Tampa Bay Bandits

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Tampa Bay Bandits
Tampa Bay Bandits logo
Founded 1983
Folded 1986
Based in Tampa, Florida, United States
Home field Tampa Stadium
League USFL
Conference Eastern
Division Central (1983)
Southern (1984)
Team History 35–19 overall record
Team colors

Red, Silver, Black, White

                   
Head coaches Steve Spurrier
Owner(s) John F. Bassett (managing general partner)
Stephen Arky (general partner)
Burt Reynolds (general partner)
26 other partners
Mascot(s) Smokey
Fan Website http://www.tampabaybandits.com/bandits/

The Tampa Bay Bandits were a professional American football team in the United States Football League (USFL) which was based in Tampa, Florida. The Bandits were charter members of the USFL and were the only franchise to have the same principal owner (John F. Bassett), head football coach (Steve Spurrier), and home field (Tampa Stadium) during the league's three seasons of play. The team folded along with the USFL after the 1985 season.

History[edit]

Preparing to play[edit]

The Tampa Bay Bandits' majority owners were Canadian businessman John F. Bassett (who was still in litigation against the NFL over his previous Memphis Southmen franchise from the World Football League in the mid-1970s) and Miami attorney Steve Arky. Minority owners included Hollywood mainstay Burt Reynolds, at that time one of the most popular motion picture actors in the world. The team was named the Bandits due to Reynolds' appearance in the hit Smokey and the Bandit movies, and his connection helped build local interest. Also building interest was the hiring of former Florida Gator and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Steve Spurrier to be the team coach. Spurrier had been serving as the offensive coordinator at Duke University before coming to Tampa to take his first head coaching job. At 37, he was the youngest head coach in professional football at the time.[1]

Bandit Ball[edit]

The Bandits began play in 1983 in Tampa Stadium, and were immediately more successful than the area's NFL franchise, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with whom they shared a home field (though the Bucs played in the fall and early winter while the Bandits played in the spring and early summer). The Bandits narrowly missed the playoffs in their first season and made the postseason the next two years. While their offense under Spurrier was usually one of the best in the league, an average defense kept them from serious championship contention.

The Bandits were also successful off the field. They drew the highest average attendance over the three-year history of the USFL, coming in second in attendance in 1983 and leading the league in that category in 1984 and 1985 with over 40,000 fans per game.[2] Also, their memorabilia outsold that of the Buccaneers in the Tampa Bay area. A fan-friendly atmosphere (including a theme song, "Bandit Ball", penned and sung by Reynolds' friend Jerry Reed[3]) was one factor, and the Bucs' futility during the period (they went 10–38 from 1983 to 1985—the start of a 12-year stretch of 10-loss seasons) also helped the Bandits' success. Another key factor in the Bandits' success was the fact that there was no Major League Baseball team in Tampa at the time (the Rays would not debut for another decade), meaning that unlike other USFL teams, they did not have to compete with other baseball teams for spectators. Due to broad local support, the Bandits were one of a very few USFL teams with a stable home and steady finances - they were the only franchise to have the same coach, owner, and home city throughout the league's three-year existence.[4] Due to these factors, the Bandits are considered one of the few USFL teams that had the potential to be a viable venture had the league been better run.[5] The Philadelphia Stars played Tampa Bay at Wembley Stadium in an exhibition game on July 21, 1984.

The end of the Bandits / USFL[edit]

Bandits' majority owner John Bassett was a strong proponent of the spring football concept and the original budgetary guidelines set by himself and the other original founders of the USFL. However, some owners wished to compete with the NFL for higher-priced players, resulting in many franchises losing substantial amounts of money and causing much instability throughout the league over its short run. In April 1985, the USFL (led by New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump) voted 12-2 to switch to a fall schedule for 1986 in a bid, hoping to compete directly with the NFL and possibly force the more established league to accept a merger. Bassett, who had registered one of the two "nay" votes, immediately declared his intention to pull the Bandits out of the USFL and organize a new spring football league.[6][7] However, failing health forced Bassett to abandon these plans, and he sold his interest in the team to local architect and minor partner Lee Scarfone in August 1985.[8] Bassett died from cancer in May 1986 .[9][10]

