Born: December 1991 – WLAF expansion franchise.
Died: September 1992 – WLAF ceases operations.
Stadium: Ohio Stadium
The Ohio Glory were a one-year wonder in the NFL-sponsored World League of American Football (1991-1992). WLAF officials introduced the franchise to the public in December 1991 as the tenth franchise for the league’s sophomore season, which would get underway in March 1992. The Glory replaced the Raleigh-Durham (NC) Skyhawks franchise, which failed to take flight either on the field or at the box office during the league’s debut season and was the only club not to return for season two.
According the the Associated Press, the Glory nickname won out over a list that included the Annihilators, Bulldogs, Explorers, Farmers, Innovators and Monsters.
Former Cleveland Browns General Manager and United States Football League Director of Operations Peter Hadhazy helmed the front office operations of the Glory. The club played at historic Ohio Stadium in Columbus, home of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Hadhazy toyed with a few signings to engage the Buckeyes fan base, even briefly considering the disgraced quarterback Art Schlichter, banned for years from the NFL for his crippling gambling addiction and then toiling in the Arena Football League. In the end, Hadhazy signed long-time NFL back-up Babe Laufenberg as the Glory’s starting signal caller and inked former Buckeye Greg Frey as the third stringer.
Five-time NFL Pro Bowl offensive lineman Larry Little, a veteran of the Miami Dolphins famed 1972 undefeated Super Bowl championship team, served as Glory’s Head Coach. It was the first (and only) pro coaching assignment for Little, who was also the only African-American Head Coach in the short history of the WLAF.
The Glory were a weak entry on the field, finishing the season with a 1-9 record. The club’s only victory came in Week 7 with a 20-17 victory over the WLAF’s German franchise, the Frankfurt Galaxy, before a season-high throng of 41,853 at Ohio Stadium. The crowds – that was the bright point. Despite the team’s anemic output on the field, the Glory were the most popular draw among the WLAF’s six North American franchises, averaging an announced 30,892 for five home dates.
The team also fulfilled its developmental mission, producing two players who would go on to long and productive NFL careers. Rookie Linebacker George Koonce went on to start eight seasons for Green Bay Packers from 1992 to 1999, winning a Super Bowl title after the 1996 season. Rookie punter Tom Rouen latched on with the Denver Broncos and enjoyed a 13-year NFL career, earning All-Pro honors in 1994. Rouen and Koonce faced each other in Super Bowl XXXII in January 1998, when Rouen’s Broncos defeated Koonce’s Packers 31-24.
Ultimately, despite the strong crowds in Columbus, the Glory fell victim to the WLAF’s economic troubles when the league ceased operations in September 1992. The league derived its funding from the NFL owners (with the exception of the Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals, who declined to fund the WLAF from day one). Although very popular in London, Frankfurt and Barcelona, the league’s American franchises (aside from the Glory) were met with disinterest and TV ratings were weak.
The NFL re-booted the concept in the spring of 1995 with the launch of NFL Europe, which was essentially the WLAF without the American clubs. NFL Europe lasted thirteen more seasons from 1995 to 2007.
Larry Little returned to college football coaching after the demise of the WLAF. He earned induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1993.
Glory General Manager Peter Hadhazy passed away at age 62 in 2006.