Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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2001-2002 New Jersey Gladiators

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Arena Football League (2001-2002)New Jersey Gladiators

Born: 2001 – The New Jersey Red Dogs are re-branded as the Gladiators.
Died: December 20, 2002 – The Gladiators relocate to Las Vegas, NV.

Arena: Continental Airlines Arena (19,040)

Team Colors: Black, Red & Gray

Owner: Jim Ferraro


A pretty much forgotten Arena Football League entry that briefly made its home at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford at the turn of the century.  The franchise was actually formed back in 1997 as the New Jersey Red Dogs, who took their name and logo from a title sponsorship with Miller Brewing’s briefly prominent Red Dog beer brand.

By the end of the 2000 season, the Red Dogs’ original ownership group (which included former Giants Carl Banks, Jim Burt, Harry Carson and Joe Morris) was ready to move on and the team passed into the hands of Miami attorney Jim Ferraro.  The beer sponsorship seemingly ended at this time as well, since Ferraro quickly re-branded the team as the “Gladiators” for the 2001 season.

The new-look Gladiators got off to a grim start when only 3,542 showed up for the first home game of the 2001 season, a listless 52-21 loss to the Carolina Cobras.  The team finished the 2001 season in last place with a 2-12 record and average attendance of 3,312, which was barely a third of the Arena Football League average of 9,188.

New head coach Frank Haege led a turn around on the carpet in 2002 (9-5 record and a playoff appearance). But the team’s improved play failed to translate at the box office and the Gladiators bolted town for Las Vegas in December 2002.

Ex-New York Jets quarterback Glenn Foley signed with the Gladiators in 2002 but failed to best journeyman minor leaguer Jay McDonagh for the starting job and spent the season on the bench.



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2001-2004 Detroit Fury

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Detroit Fury Media GuideArena Football League (2001-2004)

Born: Arena Football expansion franchise.
Died: September 20, 2004 – The Fury cease operations.

Arena: The Palace of Auburn Hills (20,804)

Team Colors: Black, Red, Purple & Silver

Owners: William Davidson & William Clay Ford, Jr.


The Detroit Fury of the Arena Football League were a short-lived joint venture between Bill Davidson’s Palace Sports & Entertainment (owners of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons) and  Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford, Jr.

An earlier Motor City entry in the league, the Detroit Drive (1988-1993), won four Arena Bowl championships and drew large crowds to the Joe Louis Arena downtown.  But the Fury were unable to revive that promise at the suburban Palace of Auburn Hills.  The Fury compiled a 22-41 record over four seasons of play, never finishing better than .500 under Head Coaches Mouse Davis (2001-2002), Al Luginbill (2003) and Al’s son Tom Luginbill (2004).

Detroit never really took to the team either – the Fury consistently ranked near the bottom of league at the box office. Overall, the team claimed an average of 8,152 fans for 30 home dates over four years.

Palace Sports & Entertainment folded the club on September 20, 2004 after four money-losing seasons.

Years later, former Fury staffer Dave Wieme gave an lengthy interview to Crain’s Detroit Business where he recalled the business challenges of operating the team.


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

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
2001 5/25/2001 @ Indiana Firebirds L 38-35 Program



What killed the AFL’s Detroit Fury? The rent was too damn high” Bill Shea, Crain’s Detroit Business, January 23, 2013

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1987-1991 Denver Dynamite

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Denver DynamiteArena Football League (1987 & 1989-1991)

Born: 1987 – Arena Football League founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1991 – The Dynamite cease operations.

Arena: McNichols Arena (17,022)

Team Colors: Royal Blue & Gold



The Denver Dynamite own a (very) minor place in pro football history as the answer to a trivia question: What city claimed the first championship of Arena Football?  The Dynamite won Arena Bowl I back in 1987, concluding a brief 6-game regular season with a 45-16 demolition of the Pittsburgh Gladiators before 13,000 fans at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena on August 1, 1987.

