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1974 Portland Storm

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Portland StormWorld Football League (1974)

Born: 1974 – WFL founding franchise
Folded: Postseason 1974

Stadium: Civic Stadium

Team Colors:

Owner: Bob Harris

WFL Championships: None

 

Big league professional football came to the Rose City in 1974 with the formation of the World Football League (1974-1975).  The WFL planned an audacious challenge to the National Football League, much like the American Football League had in the 1960’s.  (Only the WFL was without the benefit of Lamar Hunt’s hundreds of millions of dollars in oil money.)

Portland’s original entry in the league was the Portland Storm.  The Storm franchise passed like a hot potato through multiple hands and proposed homes during the league’ start up phase before landing at Portland’s Civic Stadium under the direction of Canadian businessman Bob Harris.  The Storm was the 12th and final franchise to be solidified for the WFL’s debut season, which launched in July 1974.

WFL rosters featured a lot of veteran NFL talent.  The Storm were one of the less experienced clubs and were expected to be one of the weakest under Head Coach Dick Coury.  In fact, the biggest name was in the Storm’s front office, where recently retired All-Pro tackle Ron Mix handled General Manager duties.  (Mix would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979).  Another notable was linebacker/assistant coach Marty Schottenheimer, an AFL veteran who returned to the sport after a three-year layoff from pro football.  Portland was Schottenheimer’s first pro coaching experience and, of course, he went on to a long head coaching career in the NFL with the Chiefs and the Chargers.

The Storm started even worse than expected, going 0-7-1 through the first eight weeks.  The franchise got its first win in bizarre fashion on Labor Day 1974.  Scheduled to play the the winless and neatly bankrupt Detroit Wheels (0-8) in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Storm owner Bob Harris offered the Wheels a $30,000 payday to move the game across the border to his hometown of London, Ontario.  There the Storm got their first victory – a 18-7 win before a couple of thousand Canadian curiosity seekers in the aptly named Little Stadium (capacity: 11,000).

Harris spoke at the time of building a 44,000-seat stadium and putting a WFL expansion franchise in London by 1976.  But within a month of the London game, Harris was either soured on the league and just flat run out of money.  The Storm started to turn things around on the field,bolstering their lineup with NFL vets Pete Beathard (QB) and Ben Davidson (DE), the latter a friend and former Oakland Raiders teammate of Storm GM Ron Mix.  The Storm would win six of their final ten games.   But in October 1974, owner Bob Harris stopped making payroll. The problem was hardly unique to Portland.  The Detroit and Jacksonville franchises shut down in mid-season.  Philadelphia was eviscerated in the press after admitting to fabricated attendance figures.  Players in several cities went unpaid for weeks or months.

Portland’s players initially took a wait-and-see attitude, putting faith in Coury and Mix and hoping that the paychecks would resume after a temporary interruption.  By the time Storm players and staff finally lost faith in Harris – he never did pay up – there was only a week or so left in the season and the Storm elected to finish things out as a matter of pride.

The former Oakland Raider Ben Davidson was hurt late in the the season and placed on injured reserve.  Ironically, as Davidson told WFL historian Kevin Smith, this meant he was one of the few Storm players to draw an income.  The state of Oregon paid him the princely sum of $176/week in workers comp.

The Portland Storm finished their first and only season in December 1974, with the players and staff unpaid nearly two  months and a $168,000 IRS tax lien on the team.  After the 0-7-1 start, the Storm’s final record was 7-12-1.

 

==Portland Storm Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other

1974

1974 9/2/1974 @ Detroit Wheels W 18-7 Program
1974 10/31/1974 @ Shreveport Steamer W 14-0 Program
1974 11/7/1974 @ Florida Blazers L 23-0 Program
1974 11/13/1974 @ The Hawaiians L 23-0 Program

 

Written by AC

December 17th, 2012 at 4:25 am

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