WORLD FOOTBALL LEAGUE (1974-1975)


BIRMINGHAM AMERICANS

1974

The Americans won the first, and only World Bowl, defeating the Florida Blazers 22-21. The team folded soon after.


BIRMINGHAM VULCANS

1975 1975

I'm not sure whether the Vulcans are associated with the Americans of 1974. They may have been a entirely new team, or a "reorganization" of the 1974 under new management or ownership, like the Jacksonville teams (see below). When the League halted play after 12 games in 1975, the Vulcans had the best record and were considered champions.

I have seen photos of helmets with gray and blue facemasks so I've included both here. I don't know exactly when either version was worn, however. I suspect the Vulcans used gray facemasks that were painted blue (see the Philadelphia Bell below), and the paint had worn off when some photos were taken, or some players never had the masked painted in the first place.


CHARLOTTE HORNETS / NEW YORK STARS

NEW YORK STARS CHARLOTTE STARS CHARLOTTE HORNETS
1974 (first 13 games)
1974 (game 14)
1974 (last 6 games)
CHARLOTTE HORNETS CHARLOTTE HORNETS
1975
?

The Hornets began the 1974 season as the New York Stars. They moved to Charlotte during the season, played a single game as the Charlotte Stars, then became the Hornets for the remainder of the year. The last helmet above was drawn from a team banner. I suspect it was a prototype design and was never actually used.

Prior to 1974, the team was scheduled to play in Boston as the Bulldogs or Bulls, before moving to New York. There is even a logo for the Bulls floating around the internet, but I have yet to see a helmet for the original team.


CHICAGO FIRE

1974 1974

Various sources have claimed that both these designs were used during the 1974 season. I've seen game photos of the first design and photos of a game-worn helmet using the second.


CHICAGO WINDS

1975 1975

The first helmet shown above was definitely used in 1975. The "W" was actually green tape the players slapped on the helmets while they were waiting for decals. The second helmet, with the actual team logo, was the intended design, but may have never been worn on the field. The team only lasted 4 games in 1975 before they were dissolved by the league.

This team has no relation to the 1974 Chicago Fire.


DETROIT WHEELS

1974 1974

My hometown Wheels have the distinction of being the worst team in the WFL, folding for good 14 games into a 20 game schedule with a record of 1-13.

Apparently, like several other teams, the Wheels players wore helmets with both grey and yellow facemasks. I've even read that they wore yellow at home and grey on the road. I suspect the situation was more similar to that of the Philadelphia Bell, where the masks were painted and flaked off during games so badly that some players refused to wear the yellow masks after a while.


FLORIDA BLAZERS / SAN ANTONIO WINGS

FLORIDA BLAZERS SAN ANTONIO WINGS
1974
1975

The Florida Blazers made it all the way to the World Bowl in 1975. They were originally scheduled to play in Virginia or Washington D.C. (see the Ambassadors below). They moved to San Antonio in 1975, and became the Wings. I've seen various versions of the Wings design, but believe the one above is accurate based upon the game photo below.


HONOLULU HAWAIIANS

1974 1974 - 1975 (?) 1975 (?)
never used (?)

The Hawaiians supposedly used both the first and second design in 1974 and later changed to the second helmet design sometime during the 1975 season. The logo did change according to programs I've seen. I don't know for certain if the change made it onto a helmet however.

The last helmet is a prototype seen in magazine ads promoting the team. I don't think it was ever worn on the field.


HOUSTON TEXANS / SHREVEPORT STEAMER

HOUSTON TEXANS SHREVEPORT STEAMER SHREVEPORT STEAMER
1974 (first 11 games)
1974 (last 9 games)
1975

The Houston Texans moved to Shreveport, Louisiana and became the Steamer halfway through the 1974 season.


JACKSONVILLE EXPRESS / JACKSONVILLE SHARKS

JACKSONVILLE SHARKS JACKSONVILLE EXPRESS JACKSONVILLE EXPRESS
1974
1975
1975

These two teams were supposedly the same franchise. The Sharks played in 1974, but folded before the end of the season. They were reborn as the Express in 1975. I've recently been given information that the background on the logo wasn't white, but matched the color of the helmet. I added this version based on descriptions, but I'd really like some more evidence that this was the case.


MEMPHIS SOUTHMEN ("GRIZZLIES")

1974
1975
prototype (?)

The Southmen were originally scheduled to play in Toronto as the Northmen. The move to Memphis prompted the name change. Fans hated the moniker and referred to the team as the Grizzlies. The team used the Grizzlies nickname when they petitioned to join the NFL in 1975. Despite being one of the more successful franchises in the WFL, they were rejected.

I have seen both logos above in photos. I'm confident the first helmet was worn in 1974, while the second was used in 1975. The third helmet was drawn from Southmen banners which depicted an orange helmet. I'm not sure if the banners showed a prototype design or were just a printing mistake. I'm adding the design just in case it was legitimate.