Scarfone officially agreed to keep the Bandits in the USFL. However, the league could not secure a TV contract for its new fall schedule (while declining broadcast contracts to continue playing in the spring) and had difficulty finding investors, putting the upcoming season in doubt. After the USFL's anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL failed in July 1986, the league suspended operations, leaving its remaining franchises in limbo. The Bandits effectively ceased to exist on August 4, 1986--the same day that the league suspended operations--when former player Bret Clark won a $159,980 lien against the team. He'd won an arbitration case for back pay in March. While the decision was reaffirmed in May, the Bandits did not have the funds available. A federal judge ordered that the franchise's remaining assets - including everything from weight-lifting equipment to office furniture to memorabilia from the team store - be confiscated to pay the debt.[11][12]

Prominent Tampa Bay Bandits[edit]

Single season leaders[edit]

Rushing Yards: 1206 (1985), Gary Anderson

Receiving Yards: 1146 (1983), Danny Buggs

Passing Yards: 4183 (1985), John Reaves

Season-by-season[edit]

Season W L T Finish Playoff results
1983 11 7 0 3rd Central --
1984 14 4 0 2nd EC Southern Lost Quarterfinal (Birmingham)
1985 10 8 0 5th EC Lost Quarterfinal (Oakland)
Totals 35 21 0 (including playoffs)

1983 season[edit]

Results[edit]

(11-7-0), 3rd in Central Division

  • Sun. Mar. 6 - (W) BANDITS 21 vs. BOSTON BREAKERS 17 (Att. 42,437)
  • Sat. Mar. 12 - (W) BANDITS 19 vs. MICHIGAN PANTHERS 7 (Att. 38,789)
  • Sun. Mar. 20 - (W) BANDITS 32 @ New Jersey Generals 9 (Att. 53,307) abc
  • Sun. Mar. 27 - (W) BANDITS 27 @ Philadelphia Stars 22 (Att. 18,718) abc
  • Sat. Apr. 2 - (L) BANDITS 3 vs. CHICAGO BLITZ 42 (Att. 46,585) ESPN
  • Sat. Apr. 9 - (W) BANDITS 22 @ Denver Gold 16 (OT) (Att. 46,848) ESPN
  • Mon. Apr. 18 - (L) BANDITS 13 vs. LOS ANGELES EXPRESS 18 (Att. 32,223) ESPN
  • Sun. Apr. 24 - (W) BANDITS 30 @ Washington Federals 23 (Att. 9,070)
  • Sat. Apr. 30 - (L) BANDITS 10 vs. PHILADELPHIA STARS 24 (Att. 41,559) ESPN
  • Sun. May. 8 - (W) BANDITS 17 @ Oakland Invaders 10 (Att. 26,989)
  • Sun. May. 15 - (W) BANDITS 20 vs. ARIZONA WRANGLERS 14 (Att. 32,327)
  • Sat. May. 21 - (W) BANDITS 29 vs. OAKLAND INVADERS 9 (Att. 43,389) ESPN
  • Mon. May. 30 - (L) BANDITS 7 @ Michigan Panthers 43 (Att. 23,976) ESPN
  • Sun. June 5 - (W) BANDITS 45 vs. BIRMINGHAM STALLIONS 17 (Att. 35,623)
  • Sun. June 12 - (L) BANDITS 8 @ Chicago Blitz 31 (Att. 21,249) abc
  • Sun. June 19 - (L) BANDITS 17 @ Boston Breakers 24 (Att. 15,530)
  • Mon. June 27 - (W) BANDITS 26 vs. DENVER GOLD 23 (Att. 46,128) ESPN
  • Sat. July 2 - (L) BANDITS 17 @ Birmingham Stallions 29 (Att. 20,300)

Opening Day Roster[edit]

1983 Tampa Bay Bandits roster
Quarterbacks

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen

Linebackers

Defensive Backs

Special Teams

Reserve Lists

added during season

Rookies in italics

A-11 Football League[edit]

The A-11 Football League (A11FL), a planned spring football league, announced its intention to revive the Tampa Bay Bandits name and logos for one of its charter franchises. The A11FL planned to host a "showcase game" featuring the new Bandits at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium in May 2014, but the game was cancelled. The league still planned to play a full schedule including the Bandits in 2015, but those plans were put in doubt when the A11FL was put on hiatus in July 2014.[13][14]

References[edit]

External links[edit]