In its two southern-most franchises, the Tampa Bay Bandits and the Dallas Wranglers, the A11 Professional Football League has one team which is immediately recognizable and one in which its home city is going into unchartered territory.
The two A11FL teams in the league’s “Southern Shootout” rivalry come from very different backgrounds. The Bandits, even 28 years after their official exit with the rest of the United States Football League following its ill-fated antitrust lawsuit against the National Football League, are very-much loved and revered in Tampa, Florida. The Wranglers, the nickname of a USFL team in Phoenix, Arizona, for two seasons, will play in a city that never has played host to the spring outdoor professional football team (save the World League of American Football’s “Team Dallas,” a league-wide taxi squad which didn’t play in games).
The Bandits and Wranglers will continue a Tampa-Dallas sports rivalry which includes National Football League games between the Cowboys and Buccaneers (Dallas has won five in a row and 13 of 16 meetings all-time), and a key Major League Baseball game last season between the Rays and the Rangers (a game No. 163 to get into the playoffs, won by the Rays, 5-2).
Wranglers and Bandits fans have the opportunity to get involved with their favorite team well before opening kickoff thanks to two crowdfunding sites which will feature fan gear, limited-edition memorabilia and special fan experiences.
The USFL Bandits (1983-85) were known for their wide-open offensive style “BanditBall,” courtesy of first-time Head Coach Steve Spurrier, as well as a rabid fan base which was looking for a winner to make up for the then-moribund Bucs. The Bandits qualified for the playoffs in two of their three seasons, and had winning records each year of their existence, but went 0-2 in the postseason.
The USFL Wranglers (1983-84) lost in the league’s championship game to the Philadelphia Stars, but mostly are known even today as the franchise which, along with the Chicago Blitz, basically traded teams following the 1983 season – the bulk of the 1983 Wranglers franchise became the 1984 Blitz, and visa versa.