HERE IS THE STORY OF HOW THE SFL BEGAN:
I founded the league and served as commissioner for the first three seasons. This year, I’m running the Oklahoma Hawks — the team that I established when the league began. I gave the team up to avoid any conflicts of interest (been in too many leagues where that has happened).
The original owners of the SFL met on a forum hosted by a USFL site (http://www.oursportscentral.com/usfl/) during the summer of 1999. We were all fans of that league, and we began a discussion about how a spring football league would fare now (mind you, this was BEFORE the XFL was a glimmer in Vinny Mac’s eye). One thing led to another, and viola, the SFL was born.
The league began with teams in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, NC, Washington, Orlando, Pontiac, Chicago, Birmingham, Columbus, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Denver, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Seattle, Phoenix and Sacramento.
During our inaugural 2000 season, the league was divided into an Eastern and Western Conference with two five-team divisions.
EAST – Atlantic Division
New York Red Raiders
EAST – Central Division
Michigan Stags (Pontiac)
WEST – Midwest Division
Colorado Scramblers (Denver)
Oklahoma Hawks (Norman)
Texas Marshals (San Antonio)
WEST – Pacific
Los Angeles Stars
For our player pool, we “raided” the CFL, NFL Europe, the Arena League and even landed several NFL “castoffs” and “second-stringers.”
The Dallas Six Shooters lured QB Mark Rypien out of retirement (two years before he made a real-life comeback as a back-up with the Indianapolis Colts). The Michigan Stags were able to interest Barry Sanders in football again (this was before we realized that he was contractually tied to Lions even though he had retired — ah well). Colorado’s owner (a Broncos fan) brought John Elway aboard as a part owner (interesting to note that he is now an owner in the AFL) along with a vast array of Arena league stars on offense: QB Clint Dolezel, WR Gary Compton, WR Cory Fleming, and WR Curtis Caesar.
Bad boy Jeff George landed in Sacramento, QB Eric Zeier tried to resurrect his career in Phoenix, Trent Dilfer went to Honolulu after being dumped by the NFL’s Tampa Bay Bucs (the next fall, he would subsequently jump back to the competitor’s league and help guide the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory), Neil O’Donnell went to Boston with the promise of being a starter again. Seattle lured CFL stars QB Dave Dickensen and DE Joe Montford from Canada. Philadelphia became the SFL’s version of the “Over-the-Hill” gang. QB Jeff Hostetler signed with the team, and former Eagle RB Vaughn Hebron handled the bulk of the running chores. In Birmingham, former Auburn QB (and long-time Carolina Panther back-up) Dameyune Craig became the trigger man. In DC, it was long-time CFL vet Danny McManus. The Orlando Rockets signed Cowboy’s backup Jason Garrett to drive the ship. Memphis signed injury-prone NFL bust Heath Shuler, hoping a return to the Volunteer state would rejuvanate his career.
As for coaches…
New York hired Bill Belichick during the summer of 1999;
Boston hired Charlie Weis;
Carolina hired Mike Daily;
Philadelphia hired long-time CFL coach Don Matthews;
Washington hired Mike Hohensee after flirting with both Joe Gibbs and Marty Schottenheimer;
Birmingham hired Terry Bowden;
Columbus hired Ray Rhodes;
Michigan hired former Eagles LB John Bunting;
Orlando hired former Northwestern miracle-man Gary Barnett (who would become the first coach to lose his job during the tumultuous first season);
Chicago gave the reigns to Mike Ditka (fresh from his hasty departure from New Orleans);
Dallas hired Jack Pardee (he became the first man to coach in five leagues — WFL, NFL, USFL, CFL, and now the SFL);
Colorado hired Arena guru Tim Marcum;
Texas snatched former Cowboys’ coach Chan Gailey;
Memphis lured Bill Arnsparger back to the gridiron;
Oklahoma hired Barry Switzer;
Los Angeles hired Ken O’Brien;
Arizona hired Jerry Glanville, but he resigned after the final preseason game. They then threw a ton of money at Jimmy Johnson, who joined the soon to be sinking Ambush ship just days before the start of regular season.
