Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Florida Citrus Bowl’ tag

1966-1970 Orlando Panthers

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1967 Orlando Panthers ProgramContinental Football League (1966-1969)
Atlantic Coast Football League (1970)

Born: 1966 – The Newark Bears relocate to Orlando, FL
Folded: Postseason 1970

Stadium: The Tangerine Bowl

Team Colors:

Owners:

Continental Football League Champions: 1967 & 1968

 

Text coming soon…

 

Orlando Panthers Memorabilia

 

Links

Recalling Orlando Panthers: Their Legend is Quite Major“, Brian Schmitz, The Orlando Sentinel, August 24, 1986

Continental Football League Media Guides

Continental Football League Programs

Atlantic Coast Football League Media Guides

Atlantic Coast Football League Programs

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1974 Florida Blazers

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1974 Florida Blazers Media GuideWorld Football League (1974)

Born: May 1974 – The Virginia Ambassadors relocate to Orlando.
Folded: December 1974

Stadium: The Tangerine Bowl

Team Colors:

Owner: David Williams, Rommie Loudd, Will Gieger, Howard Palmer, et al.

WFL Championships: None

 

The 1974 Florida Blazers enjoy a something of a cult following among pro football history buffs.  Fearsome on the field, the franchise was a train wreck in the front office.  The Blazers were put together by Rommie Loudd, a 41-year old former AFL linebacker and New England Patriots executive.  Loudd is occasionally cited as the first African-American owner of a “major league” American sports franchise for his time with the Blazers, but the team’s main money man was a Central Florida Holiday Inn franchisee named David Williams.  By December 1974, the Blazers were in the “World Bowl” championship game, the team’s best player had played the entire season without a paycheck, and Rommie Loudd was in jail.

But let’s back up a bit.  The franchise originated in late 1973 as the “Washington Ambassadors”, part of the startup World Football League that would challenge the NFL starting in the summer of 1974.  Original owner Joseph Wheeler couldn’t secure a lease or put together financing in Washington, so the team became the “Virginia Ambassadors” in the spring of 1974.  But Wheeler couldn’t get things off the ground in Norfolk, VA either, so in May 1974 he sold the team to Loudd’s Orlando-based syndicate.  Less than 60 days remained before the WFL’s scheduled opening day on July 10th, 1974.  Head Coach Jack Pardee had already opened training camp in Virginia, but the team loaded onto a train and decamped for Orlando.

Pardee had a solid veteran squad on both sides of the ball.  Bob Davis, a former back-up to Joe Namath on the New York Jets, earned the starting quarterback job. Linebackers Larry Grantham, a perennial AFL All-Star with the Jets in the 1960’s, and Billy Hobbs anchored a stout defense.

Florida BlazersThe Blazers’ breakout find was diminutive rookie running back Tommy Reamon, a 23rd round draft pick from the University of Missouri. Reamon scored 14 touchdowns and led the WFL with 1,576 yards rushing in 1974. At the end of the season, he was named one of the league’s “Tri-MVPs”, along with Southern California Sun quarterback Tony Adams and Memphis Southmen tailback J.J. Jennings. Reamon split a $10,000 prize with his co-MVPs. Decades later, Reamon revealed that his $3,333 MVP share was the only payment he received for the entire 1974 season.

The rest of Reamon’s teammates faired somewhat better, receiving paychecks during the league’s first couple of months. But things went poorly for the Blazers immediately in Orlando. Crowds failed to materialize at the Tangerine Bowl, which barely met pro standards back in the mid 1970’s, with 14,000 permanent seats supplemented by temporary bleachers.

By late August, just six weeks into the season, Rommie Loudd was talking publicly of a midseason move to Atlanta. The move never occurred, but paychecks stopped arriving not long afterwards. Promises and rumors of new investors or payroll support from the league office never came through. Somehow, Pardee kept the team together through three months without pay. The club staggered into the playoffs. In the playoff semi-final, the Blazers overcame a 15-0 deficit on the road to upset the Memphis Southmen, the league’s best regular season team. The Blazers headed to Birmingham’s Legion Field for the World Bowl championship game.

Trailing 22-0 in the second half to the Birmingham Americans, the Blazers mounted a furious late rally, only to fall short 22-21. In the WFL, touchdowns counted for seven points and teams earned an eighth point (or “action point”) by scoring a conversion from the two-and-a-half yard line. The Blazers failed to convert all three Action Points in the title game, and that was the difference in the outcome. That and a controversial call on the Blazers’ opening possession. Television replays on the TVS Network appeared to show Tommy Reamon break the plane of the Americans’ end zone in the first quarter. But officials on the field ruled that Florida’s star rookie fumbled the ball through the end zone for a touchback. Reamon, who had a strong game overall with 83 yards on the ground and a touchdown, also failed to convert the decisive action point in the 4th quarter that would have tied the game at 22-22.

