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WHAT IF: The World Football League Survived!

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The last of the original 1974 teams, but not perhaps as you might have imagined it. 

 

UTAH GRIZZLIES (1974-2020, 1974-75 as Memphis Southmen, 1976-1988 as Memphis Grizzlies)

Play in West with San Diego, Seattle, Portland and the Hawaiians.

 

Original Look/Logo:

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The Grizzlies were well-traveled even before the WFL played its first game.  Founded by Canadian film producer and entrepreneur John Basset, the team was supposed to begin play as the Toronto Northmen, but when the Canadian government balked on that and the impact it might have on the CFL, Basset relocated the franchise to Memphis, and redubbed them the Southmen.  With a bear logo (which seems to make more sense in Canada than Memphis) it was not long before the team picked up the nickname of the Grizzlies. By signing 3 stars of the Miami Dolphins (Czonka, Kiick and Warfield) the Grizzlies made a splash quickly.  They played 15 seasons in Memphis, often to a sold-out Liberty Bowl stadium, but all was not well on the banks of the Mississippi.  The death of John Basset from cancer in the mid-80's and the subsequent chaotic handover of team ownership, paired with ongoing conflicts with the Liberty Bowl itself, soon made the situation in Memphis untenable.  The Grizzlies started looking for a new place to call home.  It was rumored that the team would move across the state to Nashville, or perhaps upriver to St. Louis (which was in the process of losing the Cardinals to Phoenix).  Salt Lake City was initially seen as a frontrunner, but when the timing of the Cardinals move to Phoenix did not work out for the Memphis ownership, they took the longshot, and a sure answer for a stadium at the U. of Utah, and the Grizzlies found a new home in Utah.  Only 4 years later, the Grizzlies would award their new home city with a championship, as the team, led by a potent offense of QB David Archer, RB Mike Pringle, and wideouts Eddie Brown and Willie Davis, took home their first World Bowl.   They would win one more in the 80's before falling into decline, but the seeds had been sewn, and Salt Lake City became a solid fanbase which endures even today (after 3 straight cellar dwellar seasons).  

 

Neither the color scheme, logos, or uniform of the Grizzlies has seen sweeping change in the past 40 years.  The logo has been updated and modernize a couple of times, and in the early 90's the team switched from a white helmet to an orange one, to go along with the team's traditional brown & orange color scheme.  In the mid 2000's the team also ditched shoulder sleeves for a "bearskin" yoke treatment that puts brown-bear shoulders on the jerseys of both home and away uniforms. The only other significant shifts were the use of a secondary logo, a stylized old-west "U" and the use of horizontal stripes, instead of the more traditional vertical stripes, on the pants.  While a white set of pants exists, it is almost always reserved for a white-over-white look for hot early season games or trips to Florida or California, while the orange pants get much more use with both home and away looks. 

 

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Notes: The bear logo is a combination of Memphis's original logo and a great bear head logo designed by Shmart Studio (found on Pinterest).  

 

Next up, what happens when the WFL decides to add 2 teams in 1984 and a certain NY real estate mogul wants in?

 

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2 minutes ago, WideRight said:

 

Next up, what happens when the WFL decides to add 2 teams in 1984 and a certain NY real estate mogul wants in?

 

Looks like Donald Trump will have a WFL Franchise, I'm betting on it.

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1984 expansion:  

In 1982, with 8 years of growth in the books, the WFL decided that the time to expand was right.  The league put out feelers and got 8 different proposals for expansion locations.  They ended up adding 2, with a plan to add 2 more within the decade.  The need to expand their TV rights in the new market of cable television led the league to push for a return to NY, while the success of the Houston Texans caused league owners to opt for a 2nd team in Texas. 

 

NEW YORK STARS (1984-Present)

Play in Eastern Division with Washington, Philadelphia, Columbus and Baltimore.

