1974 WFL Team Pages
The Portland Storm suffered through an identity crisis in their first WFL season. More competitive than the lowly Detroit Wheels, more consistent than the streaking Chicago Fire, the Storm struggled through a season of losses, major upsets and thousands of empty seats at Portlandís Civic Stadium. When the WFL ended their inaugural season the Storm was held together by pride, determination and the will of Coach Dick Coury and General Manager Ron Mix.
The meek beginnings of the Storm actually began on the east coast, 3,000 miles away from the Pacific Northwest in New York City. A local group of investors, joined together by WFL front man Gary Davidson, had shown an interest in the possibility of owning the New York franchise in the league. After several meetings the negotiations fell through and the franchise went into limbo. Bob Schmertz appeared at the fore front for the WFL New York franchise and the WFL franchise rights for the original New York franchise were either handed over or sold to Bruce Gelker. Gelker, the owner and operator of several Saddleback Inns in the pacific north west, seemed a logical choice for an owner of a WFL franchise. Most of the WFL founders frequented the holiday resorts and Gelker was well known in the leagues "inner" circle.
The World Football League founders wanted a twelve team league in the WFL's first season. With the July kickoff approaching, Gelker contacted officials in Salt Lake City, Utah and Portland, Oregon about the possibility of having a WFL franchise. Gelker finally decided on Portland, after a quick attempt at locating the team in Mexico City, and went to work putting together a local investment group to support the franchise.
The Portland Storm was the twelfth and last franchise to join the ranks of the WFL, which left little time to assemble a football club. Gelker marketed the WFL to investors in the Portland area and eventually London, Ontario, Canada millionaire Robert Harris purchased majority ownership in the club. Harris and his group paid $500,000 in cash for the franchise and were devoted to making the club a success in Portland. Harris and Gelker hired former Los Angeles Rams linebacker Ron Mix as general manager and hired Dick Coury as head coach. The team selected the colors blue and green to represent the Pacific Northwest.
Dick Coury was selected as Head Coach and came to the Portland Storm from John Ralstonís Denver Broncos staff. A respected coach and football mind, Coury quickly assembled a staff that included; Craig Fertig (offensive coordinator), Jim Martin (offensive line), Jim Colbert (defensive secondary and coordinator), Ray Braun (defensive line), Bill Griffin (special teams coach), Gail Coghill (receivers) and Ron Siegrist (line coach). As the Storm went through its preseason workouts, Coury and his coaching staff put together the teamsí playbook and evaluated their talent. Mix and Coury realized that the Storm, the last of the WFL franchises, would have fewer quality players to choose from when organizing their team. Many players from the college ranks, the NFL and the Canadian Football League had already been signed by other WFL clubs
In the preseason, the Storm went through their mid-spring workouts. On the offensive, quarterback Greg Barton brought much needed pro experience to the team. Ken Johnson and Don Van Galder both had prestigious college careers at Colorado and Oregon State. Coury told reporters of the "Oregonian" that running backs Rufus "The Roadrunner" Ferguson, a 5-foot-5 speedster out of Wisconsin, and Marv Kendricks, from the CFL, were talented runners who could keep defenses off-balance and offer offensive punch. The receivers, experienced, but not fast, were led by Jim Krieg and Greg Specht. Tight end Bob Christiansen looked good at tight end, and would be a mainstay at the position. The offensive line began to come together with Mike Taylor, a former New York Giant, and Buzz Brazeau solidifying the line. On the defense, experienced lineman Sam Silas, Tony Terry, Bruce Bergey (brother of NFL great Bill Bergey) and Glen Condren were expected to pressure WFL quarterbacks due to their strength and experience. The linebacker corps were led by none other than Marty Schottenheimer, who would go on to coach the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL, and journeyman Don Crtalic was a surprise at weakside linebacker. The Storm secondary was young but offered some experience with Clancy Williams. Charlie Hinton also added some experience at cornerback, and the rest of the secondary was open to a corps of untested college players. Although Coury was pleased with his roster it became evident that the club, due to a lack of experience, was one of the weaker teams in the World Football League. In a preseason poll, the Sporting News picked the Portland Storm to finish last in the WFL Western Division.