Seattle hired Jim Zorn;
Sacramento hired Turner Gil (Sacramento was originally slated to play in Lincoln, Nebraska, but was “sold” to a new owner and was moved out to the West coast prior to our first season); and
Honolulu hired June Jones.
Part of the challenge for each owner was not only to manage his team’s performance on the field, but to do well on the bottom line as well. I would have loved to use FOF to sim the league, but it didn’t give me the flexibility I needed for my league’s concept. I ended up using Action PC to simulate on-the-field action!
FIRST SEASON NOTES OF INTEREST:
We played an 18-game schedule like the USFL.
Chicago and Arizona were involved in a massive 23 player trade at the conclusion of the preseason. It was reminiscent of when the owners of the USFL’s Chicago Blitz and Arizona Wranglers essentially swapped franchises prior to the 84 season. Since the trade seemed to unfairly benefit Chicago (and the Arizona and Chicago owners were friends), most of the other owners protested with cries of “foul” and “collusion.” Because of the trade, Jerry Glanville walked off the team in disgust, and was replaced by former Dolphins’ and Cowboys’ coach Jimmy Johnson (after the Arizona owner through a huge wad of cash his way).
The Philadelphia Bulldogs terrorized the league during the first half of the season, racing out to a 9-1 record. However, the “Over the Hill Gang” ran out of gas down the stretch, dropping 7 of their last 8. They watched Boston and Washington catch and then pass them to claim playoff spots during the final week of the season. The ‘Dogs (10-8) finished out of the playoffs.
Barry Switzer installed what he called “pro-bone” offense for the Oklahoma Hawks. Mobile QB Nealon Greene was the pivot in this option-style attack. New Mexico State stand-out Denvis Manns emerged as the Hawks’ most dangerous tailback, leading the team in rushing.
Rookie RB Devin West (Univ. of MO) shared the SFL’s Rookie of the Year Award with Oklahoma’s Denvis Manns.
Eric Zeier of Arizona, playing behind a pourous line of journey-men and semi-pro players was sacked an amazing 105 times during the season.
Barry Sanders won the SFL rushing crown with 2,169 yards and a gaudy 6.4 YPC (Unfortunately for Barry, the Stags finished 7-11).
Clint Dolezel was the SFL’s Kurt Warner and led the league with a 104.6 rating (271-454-4095, 37TDs, 13 INT)
The Dallas Six-Shooters won the Midwest Division crown on the final week of the season by winning a 37-35 shoot-out with the Colorado Scramblers at the Cotton Bowl.
After starting the season 0-3, the Washington Wave, minus starting QB Danny McManus (out with an injury), won a week 18 contest against Western powerhouse Seattle to sneak into the 2000 postseason.
Colorado Scramblers won the league attendance mark.
The Chicago Mob finished out of the playoffs and deep in debt. It is rumored that the team finished nearly $20 million in the hole. Only a last minute emergency loan from the league office kept Chicago’s players from staging a mutiny and walking off the job.
In the East: Boston won the East with a 11-7 record; Birmingham won the Central with a 11-7 record; Columbus (11-7) and Washington (11-7) were the wild-cards.
In the West: Dallas won the Midwest with a 12-6 record; Honolulu won the Pacific with a 13-5 record; Colorado (11-7) and Seattle (11-7) were the wildcards.
Columbus went to Alumni Field in Boston and spanked the Cents 20-10. Boston’s Neil O’Donnell, who has been a quietly effective component in the Boston attack during the season, reverted to the form he displayed during Super Bowl XXX and tossed five interceptions.
At Legion Field in Birmingham, the Predators rattled the Washington Wave 26-17 behind the passing of Dameyune Craig.
After defeating the Scramblers 37-35 in week 18 to clinch the Division, the Shooters had to win another barnburner with Colorado, this time 49-42, to advance to the semi-finals. Dallas QB Mark Rypien tossed five TD passes.