 

Original Look/Logo: 

 

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The Star entered the league under the ownership of brash NY real estate developer Donald Trump.  They began play in Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands.  After 3 seasons in which Mr. Trump pushed the WFL to merge with the NFL, frustration over lack of movement in this direction led Trump to sell the team.  The new owners relocated the franchise to Shea Stadium.  They have played in Shea, and now Citibank Field ever since.  On the field the Stars have had some success, initially by stealing away some NFL players such as QB Brian Sipe and S Gary Barbaro, but their biggest coup came thanks to a rule the WFL pul into place before the team existed.  The WFL, seeing an interest among college juniors to go pro early, created a policy which would allow NCAA players to join the league after completion of their sophomore season, signing a 2 year contract which would then allow them to jump to the NFL in the year when they would normally have had eligiblity.  Several big name players opted to take this route, but the biggest name by far was Georgia RB Herschel Walker, who signed on to play with the WFL after his junior year, and then stayed with the Stars for 6 seasons before joining the NFL's Dallas Cowboys.  During these 6 years the Stars were playoff contenders, but were never able to win the big one.  That did not come until 1999, when, after an up and down career in the NFL and a stint in Canada, Stars QB Doug Flutie led the team to their first and only World Bowl Championship.

 

The Stars were brought into the league with a desire to give rebirth to a founding team (one which relocated to Charlotte midway through the inaugural season).  They kept the gold and black color scheme, but opted for a more modern star design and metallic gold helmets.  The Stars have kept the gold jersey throughout their 36 year existence, alternating gold with white jerseys, while reserving a once-per-year black jersey only for "black out" games late in each season.  In 2018 they updated their look, removing the standard straight sleeve and pant stripes with a bold tapered stripe, which, on the jersey, extends past the sleeves onto the jersey front. 

 

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Notes:  Yup, that is the Philly/Bmore Stars from the USFL now in NY with the WFL.  I am just sorry I could not come up with an excuse to bring in the Panthers and Breakers, but not close enough to any WFL teams. 

 

Next Up: 1984 expansion team in San Antonio takes flight. 

 

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SAN ANTONIO WINGS (1984-Present)

Play in the Central Division with Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and Houston.

 

Original Look/Logo: 

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The Wings were the second of two expansion teams approved for 1984.  Owned by Alvin Lubetkin, Bernard Lerner and Dr. Jerry Argovitz, the Wings were innovators both in design and in their play.   The team hired Jack Pardee, who in turn hired Mouse Davis, to bring the Run & Shoot offense to the WFL.  Led by QB Rick Neuheisel from UCLA, the Run & Shoot proved a tough system to defend, and the Wings found themselves among the league leaders in scoring for their first 5 seasons.  As defenses caught up, the team moved on with variations of the system, but never fully abandoned it.  They found some success in the early 1990's and won their only league championship in 1994 as QB Scott Mitchell led the spread style offense and LB Bryce Paup led a sack-happy Defense.   The Wings, while always entertaining, have not reached that pinnacle since. 

 

The look of the Wings is as innovative as their offense.  While many teams have logo designs which wrap use the front and sides of the helmets (Eagles & Rams are most famous), the Wings were the first team to incorporate a full front wrap around as their bird-in-flight log started at one earhole, wrapped around the front bumper and around to the other side.  In 2003 the added a rear wrap as well, placing the Alamo silhouette in sky blue across the back of the helmet.  The result is a unique 2-faced logo with the Alamo in the rear and the wings up front.  Their new jerseys, first revealed in 2015, include both elements as both the wings and the Alamo make an appearance.  The pants feature the secondary logo, an Air-Force rank insignia made from chevron wings and a football center. The numbers are also designed to evoke a military feel, with horizontal shadows similar to those found on a variety of military vehicles from aircraft to naval ships. 

 

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Notes: Those who followed the short-lived Alliance of American Football will recognize the concept of the rear Alamo wrap around from the San Antonio Commanders.  

 

Next up: The WFL expands again in 1990.  This time bringing football back to two cities the NFL abandoned. 

 

 

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New York and San Antonio are awesome! The Wings' helmet decals are super clever and definitely feel like something a "not quite major, but not quite minor" league would do. Excited to see the other teams!

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1 hour ago, WideRight said:

SAN ANTONIO WINGS (1984-Present)

Play in the Central Division with Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and Houston.