Arena Football expanded from four to six teams in 1988 and sought local limited partners for each franchise for the first time.  But no investor could be found in Denver, so the league’s defending champion was shut down and left off the 1988 schedule.  The following year, Arena Football nearly shut down after a revolt by the local limited partners against league founder Jim Foster.  Foster survived the coup, but the league was only able to stage a brief 4-game regular season contested by 5 clubs.  Needing teams to fill out the 1989 schedule, the Dynamite uniforms were hauled out of storage and the team was re-formed as a league-operated club.  But the 1989 team had only one home date at McNichols Arena.  The rest of the team’s games were played on the road or as league showcases in neutral cities.

In fact, from 1987 through 1989, the Dynamite had virtually nothing to do with the city of Denver.  During those three years, the Arena League staged only four games in the Mile High City.  And three of those games came during a three-week stretch in July of 1987.  You might have heard of the team, but damned if you could ever find a game to go.

Denver Dynamite

In April 1990, Foster finally found a Denver-area investor named Gary J. Graham who agreed to pay $125,000 for the rights to the Denver territory.  Under Graham’s management, the Dynamite finally became a true local team, playing full schedules at McNichols Arena in the summers of 1990 and 1991.  However, the team soon ran into financial problems including missed payrolls and creditor lawsuits and the Dynamite went out of  business for good in late 1991.

Marty Mornhinweg, who later became Head Coach of the NFL’s Detroit Lions in 2001-2002, played quarterback for the Dynamite in 1987, appearing in just one game before suffering an injury.

Arena Football returned to Denver in 2003 with the arrival of the Colorado Crush, owned by Mile High heavyweights Pat Bowlen, Stan Kroenke and John Elway.  The Crush were a popular fixture on the local sports scene, playing from 2003 until 2008, when the original Arena Football League closed its doors and declared bankruptcy.


==Denver Dynamite Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1987 8/1/1987 Pittsburgh Gladiators W 45-16 Program
1991 6/22/1991  @ New Orleans Night  W 54-44 Program


==In Memoriam==

Former Dynamite Head Coach Tim Marcum (’87) passed away on December 5, 2013 at age 69.



Denver Dynamite exploded in Arena League’s first season, then fizzled out“, Joey Bunch, The Denver Post, October 22, 2012

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Written by andycrossley

December 28th, 2014 at 3:13 am

1990-1993 Dallas Texans

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Drew Pearson Dallas TexansArena Football League (1990-1993)

Born: 1990 – Arena Football expansion franchise.
Died: Postseason 1993 – The Texans cease operations.

Arena: Reunion Arena (16,088)

Team Colors: Blue, Red & White



The Dallas Texans were the first of four Arena Football League teams to set up shop in the Dallas-Fort Worth region.  They preceded the Fort Worth Cavalry (1994), the Jerry Jones-owned Dallas Desperados (2002-2008) and the ill-fated Dallas Vigilantes (2010-2011).

The Texans earned a trip to Arena Bowl IV in the first season of play.  Granted there were only six teams in the league at the time.  Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Ernie Stautner was the Texans’ head coach in 1990 and would win the league’s Coach-of-the-Year award (and then never coach indoor football again).  Arena Bowl IV, played before 19,000 at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, featured the two greatest quarterbacks of the early years of Arena Football: Ben Bennett of the Texans and Art Schlichter of the Detroit Drive.  Schlichter was the former Ohio State star and #4 overall pick of the 1982 NFL draft who was infamously banned from the NFL by Commissioner Pete Rozelle due to his crippling gambling addiction.  Schlichter outdueled Bennett in the title game as Detroit defeated Dallas 51-27.

Dallas Texans LogoThe Texans looked completely different when the team returned for a second season in 1991.  Stautner departed for the NFL and was replaced as Head Coach and General Manager by former Dallas Cowboys star Drew Pearson.  Bennett didn’t re-sign with the team until midseason and then was quickly dealt to the Orlando Predators.  The star never threw another pass for Dallas after the 1990 Arena Bowl loss.  Replacement Alfred Jenkins, a Canadian Football League refugee, couldn’t muster much firepower, and the Texans finished 4-6 in 1991.