PHILADELPHIA BELL

1974 - 1975
1974 - 1975

The Bell official wore blue facemasks for both seasons. The masks were gray and painted blue, however, and some players chose to leave them gray, as the paint would chip too badly during games.


PORTLAND STORM / PORTLAND THUNDER

PORTLAND STORM PORTLAND THUNDER
1974 1975

The Portland Storm changed their name to the Thunder in 1975. The new name didn't help them attract fans, however.


SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SUN

1974 1975 (?)

I believe the Sun changed to the second helmet for the 1975 season, but I'm not sure exactly when the change was made.


TORONTO NORTHMEN

Pre 1974

The Northmen were slated to play as one of the original WFL franchises, lending credence to the "World" in "World Football League." However, owner John Bassett, Jr., was blocked from fielding his team by the CFL. The team moved to Memphis and became the Southmen.

This helmet is only speculation, based upon an existing logo and the imagination of Klaus Gebhard.


WASHINGTON / VIRGINIA AMBASSADORS

WASHINGTON AMBASSADORS VIRGINIA AMBASSADORS
Pre 1974
Pre 1974

The Washington Ambassadors were slated to play in Washington D.C., and later Baltimore. Still later they moved to Virginia. Finally, unable to find a stadium to play, the team was sold and became the Florida Blazers for the 1974 season.

The Washington helmet above actually existed and was used to promote the franchise in press conferences. The second helmet is only speculation, based upon a description of the intended design.


COMMENTS

The World Football League, or WFL, began in 1973 as the brainchild of Gary L. Davidson, the former president of the World Hockey Association (WHA) and one of the founders of the American Basketball Association (ABA). Planned as a Summer alternative to the NFL, the league debuted on July 10, 1974 with 12 teams in three divisions playing a 20 game schedule. The competition with the NFL was ripe from the beginning. With the labor agreement between the NFL and the players set to expire, as many as 60 NFL veterans signed future contracts with the WFL. Most notable were Larry Czonka, Paul Warfield and Jim Kiick of the championship Miami Dolphins, who agreed to play for the Memphis Southmen in 1975.

The WFL also affected the NFL on the field. The league introduced several rules changes to bring in fans. They moved the kickoff back 10 yards, moved the goal posts from the goal line to the end line, returned missed field goals to the line of scrimmage, increased the value of a touchdown from 6 to 7 points and eliminated the extra point. Instead, teams would have to run or pass for an "Action Point". Receivers would only need one foot in-bounds as in college, fair catches were eliminated on punt returns and a 15 minute overtime was instituted for games tied at the end of regulation. Offensive backs were allowed to go in motion toward the line of scrimmage prior to the snap and the hash marks were moved inward. In April of 1974, the NFL, fearing a return of the wide open style of play in the AFL, held a meeting to institute its own changes, including moving the goal posts, moving the kickoff to the 35 yard line, and adding an overtime period.

At first, the NFL's fears seemed well-founded as huge crowds filled stadiums on the WFL's opening weekend. Unfortunately, it was revealed that attendance was inflated with free tickets and the league was actually in financial trouble. Despite quality franchises in Birmingham, Memphis, Florida, and Southern California, other teams were floundering, moving to other cities mid-season or folding all together. By the end of the year, some teams were barred from playing in their home stadiums until they settled lease problems. Other teams had their uniforms confiscated or had players walk out on the team after not being paid. In the end, the league couldn't even decide on a playoff format, eventually settling on the top six of the remaining squads, including a few with losing records, making the post-season. The first, and only World Bowl was won by the Birmingham Americans who defeated the Florida Blazers 22-21, on December 5, 1974.

The 1975 season began to take focus with new commissioner Chris Hemmeter and what would be known as the Hemmeter plan, a profit sharing agreement between owners and players which would insure players got paid despite gate-receipts. Hemmeter demanded financial backing for the upcoming season, weeding out weak owners with up-front franchise deposits. Many teams relocated and some cities received "new" teams, old franchises with new names. Problems continued. Many of the NFL stars backed out of their contracts with WFL teams. Some teams couldn't even hire head coaches until weeks into the pre-season. The 1975 season began July 26, with ten teams competing. The season got off to a rocky start when the league had to assume daily operations of the Chicago Winds, folding the team after only 4 games. Things continued to get worse when the NFL lifted its ban on signing WFL players in week eight, raiding WFL teams in the middle of the season. On October 22, Hemmeter held a press conference to announce the WFL was disbanding, citing bad weather, unfair competition with the NFL, media skepticism and confusion over player contracts as reasons.

The NFL quickly reinstated its ban on hiring WFL talent. WFL players and the NFL Players Association sued, and less than a month later NFL teams began signing WFL players. Other WFL players ended up in the CFL or played semi-pro ball. A few even went on the play in the USFL eight years later. Two of the more successful WFL franchises, Birmingham and Memphis, strong on the field and financially, applied for expansion in the NFL. The NFL, which already planned for expansion in Tampa Bay and Seattle in 1976, declined the offer.

I do have a great deal of info on the WFL, however, any information is greatly appreciated.


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