The thinking of the higher-ups in the A11 Football League in terms of target markets for the eight charter franchises in the spring of 2015 is simple – go big.
Of the 12 finalist markets announced last month, 11 are in the top 17 television markets in the United States. And all of the markets love their football – especially in the spring.
Here are the top single-game spring professional football attendance figures for each of the 12 A11FL finalist markets:
DETROIT – 60,237 – July 10, 1983 – United States Football League – Oakland Invaders at Michigan Panthers – The week before the Panthers won the first-ever USFL title in Denver, they played host to the Invaders in a league semifinal before more than 60,000 people in the Pontiac Silverdome. Rookie quarterback Bobby Hebert was 18-for-27 for 295 yards, one passing touchdowns and one rushing score, and Michigan won, 37-21.
TAMPA – 58,777 – April 7, 1984 – USFL – Oakland Invaders at Tampa Bay Bandits – The Bandits had many impressive home crowds at Tampa Stadium over three seasons (1983-85), but this was the best. Tampa Bay improved to 4-3 by winning 24-0, thanks in part to two 1-yard touchdown runs by running back Gary Anderson, while the Invaders slid to 0-7.
NEW YORK – 58,741 – March 10, 1985 – USFL – Los Angeles Express at New Jersey Generals – This game, a 35-24 Generals win at Giants Stadium, certainly didn’t lack for star power. New Jersey rookie quarterback Doug Flutie ran for three touchdowns and 97 yards, Generals running back Herschel Walker ran 19 times for 70 yards and a TD and Express quarterback Steve Young passed for 214 yards and a touchdown.
DENVER – 50,057 – June 3, 1984 – USFL – Houston Gamblers at Denver Gold – The Gold couldn’t stay with the Gamblers’ Run “N” Shoot offense, losing 36-20 at Mile High Stadium. But it wasn’t because of Jim Kelly’s passing, but because of rookie running back Todd Fowler, who ran for a then-league-record 208 yards and added two touchdowns.
PHOENIX – 45,167 – March 6, 1983 – USFL – Oakland Invaders at Arizona Wranglers – The Sun Devil Stadium crowd for the Wranglers’ first-ever game was very good, but the Wranglers themselves were not. Arizona lost, 24-0, and allowed journeyman Invaders quarterback Fred Besana to go 15-for-22 for 239 yards and two touchdowns.
SAN FRANCISCO – 38,253 – February 4, 2001 – XFL – Los Angeles Xtreme at San Francisco Demons – While the Xtreme eventually beat the Demons in the league’s title game, it was the Demons who won the first round on Opening Day, 15-13. Kicker/punter Mike Panasuk’s 33-yard field goal at the final gun gave San Francisco’s big crowd at Pac Bell Park a thrill.
PHILADELPHIA – 38,205 – March 13, 1983 – USFL – New Jersey Generals at Philadelphia Stars – In the Stars’ first-ever home game at Veterans Stadium, the big partisan home crowd saw a 25-0 shutout of rookie running back Walker and the Generals. Philadelphia’s own rookie runner, Kelvin Bryant, ran 24 times for 114 yards and a touchdown.
LOS ANGELES – 35,813 – February 10, 2001 – XFL – Chicago Enforcers at Los Angeles Xtreme – It easily was the best Saturday-night game the short-lived XFL had, and it saw the home-standing Xtreme outlast the Enforcers in double overtime, 39-32, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
CHICAGO – 32,182 – April 25, 1983 – USFL – New Jersey Generals at Chicago Blitz – In a Monday-night ESPN telecast from Soldier Field, the Blitz used a 27-yard field goal from veteran kicker Frank Corral with 2:47 left in overtime for a 17-14 win over the Walker-led Generals. The Blitz withstood 36 carries, 138 yards and a touchdown from the ballyhooed Generals rookie.
SAN ANTONIO – 21,822 – March 10, 1985 – USFL – Tampa Bay Bandits at San Antonio Gunslingers – A 31-18 loss at Alamo Stadium was one of many for the ’Slingers. San Antonio was victimized by three touchdowns and 298 yards through the air by Bandits veteran quarterback John Reaves.
Of the 12 finalist markets, only Dallas and Seattle never have had a previous spring outdoor pro football team.