Arena Football League (2001-2002)
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.