 

Original Look/Logo: 

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The Wings were the second of two expansion teams approved for 1984.  Owned by Alvin Lubetkin, Bernard Lerner and Dr. Jerry Argovitz, the Wings were innovators both in design and in their play.   The team hired Jack Pardee, who in turn hired Mouse Davis, to bring the Run & Shoot offense to the WFL.  Led by QB Rick Neuheisel from UCLA, the Run & Shoot proved a tough system to defend, and the Wings found themselves among the league leaders in scoring for their first 5 seasons.  As defenses caught up, the team moved on with variations of the system, but never fully abandoned it.  They found some success in the early 1990's and won their only league championship in 1994 as QB Scott Mitchell led the spread style offense and LB Bryce Paup led a sack-happy Defense.   The Wings, while always entertaining, have not reached that pinnacle since. 

 

The look of the Wings is as innovative as their offense.  While many teams have logo designs which wrap use the front and sides of the helmets (Eagles & Rams are most famous), the Wings were the first team to incorporate a full front wrap around as their bird-in-flight log started at one earhole, wrapped around the front bumper and around to the other side.  In 2003 the added a rear wrap as well, placing the Alamo silhouette in sky blue across the back of the helmet.  The result is a unique 2-faced logo with the Alamo in the rear and the wings up front.  Their new jerseys, first revealed in 2015, include both elements as both the wings and the Alamo make an appearance.  The pants feature the secondary logo, an Air-Force rank insignia made from chevron wings and a football center. The numbers are also designed to evoke a military feel, with horizontal shadows similar to those found on a variety of military vehicles from aircraft to naval ships. 

 

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Notes: Those who followed the short-lived Alliance of American Football will recognize the concept of the rear Alamo wrap around from the San Antonio Commanders.  

 

Next up: The WFL expands again in 1990.  This time bringing football back to two cities the NFL abandoned. 

 

 

That’s my squad. Absolutely love how you incorporated the Alamo into the logo and the helmet. This is beautiful.  

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1 hour ago, BengalErnst said:

That’s my squad. Absolutely love how you incorporated the Alamo into the logo and the helmet. This is beautiful.

 

Yea, the San Antonio Commanders of the AAF had the Alamo like that on the back of their helmet, I thought it was pretty clever.

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1990 WFL EXPANSION

Back in 1984, when the WFL expanded to 14 teams, they promised an expansion to 16 by 1988, however when 1988 came around, the league announced that it would postpone expansion until 1990 in order ensure the financial viability of all 14 franchises.  The delay actually made the final decision on which 2 cities would get WFL franchises much easier.  In 1984 the Baltimore Colts moved to Indy in the middle of the night, and since that time it has been clear that the WFL would push for an expansion team in the heartbroken city.  The second city selected was another NFL abandonment.  The NFL Cardinals left St. Louis for Phoenix for the 1988 season, and very quickly the city put together a bid for a WFL franchise.  It took the league owners less than 6 hours of deliberation to choose Baltimore and St. Louis over other contenders, such as Boston, Sacramento and Milwaukee.  

 

BALTIMORE AMERICANS (1990-Present)

Baltimore plays in the East with New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Columbus. 

 

Original Logo/Look:  

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When they were granted a WFL franchise in 1988's owners meeting, the future franchise held a fan contest to choose the nickname from 4 options:  Ravens (a Poe reference), Americans (tied to the long history of the city), Rhinos (no known city connection, but a big powerful animal) and Banners (Star Spangled Banner reference).  Fans chose the Americans, and the patriotic-themed franchise took root.  Baltimore was immediately a top selling team as fans wanted to send a message to the NFL, which had left 6 years earlier.  The team had moderate success in its first few years, but it was not until 2006 when they won their first World Bowl.  Another came 12 years later, in 2018, when the team, led by former NFL running back Frank Gore and a stifling defense, took the title. 

 

With a name like "Americans" you would expect a patriotic red, white, and blue theme, and with the Baltimore franchise that is exactly what you get.  Whether it is the red and white stripes, the blue color blocks dotted with stars, or the logo with its flag and eagle references, there is not much subtlety to the Americans' look, but it is a look that certainly works.  Perhaps the most distinctive element of the uniform is the newest. In 2012 the Americans added a red-white-red block to the back half of the once all-blue helmet, adding yet another flag element to their look.  

 

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Notes:  Fans of arena football will recognize the parallel between the Americans' logo and that of the AFL's Washington Valor.  

 

Next:  Football returns to St.  Louis in 1990, only 2 years after the Cardinals left.  Which WFL team nickname makes sense for the city?  