The Storm continued their preseason workouts, conducted autograph sessions for the fans and focused on the upcoming season. In the front office, General Manager Ron Mix was busy setting up arrangements for the home opener and planning every aspect of the teams' travel and lodging in Philadelphia- site of their first WFL game against the Bell. Local newspapers ran stories on the Storm and the WFL. Television interviewed several local businessmen and football fans to gage their reaction on the arrival of the team. Prior to the WFL kickoff, the Storm had sold 4,500 season tickets. Without much time for preparation, the Storm was beginning to come together not only on the field but in the front office as well. Harris and Mix hoped that season tickets would hit the 7-10,000 range before the start of the season.
Head Coach Dick Coury, nicknamed "Papa", brought his club to the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for the clubsí first WFL game. A crowd of 55,534 viewed the game in J.F.K. Stadium as the Bell routed Portland 33-8. It was the Stormsí first loss, and something they would get used to. Portland scored its first points ever when running back Marv Kendricks scored on a 5-yard run with Philadelphia leading 25-0 in the third quarter. The first loss of the season also saw starting quarterback Ken Johnson leave the game with a fractured hand- he would miss the next four games. The Bell came out and demolished the Storm in every aspect. The offense, led by WFL hero "King" Corcoran, ran over the Storm with its multiple formations and gimmick plays out gaining the Storm 394 yards to 212.
Despite the loss to Philadelphia, Coury was optimistic about his teams' chances in Memphis, Tennessee. The Storm landed in Memphis on a charter flight, went to the hotel, checked in, and planned for a physical game against the Southmen who had beaten Detroit 34-15 in their home opener. The Storm played a close game, but came out on the losing end of a 16-8 game.
In Portland, the Storm, 0-2, hosted the Chicago Fire in the teams' home opener. 19,358 fans packed into Civic Stadium to witness the first professional football fame in the city of Portland. At mid-field Storm owner Robert Harris, WFL Commissioner Gary Davidson and Oregon Governor Harold Baines stood ceremoniously as Davidson presented the governor with a WFL football to the cheers of the hometown faithful. On the field, the Chicago Fire raced off to a 22-0 lead and then held off late rally for a 29-22 win. The Storm was 0-3.
The Storm played its second home game against the Philadelphia Bell. Dick Coury and his staff looked to avenge the earlier 33-8 drubbing they received from the Philadelphians. Telling reporters that the Storm was a "much improved team since it opened the WFL season", Coury worked on preparing the Storm defense for Ron Wallerís innovation offensive formations. The Storm also added three proven football veterans to their roster; cornerback Frank Andruski, kicker Booth Lusteg and wide receiver Ken Matthews. Andruski added veteran leadership to the Storm secondary after playing one year for the San Francisco 49ers and eight year with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL. Matthews, a six-time all-star with Calgary of the CFL and Lusteg, a veteran of the Buffalo Bills of the NFL added a much-needed punch to the offense. Despite the additions of veteran players, the Bell ran roughshod over the Storm for a 25-7 win. Portland was 0-4.
On August 7, 1974 the Storm, looking for their first win, hosted the Houston Texans. Houston brought a roster loaded with veteran talent, 33 of their 37 players had NFL experience, and a 2-2 won-lost record. Dick Coury told reporters, "Houston had the best defense in the WFL. Houston has a lot of professional experience on the defense. That is the way to build a good winning team on any level- has a strong defense. A strong defense makes things happen and that is just what Houston is doing. Their defense has been responsible for both of their victories." Storm GM Ron Mix also added former Oregon State All-American linebacker Steve Brown and running back Cleo House, from Toronto of the CFL, in hopes of improving the play on the field. The Storm also would benefit from the return of starting quarterback Ken Johnson.
