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1992-1993 Cincinnati Rockers

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Arena Football League (1992-1993)

Born: 1991 – AFL expansion franchise.
Died: October 1993 – The Rockers withdraw from the Arena Football League.

Arena: Riverfront Coliseum (15,500)

Team Colors: Green, Yellow & White

Owner: Ted Gregory

 

Short-lived entry in the Arena Football League active for two summers in 1992 and 1993.

Unusual among Arena Football teams of the era, the Cincinnati Rockers employed ex-NFL quarterbacks in both of their campaigns.  The starter in 1992 was gambling casualty Art Schlichter, twice banned from the NFL by Commissioner Pete Rozelle.  Schlichter found a revival of sorts in the Arena League, winning Most Valuable Player honors in 1990 as the signal caller for the league champion Detroit Drive.  It was a modest rebound – Schlichter was one of the highest paid players in the AFL in 1992, but that still only meant a salary of $40,000 annually.   The Rockers thrived at first with Schlichter under center in 1992.  The team went 7-3 and made the playoffs as Schlichter passed for 45 touchdowns.  But late in the season the former Ohio State star fell back into his old ways and was arrested for passing a bad check.  Schlichter left the team after the 1992 season and never played another down of pro football.  He spent much of the next decade in prison.

The Rockers tried to rebuild in 1993 around former NFL journeyman Blair Kiel at quarterback.  Unlike Schlichter, Kiel struggled to pick up the indoor game and ended up splitting time with Brent Pease, a former replacement QB for the Houston Oilers during the 1987 NFL strike.  Pease couldn’t rally the Rockers either, and the franchise regressed to a league-worst 2-10 record, matched only by the Rockers’ in-state rival, the Cleveland Thunderbolts.

Other former NFL notables who played for the Rockers included former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ira Hillary and ex-New England Patriots running back Tony Collins.

After a promising start at the box office in 1992, the Rockers’ attendance crashed through the floor in 1993.  Owner Ted Gregory, the late Cincinnati rib baron, shuttered the faltering club in late 1993.  Gregory later sold off the inactive franchise certificate to Connecticut investors and the ex-Rockers franchise became the Hartford-based Connecticut Coyotes in 1995.

 

==Cincinnati Rockers Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1992 5/30/1992 vs. Detroit Drive  W 37-34 Video
1993 7/3/1993 @ Tampa Bay Storm L 61-51 Program

 

==In Memoriam==

Former Rockers owner Ted Gregory passed away on December 2, 2001 at age 78.

Ex-Rockers quarterback Blair Kiel died of a heart attack on April 8, 2012.  Kiel was 50 years old.

 

==YouTube==

Rockers inaugural game at the Riverfront Coliseum on May 30, 1992.  Art Schlichter leads the Rockers to a 37-34 upset over his former team, the Detroit Drive before 13,317 fans.

 

==Links==

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

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August 21, 1993 – Detroit Drive vs. Tampa Bay Storm

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Arena Bowl VIIDetroit Drive vs. Tampa Bay Storm
Arena Bowl VII
August 21, 1993
Joe Louis Arena
Attendance: 12,989

Arena Football League Programs
62 pages

 

Arena Bowl VII was the second and final meeting between Arena Football’s two greatest dynasties: the Detroit Drive, who played in the title game in all six seasons of their existence, and the Jay Gruden-era Tampa Bay Storm, who won four titles in six years with Gruden under center.  In fact, the Storm were the only force standing between the Drive and a perfect six-for-six record in championship games.  Gruden & Co. handed Detroit their only two Arena Bowl losses in 1991 and in this 1993 rematch.

The Storm took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, winning or tying every quarter en route to a 51-31 victory.  Gruden was named the MVP of Arena Bowl VII, passing for 204 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Gruden, the brother of Super Bowl champion coach and Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden, ultimately won four Arena Bowls with the Storm.  He later won two more as an Arena Football head coach.  In 2014 he was named Head Coach of the NFL’s Washington Redskins.

Another standout was Storm OL-DL Keith Browner, who recovered a fumble for a touchdown on defense and also caught a 9-yard touchdown pass.  Browner, a former 2nd round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who played five seasons in the NFL, is part of the remarkable Browner family.  His brothers Ross and Joey were NFL standouts during the 1980’s.  Joey Browner’s son Keith Jr. and nephew Max Starks would also play in the NFL.  Keith Browner was named the “Ironman of the Game” as the top two-way player in Arena Bowl VII.

Arena Bowl VII proved to be the final appearance of the Detroit Drive franchise.  During the offseason, owner Mike Ilitch sold the team and the new owners relocate it to Worcester, Massachusetts where it became the Massachusetts Marauders.  The Marauders lasted just one season and failed to extend the Drive’s dynasty.