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15 minutes ago, WideRight said:

1990 WFL EXPANSION

Back in 1984, when the WFL expanded to 14 teams, they promised an expansion to 16 by 1988, however when 1988 came around, the league announced that it would postpone expansion until 1990 in order ensure the financial viability of all 14 franchises.  The delay actually made the final decision on which 2 cities would get WFL franchises much easier.  In 1984 the Baltimore Colts moved to Indy in the middle of the night, and since that time it has been clear that the WFL would push for an expansion team in the heartbroken city.  The second city selected was another NFL abandonment.  The NFL Cardinals left St. Louis for Phoenix for the 1988 season, and very quickly the city put together a bid for a WFL franchise.  It took the league owners less than 6 hours of deliberation to choose Baltimore and St. Louis over other contenders, such as Boston, Sacramento and Milwaukee.  

 

BALTIMORE AMERICANS (1990-Present)

Baltimore plays in the East with New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Columbus. 

 

Original Logo/Look:  

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When they were granted a WFL franchise in 1988's owners meeting, the future franchise held a fan contest to choose the nickname from 4 options:  Ravens (a Poe reference), Americans (tied to the long history of the city), Rhinos (no known city connection, but a big powerful animal) and Banners (Star Spangled Banner reference).  Fans chose the Americans, and the patriotic-themed franchise took root.  Baltimore was immediately a top selling team as fans wanted to send a message to the NFL, which had left 6 years earlier.  The team had moderate success in its first few years, but it was not until 2006 when they won their first World Bowl.  Another came 12 years later, in 2018, when the team, led by former NFL running back Frank Gore and a stifling defense, took the title. 

 

With a name like "Americans" you would expect a patriotic red, white, and blue theme, and with the Baltimore franchise that is exactly what you get.  Whether it is the red and white stripes, the blue color blocks dotted with stars, or the logo with its flag and eagle references, there is not much subtlety to the Americans' look, but it is a look that certainly works.  Perhaps the most distinctive element of the uniform is the newest. In 2012 the Americans added a red-white-red block to the back half of the once all-blue helmet, adding yet another flag element to their look.  

 

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Notes:  Fans of arena football will recognize the parallel between the Americans' logo and that of the AFL's Washington Valor.  

 

Next:  Football returns to St.  Louis in 1990, only 2 years after the Cardinals left.  Which WFL team nickname makes sense for the city?  

Always love when you bring out that helmet design. One of my favorites from your work.

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2 hours ago, Skycast said:

 

Yea, the San Antonio Commanders of the AAF had the Alamo like that on the back of their helmet, I thought it was pretty clever.

Yep. And they were my team in the AAF as well 

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9 hours ago, WideRight said:

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There is a lot going on here.

The primary mark, helmet, and uniforms are - on balance - exceptionally well done. If someone were to describe them to me, I'd be thinking, "That's going to be way too much." You've managed to pull it off. I think a big part of that is due to the color balance throughout the logo, helmets, and uniforms being spot-on.

As for my concerns...

 

The angular, block font of the word mark doesn't really mesh with the more curved, flowing elements contained within the primary mark and featured on the helmets and jerseys. For the same reason, I'm of the mind that a rounded, custom number font would look better on the jerseys. I also think that you could get away with single-color numbers. I'm not sold on the U.S. Air Force Senior airman rank-inspired secondary logo. The stylized bird-in-flight, Alamo, and football components are already a feast for the eyes, so introducing another visual element  seems like overkill.

Bottom line, while I could see the word mark, secondary logo, and block numbers with contrasting shadow being components of the same, more traditionally military-themed identity package, I'm just not sold on them as part of this San Antonio Wings identity.      

Overall, even with my concerns, this is still a solid concept. Nicely done.           

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ST. LOUIS STEAMERS (1990-Present)

Play in Central with Chicago, Detroit, Houston and San Antonio

 

Original Logo/Look (as Shreveport Steamer):

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WIth the departure of the NFL's Cardinals in the offseason of 1988, the WFL moved fast to place a franchise in the city.  They worked with a coalition of owners who had been seeking expansion franchises in New Orleans and Tulsa to develop a new ownership group for St. Louis, a city viewed as a slam dunk for fan support.  The Steamers became a hot ticket immediately in the Gateway City, selling out their first 4 games in Busch Stadium.  The Steamers remained a popular ticket in St. Louis throughout the decade, despite a series of sub-par seasons and a rotating door of head coaches.  That all changed in 2010 with the hiring of Jim Fassel, former NY Giants head coach and the signing of former NFL QB Jeff Garcia.  The combination of Fassel and Garcia brought back to back championships to the Steamers in 2011 and 2012 before Garcia's retirement in 2013.  Fan support in the city has remained high since then, despite the team having difficulty once again with consistency. 