The Storm offense was futile. Averaging only 11 points a game, defenses zeroed in on speedy running back Rufus Ferguson and stopped the Storm dead in its tracks. The injury to starting quarterback Ken Johnson, gave way to Greg Barton who was in turn replaced by Ken Johnson. Johnson, in the third quarter against the Texans, threw a pass over the hands of Texan cornerback John Mallory to Strom running back Marv Kendricks to tie Houston 15-15. Coach Dick Coury, who would rather have had the win, took the tie as an opportunity to build on. The Storm was in last place since the first week and would only climb out of that position twice all season.
As their chartered flight landed at LaGuardia Airport, the Storm boarded a chartered bus for the ride into the sprawling metropolis of New York City. Riding beneath the massive buildings of glass and steel, the players and coaches prepared for the game with the New York Stars. New York was coming into the game with 3-2 won-lost record, and fresh off a cliff-hanger victory over the Jacksonville Sharks.
Downing Stadium came alive as the sky grew dark around the city. 16,222 fans scattered around the stadium and witnessed a game that was one-sided from the start. Only five minutes into the game, the Storm's Darren Mitchell set back to receive a Star punt. As the ball traveled through the din of the Downing Stadium lights, Mitchell lost sight of the kick and fumbled the punt on Portland's five yard line. The Stars recovered and quarterback Tom Sherman rolled out and ran for a four-yard touchdown to give the New Yorkers a 8-0 lead. New York answered again, after thwarting a Portland drive, the Stars marched 74-yards in eight plays, and Tom Sherman hit a diving George Sauer in the corner of the end zone with: 15 remaining in the quarter for a 16-0 New York lead. The Stars added another second quarter touchdown on a Andy Huff four-yard run to take a 23-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Dick Coury desperately tried to rally his players. The Storm offense was so ineffective the defense had spent much of the game on the field and, due to exhaustion, was giving up big plays and getting crushed by the Stars' running attack of Bob Gladieux and Andy Huff. The second half was much of the same as the Storm burned out in the shadows of Downing and fell to the Stars 38-16, their scores coming late in the game on touchdown passes from Greg Barton to Ken Matthews and Jim Krieg.
August 21, 1974, saw the Storm travel to Orlando, Florida for a game against the Eastern Division leading Florida Blazers. With the WFL season still young, the game was shrouded by a surfacing report that the Blazers, due to low attendance, were negotiating with officials from Atlanta, Georgia for a possible move to that city. The Orlando Sentinel also reported that General Manager Rommie Loudd had scheduled meetings with civic leaders in Tampa, Florida about moving some of the Blazers games to that city. Amidst the rumors, two teams limbered up on the Tangerine Bowl field with no fewer than 15,000 fans in the stands and several home-made banners hanging around the stadium stating, "Atlanta Go Home" and "Florida Blazers not Georgia Blazers".
The Storm posted a 0-7-1 record the first eight games of the season. The team was drawing only 14,000 a game in Portland and the future began to look bleak. Many of the WFL teams were struggling with financial situations. One team that was notorious for such difficulties was the Detroit Wheels. The Storm traveled to a little town called London, Ontario for a scheduled game against the Wheels. As the players walked out onto the field of aptly named J.W. Little Stadium (capacity 20,000), they noticed that the stands were practically empty during the warm-ups. The teams had scheduled the game (dubbed as the "Battle of the Beaten" by sports writers) in London for the promise of a $30,000 payday from local promoters and as a favor to Portland owner Bob Harris. Harris, a London, Ontario native wanted to move the Storm to the Canadian town and rename it the "Lords"- the announced attendance was slightly over 5,000 although reports had the attendance at only 2,000. Rufus Ferguson set up a touchdown with a 74-yard run in the fourth quarter, and quarterback Ken Johnson ran in from the 1 yard line for the score. Storm wide receiver Jim (Blitz) Krieg ran 13 yards for another score, and Booth Lusteg, cut by Detroit in training camp, kicked the winning field goal as the Portland Storm won their first game of the season 18-7.
