There are still a number of football fans with fond memories of the Michigan Panthers. It has been nearly 30 years since they played their last game but we may not be far from the re-birth of the team – at least in name form.
The A11FL was created last April and plans on playing two “showcase games” this year then beginning regular play as an eight-team league in 2015. Six of the eight teams have been announced with two more to come. According to an article by Woody Paige of the Denver Post earlier this week, the front-runners for the last spots are in Michigan and Denver:
“We will have eight teams next year,” A11FL commissioner Scott McKibben told me by phone Saturday afternoon from San Francisco. He acknowledged publicly for the first time: “Today, the leading candidates for the remaining two franchises are the Denver Gold and the (Detroit) Michigan Panthers. Obviously, we know of the popularity and history of pro football in Denver.”
Should it indeed come to pass, the Panthers and Gold would add to the list of former USFL team names revived int he new A11FL joining the Los Angeles Express, New Jersey Generals and Tampa Bay Bandits.
Brandon Folsom, regular guest of Sean Baligian’s show on ESPN 96.1 FM in Grand Rapids, reported on Wednesday’s show that the announcement will come Thursday afternoon and that Ford Field is being considered as team’s home venue. The USFL version of the Panthers played home games during the 1983 and 1984 seasons at the Pontiac Silverdome. Over 60,000 fans flocked to the Silverdome to see the Panthers win their way into the inaugural USFL Championship Game, which they would go on to win a week later.
The team merged with Oakland for the 1985 season and has been relegated to the history books ever since.
The A11FL derives its name from the A-11 offense in which any of the 11 offensive players on the field can be an eligible receiver depending on how they line up. That removes the need for players like offensive linemen to specifically report as eligible just because of the number they wear. The league doesn’t aim to compete with the NFL, just to give fans more football in the Spring, a time of the year without much action on the field. Time will tell if the league has any staying power but they do have a television deal in place with ESPN, a huge first step for any fledgling league.