The league revoked the Blazers franchise a few days after the World Bowl loss due to financial insolvency. Within three weeks, Loudd was in jail on charges of embezzling sales taxes collected on Blazers’ ticket sales. A few months later, the feds added narcotics trafficking charges to Loudd’s legal woes. He was convicted in late 1975 and sentenced to two fourteen-year sentences. A parole board freed Loudd after three years in prison. Loudd later became a minister and passed away in 1998.

Many of the Blazers players ended up playing for a new WFL expansion team in 1975 known as the San Antonio Wings. The Wings were better organized, certainly, than the Blazers. But the league itself went under in October 1975, failing to finish out its second season of operation.

Tommy Reamon played briefly in the NFL in 1976. He later became an actor, most notably playing the wide receiver Delma Huddle in the 1979 Nick Nolte football drama North Dallas Forty.  

 

Florida Blazers Shop


Blazers Retro T-Shirt by Throwback Max

…and a dollar short: The Empty Promises, Broken Dreams and Somewhat-Less-Than-Comic Misadventures of the 1974 Florida Blazers

 

Florida Blazers Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Blazers tight end Greg Latta passed away of a heart attack at age 41 on September 28, 1994.

Blazers GM Rommie Loudd died of complications from diabetes on May 9, 1998 at age 64.  New York Times obit.

Linebacker Billy Hobbs died when his moped was struck by a car on August 21, 2004. Hobbs was 57.

Former Blazers head coach Jack Pardee died of cancer on April 1, 2013 at age 76.

 

Links

Florida Blazers Fans, Friends & Former Players Facebook Page

World Football League Media Guides

World Football League Programs

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1986-1990 Orlando Lions

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Amateur/Independ1ent (1986-1987)
American Soccer League (1988-1990)
American Professional Soccer League (1990)

Born: 1986 – Club formed.
Died: January 1991 – The Lions merge with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

Stadium: Florida Citrus Bowl (70,000)

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

Rollins College men’s soccer coach Mark Dillon formed F.C. Orlando and the Orlando Lions in 1986 as an amateur club consisting mainly of local college players.  Dillon put together an ambitious exhibition schedule for the young club, hosting foreign touring clubs as well as teams cobbled together from the wandering refugees of the recently defunct North American Soccer League (1968-1984).

After two years of this, the Lions got wind of plans to launch a new, budget-conscious East Coast-based pro league in 1988 to fill the pro soccer void left by the demise of the NASL.  Dillon wanted to join the start-up American Soccer League and turn pro in 1988 but he needed a wealthy investor to meet the new league’s capital requirements.  He found one in Tallahassee-based Colin Phipps, who took over ownership of the Lions while Dillon stayed on as the team’s head coach.  The Lions were admitted as one of the American Soccer League’s eight founding franchises (four of which were in Florida) in October 1987.

Mark Dillon’s partnership with Colin Phipps didn’t survive the Lions’ first pro season.  Dillon either resigned or was fired as coach midway through a losing campaign.  The Lions, in fact, would suffer losing seasons in all three of their pro seasons from 1988 to 1990.

The Lions also struggle at the gate, averaging fewer than 3,000 fans per match at the enormous Florida Citrus Bowl in 1988 and 1989.  In 1990, attendance dipped sharply to only 1,100 per game according to The Orlando Sentinel.  The Lions threw in the towel and merged into the Fort Lauderdale Strikers franchise in January of 1991.

Mark Dillon reclaimed the Lions name and re-launched the team as an amateur club in 1992.  This second version of the Lions competed in the United States Interregional Soccer League (USISL) until 1996.

 

==Orlando Lions Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other

1986

1986 6/28/1986 vs. North American Soccer League All-Stars ?? Program

1988

1988 7/1/1988 vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers ?? Program
1988 7/30/1988 @ Washington Stars ?? Program

1989

1989 6/18/1989 @ New Jersey Eagles  L 1-0 (PK) Program

1990

1990 4/22/1990 @ New Jersey Eagles L 3-1 Program

 

==Links==

American Soccer League Media Guides

American Soccer League Programs

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1991-1992 Orlando Thunder

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World League of American Football (1991-1992)

Born: 1990 – WLAF founding franchise.
Died: September 1992 – The WLAF ceases operations.

