|Based in||Memphis, Tennessee|
|Home field||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium|
|League||World Football League|
|Colors||Burnt Orange & Brown|
|Head coach||John McVay|
|Owner(s)||John F. Bassett|
From North to South
The team was originally slated to be based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with the nickname of the Northmen. However, when Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau announced that no U.S.-based professional football league would be allowed in Canada in competition with the Canadian Football League under the Canadian Football Act, a change in venue and nickname was announced. From the beginning, Memphians disliked "Southmen" and the team was informally known as the Memphis Grizzlies. The name appeared to come from the logo, a representation of a bear backed by the sun.
The "Grizzlies" were owned by John F. Bassett. A multi-millionaire, Bassett gave the league instant credibility by signing three stars from the National Football League's Miami Dolphins for the 1975 season: running backs Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick, and wide receiver Paul Warfield. John McVay was introduced as the head coach before the 1974 season.
The Southmen's home opener against Detroit drew 30,122 fans, including Elvis Presley, a professed football nut. Country superstar Charlie Rich sang the national anthem. After Rich took his seat next to Elvis afterward, Presley commented, "That's a tough song to sing, ain't it?" Rich replied, "It ain't no Behind Closed Doors."
Even before the Miami Trio arrived, the 1974 Southmen found two durable running backs in J.J. Jennings and John Harvey, and they finished with the league's best record at 17-3. They lost in the semi-finals to the Orlando-based Florida Blazers, 18-15.
In 1975, Csonka, Kiick, and Warfield finally came to Memphis (now officially dubbed the Grizzlies), but even they couldn't save the league, which folded during the middle of its second season. The 1975 Grizzlies finished 7-4; in their last WFL game, they were shut out by the Birmingham Vulcans, 21-0.
Memphis and the NFL
The Southmen were one of the stronger and better-supported WFL franchises, and would have almost certainly been a viable venture had the WFL's overall management been more financially sound. After the WFL folded, Bassett applied for membership in the NFL as an expansion team. Over 40,000 deposits for season tickets were collected in this effort, which included a telethon on a Memphis television station, during December 1975. To their dismay, the NFL refused to accept the team. Still, there were fans who wouldn't quit. A lawsuit, Mid-South Grizzlies v. NFL, tried to force the league to accept the Grizzlies. It was not settled until 1984, by which time Bassett owned the Tampa Bay Bandits of the United States Football League.
- "Head coach", Football Digest August 1974 issue