Seattle ambushed Pacific Division champ Honolulu 27-10 at Aloha Stadium.
Birmingham clipped divisional rival Columbus 27-13 at Legion Field.
Dallas manhandled Seattle 41-21 at the Cotton Bowl
Mark Rypien won MVP award (for throwing five TDs) as the Six-Shooters downed the Predators 44-21 to win the first SFL Championship Game. The Preds couldn’t overcome a terrible start by QB Dameyune Craig and gave up big plays on defense consistently.
2000 ALL-SFL Selections
QB – Clint Dolezel, Colorado Scramblers
RB – Barry Sanders, Michigan Stags
FB – Tony Burse, Sacramento Bandits
WR – Brian Finneran, Dallas Six-Shooters
WR – Muhsin Muhammad, Texas Marshals
TE – Cameron Quayle, Seattle Orcas
LT – Reuben Brown, Boston Centurions
LG – Jon Zatechka, Birmingham Predators
C – Jason McEndoo, Seattle Orcas
RG – Matt Elliott, Michigan Stags
RT – Fred Childress, Dallas Six-Shooters
DE – Simeon Rice, Texas Marshals
DE – Dan Footman, Philadelphia Bulldogs
DT – Winfield Garnett, Dallas Six-Shooters
DT – Tim Beauchamp, Los Angeles Stars
LB – Ben Hanks, Dallas Six-Shooters
LB – Derek Strey, Seattle Orcas
LB – Tedy Bruschi, Boston Centurions
CB – Antonio Banks, Honolulu Volcanoes
CB – Derek Stingley, Columbus Explorers
S – Martavius Houston, Oklahoma Hawks
S – Charles Emanuel, Carolina Chivalry
KR – Gizmo Williams, Philadelphia Bulldogs
PR – Billy Davis, Carolina Chivalry
K – Carlos Huerta, Washington Wave
P – Travis Colquitt, Los Angeles Stars
ALL SFL – Second Team
QB – Dameyune Craig, Birmingham Predators
RB – Errict Rhett, Dallas Six-Shooters
FB – Jamie Kimbrough, Honolulu Volcanoes
WR – Isaiah Mustafa, Honolulu Volcanoes
WR – Andy McCullough, Memphis Bombers
TE – Ben Coates, Boston Centurions
LT – Tony Berti, Washington Wave
LG – LeShun Daniels, Sacramento Bandits
C – John Himebaugh, Birmingham Predators
RG – Rob Murphy, Orlando Rockets
RT – Kevin Sargent, Los Angeles Stars
DE – Joe Montford, Seattle Orcas
DT – Paul Garasmanis, Colorado Scramblers
DT – Gary Holmes, Los Angeles Stars
DE – Kendrick Gholston, Dalls Six-Shooter
LB – Terry Houzah, New York Red Raiders
LB – Tony McCombs, Memphis Bombers
LB – JoJuan Armour, Sacramento Bandits
CB – Deion Figures, Washington Wave
CB – Perry Carter, Philadelphia Bulldogs
S – Reggie Tongue, Honolulu Volcanoes
S – Eddie Anderson, Philadelphia Bulldgos
KR – Jimmy “Jet” Cunningham, Dallas Six-Shooters
PR – Desmond Howard, Boston Centurions
K – Lui Passaglia, Honolulu Volcanoes
P – Aaron Langley, Seattle Orcas
SFL Most Valuable Player – Clint Dolezel, Colorado
SFL Offensive Player of the Year – Barry Sanders, Michigan
SFL Defensive Player of the Year – Antononio Banks, Honolulu
SFL Offensive Lineman of the Year – Reuben Brown, Boston
SFL Defensive Lineman of the Year – Dan Footman, Philadelphia
SFL Offensive Rookie of the Year – (tie) Devin West, Los Angeles; Denvis Manns, Oklahoma
SFL Denfensive Rookie of the Year – Terry Houzah, New York
SFL Coach of the Year – June Jones, Honolulu