
  • Did you know that on July 10, 1974, the Memphis Southmen defeated the Detroit Wheels 34-15 in Memphis. But guess who was in the crowd at the game? ELVIS! Yes, The King was in the house! Via research by a Southmen fan, the local Memphis newspaper ran an article that showed Elvis Presley being escorted to his private press box to enjoy the game after singing the national anthem. Needless to say, it was one great night in Memphis and WFL history. But, Elvis attended another Memphis Southmen game, this time in 1975 watching Memphis come from behind to defeat the Charlotte Hornets 23-11. The Memphis Southmenís star players, Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield scored a touchdown EACH to help the Southmen attack. Attendance was 19,729 and Elvis watched the game from a private suite in the pressbox. Ladies and gentlemen, ELVIS HAS JUST LEFT THE BUILDING! Thank you, thank you very much.
  • Here is a table listing the projected costs of a given World Football League team operating in 1974.
    Salaries of 35 players and a 7-man reserve squad $1,400,000
    General Manager $50,000
    Head Coach $50,000
    Staff of 4 or more assistant coaches $100,000
    Scouting $50,000
    Business Manager, Publicity Director and Office $100,000
    Players' Equipment $25,000
    Team Support, Trainers, etc. $50,000
    Training Camp (4 to 6 weeks) $60,000
    Insurance and Miscellaneous $50,000
    Travel $200,000
    TOTAL $2,135,000

    To break that first figure down, that means paying each player (not including the reserves) a salary of $40,000 each.
© 1996-2005 Robert Phillips. All rights reserved. ††††††††††††