The evening’s game program (above right) pictured the Arena Football League’s 1993 award winners on the cover:

 

==YouTube==

 

==Downloads==

1993 Detroit Drive Arena Bowl VII Roster

1993 Tampa Bay Storm Arena Bowl VII Roster

 

==Links==

More Arena Bowls on Fun While It Lasted

Detroit Drive Home Page

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1992-1994 Cleveland Thunderbolts

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Cleveland ThunderboltsArena Football League (1992-1994)

Born: 1992 – The Columbus Thunderbolts relocate to Cleveland, OH.
Died: 1994 – The Thunderbolts cease operations.

Arena: Richfield Coliseum (17,606)

Team Colors: Black, Silver & Purple

Owners:

  • 1992-1993: John Kuczek
  • 1994: Robert H. Crane, Kuczek family trust

 

The Cleveland Thunderbolts were a bottom-dwelling Arena Football League franchise that played for three seasons at the suburban Richfield Coliseum from 1992 to 1994.  The Thunderbolts originated an expansion team in Columbus, Ohio in 1991.  After a winless (0-10) campaign playing in small agriculture fairgrounds arena in Columbus, the team was sold to Ohio insurance salesman John Kuczek in late 1991 and he moved the T-Bolts to Cleveland.

Cleveland ThunderboltsThe T-Bolts were one of the weakest entries in the Arena League in the mid-1990’s, posting an 8-26 record during their three seasons in Cleveland, including back-to-back 2-10 campaigns in 1993 and 1993.  During their brief run, the team signed two big names from the world of college football.  Quarterback Major Harris, a holdover from the 1991 Columbus team, played for the T-Bolts in 1992 and 1994.  Harris was a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist (1988 & 1989) at West Virginia.   He never played in the NFL and his Arena Football career was not ultimately that distinguished.  He was one of the league’s premier rushers as a scrambling QB, but the ground attack was not a major factor in the indoor game.

The other big name, at least locally, was head coach Earle Bruce, formerly of Ohio State University.  Bruce was hired to turn around the team in 1994, but ultimately produced an identical 2-10 last place finished as his predecessor Dave Whinham did in 1993.  Bruce resigned shortly after the 1994 season.

The Thunderbolts were run as a family business. Team owner John Kuczek was an insurance broker from Boardman, Ohio.  His son Jeff was the team’s General Manager.  Early in the T-Bolts short existence in Cleveland, John Kuczek was implicated in a federal securities fraud case in Florida.  Prior to the team’s second season in 1993, the elder Kuczek divested himself of ownership in the club and placed it in a trust for his grandchildren.  Son Jeff continued as the front office leader of the organization.  Kuczek was ultimately convicted on one count of the indictment.  The day before he was due to begin serving his sentence in February 1995, he committed suicide in a Salem, Ohio hotel room.

The Cleveland Thunderbolts did not return for the 1995 season.  Arena Football returned to Cleveland in 2008 with the arrival of the Cleveland Gladiators, a transplanted franchise from Las Vegas.  The Gladiators continue to play today under the ownership of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

 

==Cleveland Thunderbolts Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1994 6/25/1994 vs. Las Vegas Sting  W 46-20  Program
1994 7/22/1994 @ Milwaukee Mustangs  W 42-41   Video

 

==YouTube==

One of the final Thunderbolts games – on the road against the Milwaukee Mustangs on July 22, 1994.

 

 

==Downloads==

1992 Cleveland Thunderbolts Season Ticket Brochure

1993 Cleveland Thunderbolts Season Ticket Brochure

 

 

==Links==

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

May 4th, 2014 at 12:01 am

1994-2001 Milwaukee Mustangs

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Milwaukee MustangsArena Football League (1994-2001)

Born: August 9, 1993 –  Arena Football expansion franchise.
Died: 2001 – The Mustangs cease operations.

Arena: TheBradley Center (17,819)

Team Colors: Purple, Teal & Black

Owner: Andrew Vallozzi

 

The Milwaukee Mustangs were a popular indoor football attraction in Wisconsin’s largest city during the mid-to-late 1990’s.  Although rarely in serious contention for the Arena Bowl championship – the Mustangs had only two winning seasons out of eight and never advanced beyond the playoff quarterfinals – they regularly ranked among Arena Football League attendance leaders.

During the Mustangs’ debut season in 1994, the team went winless in 12 games with former NFL signal callerJohn Fourcadeat quarterback.  But the expansion team still averaged 14,231 fans for six home dates, which was third best in the 11-team league.  During the 1996 season – the franchise’s high water mark with a 10-4 record – the Mustangs tied for the league lead in attendance with 15,567 fans on average for seven openings.