Stadium: The Florida Citrus Bowl (70,000)

Team Colors: Lime Green, Royal Blue & Light Blue

Owner: Raj Bhathal

 

Remember the World League of American Football (1991-1992), the NFL-backed spring developmental league that stretched from Sacramento to Barcelona?  The WLAF was pretty popular in Europe but never really caught on stateside, despite national TV contracts with ABC and The USA Network.  If you recall the World League at all, chances are it’s for one of two things: the USA Network’s “Helmet Cam”, which put viewers into the heads of quarterbacks about to be bulldozed by 300-lb. linemen, or for the blinding florescent green uniforms of the Orlando Thunder franchise.

Thunder owner Raj Bhathal was a swimwear manufacturer in Newport Beach, California.  The Thunder’s lime green hue might have blended right into Bhathal’s spring line of bikinis, but it was a novel attention grabber on a pro football field.

Whatever you thought of the Thunder’s look – ESPN Page 2 columnist Paul Lukas rated them the 2nd worst in the history of pro football in 2006 – the team did play an exciting, pass happy brand of football under Head Coach Don Matthews during their first season in the spring of 1991.  Former University of Florida quarterback Kerwin Bell tied for the league lead in passing touchdowns with 17.  But the Thunder were streaky and finished out of the playoffs at 5-5.

As TV ratings and game attendance lagged in the U.S., one criticism of the league was that it lacked compelling NFL prospects, despite its mission as a developmental league.  The WLAF tended to be a last chance destination for disappointing 2nd or 3rd round quarterbacks-turned-clipboard holders like Anthony Dilweg and Mike Elkins.  There wasn’t a sense that you were watching the stars of tomorrow, as you might have in triple-A baseball, for instance.

The Thunder certainly had their fair share of draft busts and disappointments, including running backs Roger Vick (New York Jets 1st rounder, 1987) and Darryl Clack (Dallas Cowboys 2nd round, 1986).  But in a category unto himself was notorious offensive lineman Kevin Allen (Philadelphia Eagles 1st round, 1985), who joined the Thunder in 1992 on assignment from the Kansas City Chiefs.  Orlando’s willingness to accept Kevin Allen, who served 33 months of a 15-year sentence for a brutal 1986 rape perpetrated with the assistance of a former Philadelphia Eagles intern, stands as a stain on all those involved with the senior management of the team.  Allen was out of football six years when he became a starter for the Thunder in 1992.  Fortunately, he never played again.

A notable exception to all this was Miami Dolphins quarterback Scott Mitchell, who was sent to Orlando for seasoning in the 1992 season.  As a true prospect on assignment from an NFL club, Mitchell quickly relegated Kerwin Bell to the bench.  Mitchell was 2nd in the WLAF in passing yards in 1992 and helped lead the team to an 8-2 record and a berth in World Bowl ’92 against the Sacramento Surge at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.

The Surge defeated the Thunder 21-17 in the league championship game on June 6, 1992.  This would prove to the last game in the league’s brief two-year history.

Like most of the American clubs, attendance was somewhat disappointing in Orlando.  The Thunder averaged 19,018 fans for five dates at the Florida Citrus Bowl and dropped to 16,522 in 1992, despite the team’s dramatic improvement in the standings.  The local Orlando Sentinel newspaper pilloried absentee owner Raj Bhathal for running a cut-rate, blundering operation on numerous occasions, typified by the team’s decision to make its cheerleaders pay their own way to the World Bowl ’92 title game in Montreal.

In September 1992, the NFL pulled the plug on the World League after two seasons.  The spring developmental concept was re-worked and then re-launched as NFL Europe in 1995, with all three of the WLAF’s European franchises returning, along with several new overseas markets.

 

==Orlando Thunder Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other

1991

1991 3/25/1991 vs. San Antonio Riders W 35-34 Program
1991 3/30/1991 vs. Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks W 58-20 Program
1991 4/6/1991 @ London Monarchs L 35-12 Program Video
1991 4/14/1991 @ Barcelona Dragons L 33-13 Video
1991 4/21/1991 vs. Birmingham Fire L 31-16 Video
1991 4/27/1991 @ New York-New Jersey Knights L 42-6 Video
1991 5/4/1991 vs. Frankfurt Galaxy L 17-14 Video
1991 5/11/1991 vs. Sacramento Surge W 45-33 Video
1991 5/27/1991 @ Montreal Machine W 33-27 (OT) Video

1992

1992 3/22/1992 vs. Ohio Glory W 13-9 Video
1992 3/28/1992 @ Montreal Machine L 31-29 Video
1992 4/5/1992 @ Ohio Glory W 28-3 Video
1992 4/12/1992 vs. New York-New Jersey Knights W 39-21 Video
1992 4/19/1992 vs. Montreal Machine W 16-8 Video
1992 5/23/1992 vs. Barcelona Dragons W 13-10 Video
1992 6/6/1992 vs. Sacramento Surge (@ Montreal) L 21-17 Program

 

 

==Notable Players==

==YouTube==

The Thunder host the Birmingham Fire at the Florida Citrus Bowl. April 21, 1991.

