Jacksonville Sharks (WFL)

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For the Arena Football League team, see Jacksonville Sharks.
Jacksonville Sharks
Team helmet
Team logo
Established January 1974
Folded September 1974
Based in Jacksonville, Florida
Home field Gator Bowl Stadium
Head coach Bud Asher
Charlie Tate
Owner(s) Fran Monaco
League World Football League
Division Eastern
Colours Black and silver          
Jacksonville Express
Team helmet
Team logo
Established January 1975
Folded October 1975
Based in Jacksonville, Florida
Home field Gator Bowl Stadium
Head coach Charlie Tate
Owner(s) Earl Knabb, Bill DeCarlis
League World Football League
Division Eastern
Colours Black, red and gold               

The Jacksonville Sharks and Jacksonville Express were professional American football teams based in Jacksonville, Florida which competed in the World Football League in 1974 and 1975, respectively. The Sharks folded during the 1974 season due to financial difficulties, and the Express folded when the league ceased operations during the 1975 season.

Jacksonville Sharks[edit]

The Sharks were one of the original franchises of the World Football League, a failed attempt to launch a major professional football league in the United States in competition with the National Football League. In 1974, the team played seven home games at the Gator Bowl Stadium in Jacksonville. The Sharks roster was a mixture of rookies such as Mike Townsend, Eddie McAshan and Reggie Oliver, and veterans like Ike Lassiter, John Stofa, Drew Buie, and former University of Florida All-American lineman Larry Gagner. Six weeks into the season, the team had a 2-4 record, and owner Fran Monaco fired head coach Bud Asher, replacing him with Charlie Tate. Results did not improve, as the Sharks went 2-6 in their remaining games.

Despite their mediocre play on the field, the Sharks reported that they were second in the league in attendance. The front office claimed to have sold 18,000 season tickets, and listed attendance numbers of 59,112 for the home opener against the New York Stars and 46,000 for their second home game against the Southern California Sun. However, the club later admitted to giving away 44,000 tickets for the first two games and distributing many thousand free or sharply discounted tickets for subsequent home games.[1] As with several WFL teams, declining real ticket sales coupled with uncontrolled spending led to serious cash flow problems.

Monaco tried to sell the team to New York financier William Pease. However, after it emerged that Pease was under indictment regarding a Connecticut land deal, the WFL took over the franchise on September 22. The players, who had not been paid for over a month, threatened not to fly to Anaheim to play the Southern California Sun. League Commissioner Gary Davidson paid them $65,000 in escrow and the players made the trip. A week later, after vetoing several prospective owners, the league folded the team, and the Sharks' last six games were cancelled.

Jacksonville Express[edit]

The WFL returned to Jacksonville the following season with the Jacksonville Express. While head coach Charlie Tate and a few players returned from the Sharks, the Express had new owners (local businessman Earl Knabb along with several minor partners) and a mostly new front office staff. The team's biggest player acquisitions were quarterback George Mira, who had been co-MVP of the 1974 WFL championship game with Birmingham and had been a college All-American with the in-state Miami Hurricanes, and Tommy Reamon, who had led the WFL in rushing in 1974 with the Florida Blazers.[2][3]

The new ownership group sought to be much more frugal than the free-spending Sharks had been. One notable example of this was that while the Sharks' headquarters had been located in a large suite atop a skyscraper in downtown Jacksonville, the offices of the Express were located in a mall in the basement of a hotel.[4] Accordingly, the franchise was able to meet its financial obligations throughout its short existence. However, the WFL had lost their television contract right before the 1975 season, putting the entire league in serious financial difficulty. The Express had compiled a 6-5 record when the WFL folded in October 1975, 11 games into a planned 20-game schedule.

Schedule and results[edit]

Key: Win Loss Bye

1974 regular season [5][edit]

Week Day Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 Thursday July 11, 1974 New York Stars W 14–7 59,112
2 Wednesday July 17, 1974 at Chicago Fire L 22–25 29,308
3 Wednesday July 24, 1974 Southern California Sun L 19–21 46,780
4 Wednesday July 31, 1974 at New York Stars L 16–24 15,648
5 Thursday August 8, 1974 Hawaiians W 21–14 43,869
6 Wednesday August 14, 1974 at Florida Blazers L 26–33 23,890
7 Wednesday August 21, 1974 Birmingham Americans L 14–15 27,140
8 Sunday August 25, 1974 at Hawaiians W 14–8 10,099
9 Monday September 2, 1974 Memphis Southmen L 13–16 22,169
10 Thursday September 5, 1974 Philadelphia Bell W 34–30 17,851
11 Wednesday September 11, 1974 at Philadelphia Bell L 22–41 (OT) N/A
12 Wednesday September 18, 1974 Portland Storm L 17–19 16,041
13 Wednesday September 25, 1974 at Southern California Sun L 7–57 22,017
14 Wednesday October 2, 1974 at Memphis Southmen L 19–47 15,016
15 Wednesday October 9, 1974 Florida Blazers cancelled
16 Wednesday October 16, 1974 at Portland Storm cancelled
17 Wednesday October 23, 1974 at Birmingham Americans cancelled
18 Wednesday October 30, 1974 Detroit Wheels cancelled
19 Wednesday November 6, 1974 at Shreveport Steamer cancelled
20 Wednesday November 13, 1974 Chicago Fire cancelled

1975 regular season [6][edit]

Week Day Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 Sunday August 2, 1975 at Memphis Southmen L 26–27 25,166
2 Sunday August 16, 1975 Birmingham Vulcans W 22–11 16,049
3 Sunday August 23, 1975 San Antonio Wings W 26–19 16,133
4 Sunday August 30, 1975 Charlotte Hornets L 14–33 16,428
5 Saturday September 6, 1975 at Shreveport Steamer W 22–15 13,638
6 Sunday September 14, 1975 at Hawaiians L 15–33 18,479
7 Saturday September 20, 1975 Philadelphia Bell W 16–10 10,296
8 Saturday September 27, 1975 Birmingham Vulcans W 26–18 10,881
9 Saturday October 4, 1975 Portland Thunder W 32–29 8,119
10 Sunday October 12, 1975 at Charlotte Hornets L 15–22 7,750
11 Sunday October 19, 1975 at Portland Thunder L 13–30 8,713

See also[edit]