The Milwaukee Mustangs were owned throughout their existence by the Vallozzi family.  During the Mustangs’ final season in 2001 the Vallozzi’s feuded publicly with management of the Bradley Center over date conflicts and planned renovation projects.  The Mustangs closed their doors in August 2001 and blamed the closure of the team on the intractable arena disputes.

Arena football returned to Milwaukee in 2009 with the formation of the Milwaukee Iron of Arena Football 2, which was initially owned by the Vallozzi’s as well.  The new franchise was unable to rekindle Milwaukee’s earlier enthusiasm for the sport, despite reclaiming the Mustangs brand name in 2011.  The Vallozzi’s bailed out after the 2010 season and the Iron/Mustangs franchise shut down for good after the 2012 season.

 

==Milwaukee Mustangs Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1994 5/23/1994 @ Fort Worth Cavalry L 65-28 Video
1994 7/22/1994 vs. Cleveland Thunderbolts L 42-41   Video
1995 7/28/1995 vs. Memphis Pharaohs W 53-37 Program
1997 7/5/1997 @ Iowa Barnstormers L 47-29 Program
2000 6/29/2000 Los Angeles Avengers  W 64-52 Program

 

==YouTube==

Mustangs host the Cleveland Thunderbolts at the Bradley Center on July 22, 1994.

 

 

==Links==

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

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1988-1993 Detroit Drive

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Detroit DriveArena Football League (1988-1993)

Born: 1988 – Arena Football expansion franchise.
Died: March 1994 – The Drive relocate to Worcester, Massachusetts.

Arena: Joe Louis Arena (17,446)

Team Colors: Victory Blue, Orange & White

Owner: Mike Ilitch

 

The Detroit Drive were a championship dynasty during the early years of the Arena Football League.  Formed as an expansion franchise for the AFL’s second season, the Drive went on to play six years.  Incredibly, the Drive appeared in the Arena Bowl title game in all six seasons they competed.  They won the Arena Bowl four times (1988, 1989, 1990 and 1992) and compiled an overall regular season & playoff record of 58-12 in six seasons – an astounding 83% winning percentage.  The team’s two Arena Bowl losses in 1991 and 1993 both came at the hands of the Tampa Bay Storm.

Detroit DriveThe Drive’s most famous player was former Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter.  Schlichter, the #4 overall pick in the 1982 NFL draft by the Baltimore Colts, was a degenerate gambler and con artist.  During his rookie season in 1982, he gambled away his entire $350,000 signing bonus.  He was suspended from the NFL for gambling twice and never played an NFL down again after 1985.  Schlichter mounted a comeback with the Drive in 1990 at age 30 and promptly led the club to a third consecutive Arena Bowl title and was named the Arena league’s 1990 Most Valuable Player.

After leading the Drive to a fourth straight title appearance in 1991, the team traded him to the expansion Cincinnati Rockers prior to the 1992 season.  Although Schlichter would have his best statistical season with Cincinnati in 1992, the trade proved a shrewd deal for Detroit as the quarterback’s gambling addiction roared back to life in Ohio.  He passed at least two bad checks during the 1992 season and was arrested two weeks before the end of the season.  Schlichter never played another down of professional football after 1992 and spent much of the next decade in prison on various fraud charges.

The owner of the Detroit Drive was Little Caesar’s pizza mogul Mike Ilitch, who also owned the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings.  The team was a popular attraction in Detroit, averaging over 14,000 fans per game at Joe Louis Arena over six seasons.  But Ilitch purchased the Detroit Tigers in 1993 and reportedly came to view the Drive as competition for the Tigers during the spring and summer months.  Ilitch sold the Drive to Joseph O’Hara in February 1994.  O’Hara moved the franchise to Worcester, Massachusetts where it played one undistinguished season as the Massachusetts Maraudersin 1994 and then went out of business.

 

 

==Detroit Drive Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1988 6/10/1988 vs. Los Angeles Cobras W 39-26 Video
1988 7/1/1988 @ Pittsburgh Gladiators W 28-9 Program
1988 7/30/1988 @ Chicago Bruisers W 24-13 Program
1989 7/28/1989 Pittsburgh Gladiators W 61-34 Program Roster
1989 8/18/1989 vs. Pittsburgh Gladiators W 39-26 Program
1990 7/14/1990 @ Dallas Texans L 33-29 Video
1990 8/3/1990 vs. Pittsburgh Gladiators W 61-30 Program
1990 8/11/1990 vs. Dallas Texans W 51-27 Program
1991 8/9/1991 vs. Albany Firebirds  W 37-35 Program
1991 8/17/1991 vs. Tampa Bay Storm L 48-42 Program
1993 8/21/1993 vs. Tampa Bay Storm L 51-31 Program Roster

 

==YouTube==

The Drive host the Los Angeles Cobras at Joe Louis Arena, June 10th, 1988.

 

 

==Links==

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

April 26th, 2014 at 8:43 pm