The Portland players and coaching staff celebrated their first WFL victory, and off the field GM Ron Mix and owner Robert Harris continued to look for players who could continue to improve the club. Head coach Dick Coury and his staff unveiled the new "Storm Front" defense led by veteran Rick Redman (who got a tremendous pass rush the previous week against Detroit Wheel quarterback Bubba Wyche), and the defensive scheme yielded several sacks and the best defensive effort of the season. Portland also added veteran Ron Billingsley, Jerry Inman and Steve Thompson from the NFL, and added rookie defensive back Joe Larkin and Robin Sinclair. On offense, the Storm added running back Leon Burns, former NCAA rusher leader form Long Beach State, and tight end Chris Vella to the roster. General Manager Ron Mix told reporters of the Oregonian that the roster "will likely undergo even more changes in the next few days."
Portland then defeated Hawaii 15-6 to climb out of the Western Division cellar.
The Storm was a team that began to believe in itself. After a 0-7-1 start, the Storm had strung together back-to-back wins, and the front office was continuing to develop the club with an influx of veteran talent. The newcomer to the Storm defense was Ben Davidson, the former Oakland Raider linebacker. Davidson came to Portland after his release from the NFL, and looked forward to crushing WFL offenses around the league. Big Ben Davidson joined a completely retooled Storm defense that also featured Rick Redman, Jerry Inman, Steve Thompson, Joe Larkin and Ron Billingsley. The Storm also added lineman Levert Carr, a 265-pound guard, to bolster the offensive line.
Facing the New York Stars, the Storm suffered a difficult loss, 34-15 in front of only 13,339 fans at Civic Stadium and fell to 2-8-1. The game against the New York Stars was a significant one for the Storm due to the fact it marked the arrival of quarterback Pete Beathard. Pete Beathard was signed to a WFL contract after being cut form the Kansas City Chiefs training camp in 1974. Ron Mix signed Beathard and brought him to Portland to give the punchless Storm offense a threat to go along with running back Rufus Ferguson. In his first game against the Stars he came off the bench in the fourth quarter and on his first snap from center turned, and fumbled the ball with the New York Stars recovering. Ex-NFL great Ben Davidson, who also played for the Storm, walked over to Beathard on the sidelines after the play and calmly said, "Donít worry about it Pete. If this team is going to elect a most improved player, youíre bound to win it." Beathard would end up rallying the Storm from a 2-8-1 start, to win five out of their next nine games, including upsets over Birmingham and Memphis.
On a trip the following week to Jacksonville, Florida to play the Sharks, Booth Lusteg added the winning score on a 28-yard field goal as the final gun sounded to give the Storm a 19-17 win. Portland had driven back late in the game for the winning kick on a drive led by new quarterback Pete Beathard. The Storm defense was credited with holding off a late Sharks rally to clinch the victory. Portland had now won three of its last four games and was picking up strength and momentum as a result of several new players. Ron Mix and Dick Coury added players to the Storm roster at an unbelievable rate- close to 20 roster moves just over half way through the season. Portland added linebacker Ron Guidry and running backs Wayne Patrick and Robert Holmes to add more strength to the team.
September 26, 1974, was the Stormsí greatest moment in their history.
Portland 3-8-1, faced the mighty Birmingham Americans, 10-1, at Civic Stadium. Under the lights, the announced crowd of 14,273 watched their team battle the WFLís perennial favorites. Strom quarterback Pete Beathard, who was signed out of the Kansas City Chiefs camp, captained a ball control offense; using Rufus Ferguson and Marv Kendricks to run, and throwing short passes to receivers Jim Krieg, Greg Specht and tight-end Bob Christensen. Portland opened the scoring when Kendricks plunged over the goal-line on a 9-yard run for a 8-0 lead. Then the Storm came right back. Beathard drove the team down the field and on a quarterback sneak, dove for another score as the Civic Stadium crowd erupted. Portland led 15-0. The Americans were caught by surprise, and managed to score when rookie quarterback Matthew Reed hit Dennis Homan with a 24-yard scoring pass as time ran out in the half. As both teams walked to the locker rooms the Storm led 15-7. An upset was in their grasp.
