The World Football League was an upstart league designed as an alternative to the NFL in the mid-1970s. Debuting in 1974, the league played much like the old American Basketball Association; fast and loose, with colorful characters and incredible stories. To generate interest in the new league, team owners offered rich contracts to existing NFL stars (who, in 1974, were the lowest-paid athletes in the four major American sports). Several noted players jumped to the new league, including quarterbacks Daryle Lamonica, Ken Stabler and Craig Morton, running backs Calvin Hill and Larry Csonka, and end LC Greenwood. The league began with 12 teams, some experiencing financial troubles even before their first game, and several without a location in which to play. It seemed as if the league’s 20-game season was in jeopardy from Day One.
The WFL’s rules were structured to make it a faster-moving, more exciting game. The PAT was eliminated in favor of an “action point” attempt, making a touchdown plus action point worth 8 total points. Missed field goals attempted from outside the red zone would be returned to the line of scrimmage, and kickoffs would take place from the 30, to encourage more runbacks. No fair catches were permitted on punts, and running backs were permitted to go in forward motion prior to the snap.
The 1974 season was marked with colorful stories, as players were sued by their NFL counterparts, teams short on cash were forced to pay hotel and airfare bills in advance, and the location of the league championship game needed to be moved because the host team folded after 14 weeks. After a restructuring of the league and its leadership, a more refined WFL launched in 1975 – to weak interest among both fans and the media. After one team folded and others found themselves on the verge of bankruptcy, the league shut down just 12 weeks into its second season.
The Memphis Southmen were one of the league’s few bright spots. Initially intended to be based in Toronto (and called the “Northmen,”) the Canadian government rejected the idea of hosting a team from an American sports league, thus necessitating the move to Memphis prior to the inaugural season. Informally called the “Memphis Grizzlies” because locals did not like the name “Southmen,” the team, owned by multimillionaire John F. Bassett (a movie producer who later became the co-owner of the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits) took their division title in 1974 with the league’s best record. Anticipation was high for the 1975 season, as the team was joined by Miami Dolphins stars Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield. The team’s 1975 quarterback was a young Danny White, who would go on to become the punter and future quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.
After the league failed, the Southmen applied for membership as an expansion team in the NFL. The application was rejected, resulting in a lawsuit against the NFL that was finally settled in 1984, by which time Memphis had been awarded a USFL team.
We’re happy to offer ten, full, unused game tickets for the Memphis Southmen 1975 season. Representing each of the team’s 10 scheduled home games for that season, the end-zone area tickets, for Memphis Memorial Stadium, were priced at just $3 each for a “Student 18 and under.” Each is unused and in excellent condition, with only minor wear. The Memphis Southmen wound up playing just 7 home games in 1975, led by Danny White, Jim Kiick and receiver Ed Marshall (who played two seasons with the New York Giants after the WFL folded).
This is a cool piece of memorabilia and a memento of one of the best and most popular teams in a forgotten pro football league.