The franchise muddled along for two more seasons, continuing to shuffle Head Coaches (four different guys over four seasons), starting quarterbacks and owners.  Interest in the team ebbed away after some large early crowds in 1990 and the Texans were out of business by the fall of 1993.

One modest success story from the Texans’ brief existence was Lincoln Coleman, an undrafted running back out of Baylor.  Coleman played both running back and linebacker in the Arena League, where most players besides the quarterback and kicker played on both sides of the ball.  The ground game is an afterthought in Arena Football, but Coleman showed sufficient talent as a rookie with the Texans in 1993 that he earned a contract with the Dallas Cowboys and played two seasons in the NFL in 1993 and 1994.

Coleman was one of the first Arena Football players to earn a shot in the NFL and see significant playing time. He would be followed on that path a few years later by Kurt Warner.



The Texans host the Detroit Drive before 13,360 fans at Reunion Arena on July 14, 1990.


==Dallas Texans Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1990 7/14/1990 vs. Detroit Drive W 33-29 Video
1990 8/11/1990 @ Detroit Drive L 51-27 Program
1991 7/5/1991 @ New Orleans Night  L 39-37 Program Video
1992 6/19/1992 @ Charlotte Rage W 32-20 Program
1992 8/23/1992 @ Sacramento Attack W 41-38 Program


==In Memoriam==

Former Texans Head Coach Ernie Stautner (’90) passed away on February 16, 2006 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.  Stautner was 80 years old.  New York Times obituary.

Texans founder and owner Lanier Richey died on May 13, 2012 at age 77 after battling Alzheimer’s disease. Obituary.



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1992-1996 Charlotte Rage

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Charlotte RageArena Football League (1992-1996)

Born: October 10, 1991 – Arena Football expansion franchise.
Died: 1996 – The Rage cease operations.


Team Colors: Red, Teal & Silver

Owners: Allen J. Schwalb, Joanne Faruggia & Cliff Stoudt


This early Arena Football franchise played five seasons in North Carolina, splitting dates between the massive, NBA-scale Charlotte Coliseum and the smaller Independence Arena.  The franchise was owned by motion picture financier Allen J. Schwalb, who backed some of the biggest blockbusters of the 1980’s, including Rambo, Rain Main, Moonstruck and Thelma & Louise.

During the Charlotte Rage’s first season in 1992, the team signed Joe DeLamielleure, a perennial All-Pro offensive lineman for the Buffalo Bills during the late 1970’s.  41 years old at the time, DeLamielleure was seven years removed from his last NFL game in 1985.  He played in a handful of games for Charlotte in 1992 before retiring for good.  DeLamielleure remains the only member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to play Arena Football.

After a promising start in 1992 (13,248 average attendance for five dates), attendance plummeted to below 7,500 per game in 1993.  At some point, Schwalb’s relations with AFL Commissioner Jim Drucker and his fellow owners appeared to sour.  In July 1996, the Charlotte Business Journal reported that league officials were pressuring Schwalb to sell the franchise.  Schwalb had discussions with groups in Salt Lake City and Long Island, but ultimately folded the team in late 1996, taking an $850,000 payout from the league to turn in the franchise.  Schwalb would later file a $200 million Sherman anti-trust lawsuit against the league, asserting that his former business partners unlawfully scuttled his efforts to sell and relocate the franchise and coerced him to sell the team back to the league for a below market price.  The suit seems to have been resolved in the early 2000’s, but it’s not clear what the resolution was.

Arena Football replaced the Rage in the North Carolina market with the Raleigh-based Carolina Cobras in 2000.  The Cobras would later move to Charlotte in 2003 before going out of business in late 2004.



==Charlotte Rage Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1992 6/19/1992 vs. Dallas Texans L 32-30 Program
1993 6/5/1993  @ Tampa Bay Storm L 52-19 Program
1996 4/27/1996 @ Memphis Pharaohs W 54-30 Program



Brief clip of the Rage in action at the Charlotte Coliseum against the Albany Firebirds in 1994.


==In Memoriam==

Ex-Rage owner Allen Schwalb passed away on July 14, 2014 at age 76.  Variety obituary.



Arena Football League Media Guides

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