In the second half, Booth Lusteg kicked a 19-yard field goal, and the Storm increased its lead to 18-7. Then Portland Storm quarterback Pete Beathard then made his only mistake of the game. Dropping back to pass, at the Storm 21-yard line, Beathard threw a pass that was intercepted by American Steve Williams. Williams returned the pass for a touchdown, the conversion point failed and the Storm lead was cut to 18-14. With time running out, Americans Coach Jack Gotta, decided to replace Reed with veteran quarterback George Mira. Mira came off the bench and led Birmingham back on a rally that would almost steal the game away from Portland. Mira drove the Americans down the field and Charlie Harraway ran a sweep to the right over the Portland line to give the Americans a 21-18 lead. The Portland crowd fell silent, many Storm fans thinking the game was lost.
Storm Head Coach Dick Coury started sending in offensive plays designed to get his team big yardage fast. Beathard began throwing the ball down field to Jim Krieg and Greg Specht, and soon the Storm were in Birmingham territory. With 35 seconds remaining in the game, Beathard hit tight-end Bob Christensen with a 16-yard pass for the go-ahead score. The Storm added the action point and led 26-21. Civic Stadium rocked with the feeling that an upset was guaranteed. In the final seconds, Portland fans watched as Birmingham quarterback George Mira fired a desperation pass into the end zone that fell incomplete. The Storm, in one of their most exciting games of the young season, had upset the best team in the World Football League.
After the game, Coach Dick Coury told reporters, "what a difference, a tremendous difference with an experienced quarterback such as Pete (Beathard). I donít mind saying I think heís the best quarterback in the WFL." Coury went on to add, "We so improved, so much more experienced than when we began. I sure wish we had this crew to start with, Beathard was great. I just canít imagine how Kansas City could part with him. And Christensenís catch in the end zone was just super. Our defense was just super. They hold together, thatís what I like about them."
Portland was now 4-8-1 and looking towards a possible playoff spot. The Storm hosted the Southern California Sun, and before the largest crowd ever to see a football game in Portland (20,469) erupted to a 22-11 half-time led but was throttled by a aggressive Sun defense. Southern California came back on the arm of quarterback Tony Adams. Trailing 22-18, Adams hit wide receiver Keith Denson with a 35-yard touchdown pass with 1:56 remaining to take the lead 26-22. Quarterback Pete Beathard regrouped the Storm for Portlandís last chance. From his 33, with 1:50 to go, Beathard needed a fourth-and-10 swing pass to his fullback, Wayne Patrick, to get a first down at the Sun 41. Then, with: 51 remaining in the game, Beathard missed Bob Christiansen. Jim Krieg, with: 41 remaining dropped a pass right in front of the Storm bench. Then Beathard overthrew Krieg in the end zone on a possible game-winning touchdown pass. On fourth down, Sun lineman Charles DeJurnett sacked Beathard for a loss to end the game. The Storm was now 4-9-1.
On a clear night in Birmingham, Alabama, the Storm did everything wrong they could imagine and were routed by the Americans 30-8. At 4-10-1, moral around the Portland camp began to turn for the worse.
