Thursday, June 27, 2013

Illinois A11FL team joins state’s deep outdoor alternative pro football tradition

The A11FL franchise based in Illinois come the spring of 2015 will follow in a long outdoor alternative professional football tradition spanning four decades.

The Illinois-based outdoor alternative pro football team that made the most noise was the United States Football League’s Chicago Blitz (1983-84). The Blitz was expected to be the best team in the USFL’s first season, thanks in large part to the coaching comeback of Head Coach George Allen, and the acquisition of rookies like running back Tim Spencer and wide receiver Trumaine Johnson, and National Football League veterans like quarterback Greg Landry and linebacker Stan White.

While fears of the Blitz blowing away the rest of the USFL in 1983 were unfounded, Chicago did tie the Michigan Panthers for the Central Division title, and made the playoffs. The Blitz, however, lost in overtime in the USFL semifinals to the Philadelphia Stars. And they didn’t just lose – they lost 44-38 in OT after leading 38-17 in the fourth quarter.

The Blitz then made news in the offseason by basically trading franchises with the Arizona Wranglers, leaving one of the league’s top media markets with one of its worst teams from the year before. The 1984 version of the Blitz, therefore, went 5-13 under Head Coach Marv Levy – and then went under.

-       Illinois’ last outdoor alternative pro football team was the XFL’s Chicago Enforcers in 2001. The Enforcers finished at 5-5 and qualified for a playoff spot under well-traveled Head Coach Ron Meyer after starting the season 0-4. Chicago, however, succumbed to eventual XFL champion Los Angeles in the playoffs, 33-16.

-       In 1974, the Chicago Fire participated in the World Football League’s first season – but not all of it. The Fire was 7-13 that year, but they didn’t play all 20 games. After starting the season 4-0, and then 7-2, Chicago lost the final 10 games it played, then forfeited its final game at Philadelphia after team owner Tom Origer called it “meaningless.” A second WFL Chicago team, the Winds, played five games in 1975, going 1-4 before it got kicked out of the league – less than two months before the league itself folded.

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