The Thunder, with future Detroit Lions QB Scott Mitchell under center, against the New York-New Jersey Knights. 1992 season.

 

 

==Links==

World League of American Football Media Guides

World League of American Football Programs

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1985 Orlando Renegades

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Orlando RenegadesUnited States Football League (1985)

Born: October 1984 – The Washington Federals relocate to Orlando.
Folded: August 7, 1986

Stadium: The Florida Citrus Bowl (50,050)

Team Colors: Blue, Red, White, Grey & Black

Owner: Donald R. Dizney

USFL Championships: None

 

The United States Football League arrived in Orlando, Florida in October 1984 when the league’s doormat Washington Federals franchise fled the nation’s capital for a fresh start in Florida.  During the springtime football league’s first two season, the Federals had a league worst 7-29 record.  The club’s exasperated former owner, Washington D.C. attorney Berl Bernhard, publicly compared his Federals to “untrained gerbils” after a typically dispiriting loss.

Bernhard thought he had a deal during the summer of 1984 to unload the team to Florida developer Woody Weiser, who would bring the team to Miami’s Orange Bowl, where they would be known as the Miami Manatees and coached by Howard Schnellenberger.  But in late August, the USFL voted to move to a fall season in 1986, pitting the league head-to-head against the National Football League.  Weiser knew he couldn’t compete in market against the Miami Dolphins in the autumn and pulled out of the sale.  Bernhard, faced with a similar problem competing head-to-head with the Washington Redskins come 1986, was desperate to unload the Feds.  He managed to strike a new deal with Donald Dizney, a minority partner in the USFL’s popular Tampa Bay Bandits franchise, to move the team to Orlando instead.

Reggie CollierUnlike the USFL’s glitzier franchises, which lured three consecutive Heisman Trophy winners away from the NFL and paid out large contracts to get NFL free agents to jump leagues, the Federals/Renegades never opened the checkbook for splashy signings.  The Renegades’ roster was composed mostly of journeymen from the Canadian Football League and NFL training camp cuts.  ESPN College Gameday host Lee Corso was the Renegades Head Coach and is likely the only member of the team whose name would be familiar to younger fans today.

The team was marginally improved under Corso at 5-13, which was actually the best record in the franchise’s three-year history.  Attendance was also much better.  The Renegades averaged a little over 24,000 fans at the Florida Citrus Bowl in the spring of 1985, which was more than triple what they drew during their final depressing season at RFK Stadium in Washington.

The Renegades were due to return in the fall of 1986 for the USFL’s first fall season, but league owners elected to fold the league in August 1986 just as training camp was due to get underway.   The USFL bet its future as a fall league on the successful outcome of an federal anti-trust against the National Football League.  The USFL actually won the suit, but a jury awarded the league just $1.00 in damages, which was trebled to a final judgement of a whopping $3.00.   USFL owners gave up shortly after the verdict.

Former Renegades owner Donald Dizney later owned the popular Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League for several years during the mid-1990’s.  The Renegades starting quarterback, Reggie Collier, also started for the Predators during their first season in 1991.

After the demise of the the USFL, spring football returned to Orlando and the Citrus Bowl twice more.  The Orlando Thunder of the NFL-backed World League of American Football played two seasons in 1991 and 1992.  The Orlando Rage of the NBC/World Wrestling Entertainment joint venture the XFL arrived in 2001, but that league folded after only one season play.

 

Orlando Renegades Shop


Renegades Retro T-Shirt by Throwback Max

Just published! One of FWIL’s Top Sports Books of 2017

 

Orlando Renegades Memorabilia

 

Renegades Video

Renegades host the New Jersey Generals with Doug Flutie & Herschel Walker. March 1, 1985.

 

In Memoriam

Cornerback Neal Colzie died of a heart attack on August 19, 2001.  He was 48 years old.

Former Renegades General Manager Lewis “Bugsy” Engelberg died by his own hand in July 1987 at the age of 41.

 

Links

1985 Orlando Renegades Statistics at JustSportsStats.com

USFL Media Guides

USFL Game Programs

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