The Storm faced a must-win situation when they hosted the Hawaiians on October 16, 1974. Portland, 4-10-1, and Hawaii, 6-9, were battling for the final WFL playoff spot and there wasnít much time remaining in the season. The WFL announced that six teams will be involved in the playoff picture during the first season. The three divisional winners and the three wild card team winners. With this announcement it seemed that five of the six had already been clinched. Southern California, Memphis and Florida were the current division winners and Birmingham and Charlotte the next favorites. That left one spot open for Portland, Hawaii, Chicago, Shreveport or Philadelphia. The Chicago Fire had the best record at 7-8, followed by Hawaii and Philadelphia (both 6-9) and then Portland and Shreveport (both 4-10-1). The Hawaiians brought a much different team to Portland, as the islanders had overhauled their offense and defensive teams. Storm head coach Dick Coury told reporters, "We need five dedicated weeks of football, starting this week. I think we are definitely capable of winning our next five games if we play our best football." The Storm did just that. They defeated the Hawaiians in a driving rain storm 3-0, before only 11,032 fans at Civic Stadium to improve its record to 5-10-1.
On October 24, 1974 the WFL saw Portland lightning strike twice, this time into the heart of the Memphis Southmen. At Civic Stadium, 13,228 fans sat in attendance, and many others watched on national television, as Portland hosted the 14-2 Southmen. Memphis came into the game with an 11-game winning streak and watched in awe as Storm quarterback Pete Beathard passed for two touchdowns in the first quarter, and led Portland to a stunning 15-7 first quarter lead. Before the half, Southmen running back J.J. Jennings ran for a 1-yard touchdown to cut the Storm lead to 15-14. At half time, Civic Stadium was alive with excitement. 13,000 fans stood on their feet at the thought of the up-start Storm beating the WFLís mighty Memphis Southmen. In the third quarter, after a Memphis field goal, Pete Beathard brought the Storm back on another long drive and Booth Lusteg added a 36-yard field goal for an 18-17 Portland lead. With the Storm fans on their feet, the "Storm Front", Portlandís new defensive line brought down the curtain on Memphis quarterback John Huarte with a crushing pass rush that brought Memphis to a fourth-and-long situation. Memphis coach John McVay called for the punting team and Portland was back in business. Then Pete Beathard engineered a time-consuming drive that ended with running back Rufus Ferguson breaking a 12-yard touchdown run for a 26-17 Portland lead. Civic Stadium erupted. Memphis quarterback Danny White came off the bench to ignite the Southmen. Using short passes and the running of JJ Jennings, White drove Memphis into Portland territory. White then hit Ed Marshall with a touchdown pass to make it a 26-25 game. With :47 remaining, after recovering an on-sides kick, the Southmen found themselves with one more shot at a win. As their drive stalled, McVay called for Southmen kicker Bob Etter. 13,000 fans rose to their feet and let out a sound like thunder. Etter approached the ball and kicked it into the Portland lights, over the outstretched hands of the Storm defense. The ball soared through the Civic Stadium lights and sailed wide right- the kick was no good. The silence exploded as Strom coach Dick Coury rushed out onto the field and hugged his players. The Portland fans went wild. The Storm had beaten Memphis in a game that saw the lead change hands three times in the final two minutes.
The next week in Shreveport, Pete Beathard drove the Storm 73 yards on 11 plays and then hit Rufus Ferguson with a 6-yard touchdown pass, and later drove the club 67 yards on the running of Ferguson and Wayne Patrick for another touchdown - a 33-yard pass to Ferguson, as Portland handled the Shreveport Steamer 14-0.
Despite the improvement on the field, the Storm was facing mounting financial problems. Majority owner Robert Harris was almost out of cash, and attendance at the Stormsí home games was less than expected. Storm players were not getting paid and many had threatened to quit the team. After one game a team officials appealed to the Storm booster club to help feed the players before the games. Attendance at Civic Stadium hovered around 14,000 and rumors of a move were rampant- especially if renovations were not completed on the Stadium. Bruce Gelker was working on transferring the Storm to Mexico City and Bob Harris was intrigued by the possibility of merging the WFL with the CFL.
"This past week has been a nightmare," Storm coach Dick Coury told Greg Boeck, a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel. "The last thing we had on our minds was football." The latest problem to hit the struggling team happened after their 14-0 win over Shreveport. Unpaid for several weeks, Storm players went to Shreveport with the promise of their pay when they returned. The Storm won but the money vanished. Then the players discovered that their last home game of the season had been rescheduled to Orlando, Florida. It was too much. The players, with their back to the ropes, came out scrapping and swinging like a dogged prize fighter. The team rallied around a "No Pay, No Play" attitude.