 

The look of the Steamers emulates the red and white steamboats that once cruised the Mississippi riverfront of the city.  The Steamers retain a traditional striping pattern and have not altered their logo since the 1990 season, making them one of the more "classic" looking teams in the league.  They are also the only team which has been allowed to replace the full city name on the jerseys with another symbol, in this case an StL acronym.  There are rumors that the Steamers are looking at a an all-black alternate look for 2021 as a way to expand their sale of team merchandise.  

 

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Notes:  While I wanted to keep the original Shreveport Steamer logo, the rest of the look, including the color scheme, is clearly an homage to the greatest steamboat-themed sports team ever, the USFL's Memphis Showboats.  The Showboats did not use black at all, but I felt like STL would do so as part of the BFBS trend of the 90's. 

 

Next Up:  The WFL expands again in 1995, this time correcting a mistake by putting a team back in Memphis.  But if not the Southmen, which other WFL team will now call Memphis home?

 

 

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18 minutes ago, WideRight said:

But if not the Southment, which other WFL team will now call Memphis home?


Hmmmmm... might it be the second WFL franchise to have called a certain city home? After all, said team's nickname would lend itself to a synergy with the economy of Memphis, Tennessee. 

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11 minutes ago, Brian in Boston said:


Hmmmmm... might it be the second WFL franchise to have called a certain city home? After all, said team's nickname would lend itself to a synergy with the economy of Memphis, Tennessee. 

I think you might be on to something.  


And I agree with your assessment of the Wings.  Revision coming. 

 

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And here is a revised San Antonio look. 

 

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COLUMBUS WINDS (1995-Present)

Columbus plays in the Eastern Division with Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia and Washington.

 

Original Look/Logo:

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Columbus was one of two teams added for the 1995 season.  As home to the Ohio State Buckeyes it was hoped that the team would pick up a lot of Buckeye fans from the center of a state which is bookended by NFL franchises.  Controversy erupted almost immediately as the team held a name-the-team contest, but instead of selecting the winning name, Cyclones,the team went with the Columbus Winds.  No one is quite sure why they opted for the less intimidating and non-alliterative name, particularly since their logo would seem to work equally well with either name.  The Winds have been described as a bit of a vanilla team, often in the middle of their division, rarely good enough for a playoff spot, and rarely so bad as to receive a high draft pick.  They have managed to win 2 World Bowls (2005, 2013) in their 25 year existence, which is nothing to sneeze at, but both championships were followed by precipitous hangovers in which the team did not make the playoffs the following year.  

 

The look of the Winds sits somewhere between that of the New York Jets and the Saskatchewan Rough Riders. By chosing to go with Green & black, the Winds tried to avoid any OSU-Michigan comparisons, though one could point to Michigan State as a parallel.  The team experimented briefly with green helmets in the early 2000's, but quickly returned to their white helmet look.  In 2009 they came upon the idea for a "chest swoop" and have combined that with arcing bands of color on their sleeves since that time.  The look requires that the city name and team numbers be placed slightly lower than on most uniforms, which has caused occasional issues, particularly with linemen whose numbers do not always read clearly.  Columbus's away look is an all white uniform, from helmet to shoes, with additional swooping stripes on the pants.  Both this look and the home greens make use of black drop shadows on the numbers.  

 

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Notes:  Fans of minor league hockey may recognize the Columbus C as a version of the logo of the Cincinnati Cyclones.  The wordmark is really the only holdover from the actual Chicago Winds, while the uniform design is a direct reference to the UFL designs in their initial 2009 season, when all teams wore the same pattern on their jerseys, simply rotating through the 4 colors of the league logo (black, silver, green, teal-blue).  

 

 

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1 hour ago, WideRight said:

And here is a revised San Antonio look. 

 

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Looks great, forgot to change the bumper logo. 

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