The situation only grew more complicated when, later in the week, it was reported that the teamsí financial woes were corrected, although no money changed hands. The damage was done. The Portland Storm was beaten down to a mere memory of a football dream. Head Coach Dick Coury told the press, "Thereís no doubt in my mind this thing hurt us. You canít think about football when you have bills to pay and families to worry about. Weíre living on a promise."
On the field the Storm was living for a shot at the WFL playoffs. "Weíve have a shot at the playoffs," said Coury, "but now I call it a slim shot because of the way things have worked out. First, the financial distractions now are having to play on the road. A lot of work has gone down the drain. Thatís what bothers me. Weíve been playing as good as any team in the WFL the last month or so." The Storm was 7-3 over their last ten games. A big part of the turn around was the acquisition of quarterback Pete Beathard, linebackersí Ben Davidson and Rick Redman, and the running of Wayne Patrick and Rufus Ferguson.
Battling the mounting problems of the WFL and their own financial crisis, the Storm sank into the Pacific Northwest as they dropped their final two games to Florida and Hawaii by identical scores 23-0.
The scheduled final home game against the Florida Blazers became infamous in the Northwest. Overcome with financial problems and a team that was threatening to boycott the final two games of the season, Robert Harris went around to Storm ticket outlets, gathered $10,000 in cash and drove with general manager Ron Mix to the Storm practice and started handing out $20 bills- it bought him some valuable time. The story is one of WFL folklore long to outlive time. Harris and Mix apparently drove up to the practice facility saw the team huddled under one of the goals posts and said to each other, "We can't let the guys get together like that. Who know what they'll do." Harris' money staved off the apparent mutiny of the Storm players. At the same time, the Florida Blazers had a mystery buyer who was prepared to invest $3 million into the team under one condition, the game with the Storm be played in Orlando. Faced with a team that wouldnít play its final home game, Harris scheduled the game in Orlando for a promise of a $50,000 payday. Player representative Sam Silas said, "We are aware of the $50,000 guarantee and we are open to the possibility of playing in Orlando if we are current with our pay. But we still feel the game is a semi no-no and should be our home game and we still maintain our no-pay, no-play attitude." The players of the Storm voted to continue playing with the promise that their back pay would be received. "The Florida people re paying our expenses to go down there," quoted a Storm official. Asked if that included salaries, he replied, "Some, but I donít know how muchÖ..Their getting paid enough that they are going down. Our players were very adamant that if things didnít go their way, the wouldnít play or practice."
The Storm not only lost the game 23-0, but also never received their financial reward. Off the field, the Stormís financial problems grew fatal. Owner Robert Harris denied reports that he would be investing an additional $600,000 in the WFL franchise. "Itís not true," said Harris from his London, Ontario home. "We donít have the money. We are working with some people but nothing has been finalized." Storm spokesmen Hal Cowan said in New Orleans that although the money is not in the bank, it has been promised and should be delivered when the team arrives home. Cowan, said player salaries are two weeks behind and that the players have been told they will receive their back pay when they return to Portland. The Oregon Journal reported that Harris had raised $600,000 for an additional investment in the WFL franchise. The money was the result of a three-week effort to convert some of Harrisí holdings and property into cash.
As the future of the Storm grew grimmer, owner Bob Harris told Oregon reporters that it was unlikely the team would remain in Oregon. "Itís not definite and I would hope that we could stay in Portland, but there appears to be no solution to our stadium problem." Harris claimed the lease and condition of Civic Stadium made it impossible for the team to survive in Portland. With the vultures circling, and no escape in sight, Harris retreated to his London, Ontario home and hoped that a miracle would save the team.
Battling the mounting problems of the W.F.L. and their own financial crisis, the Storm sank into the Pacific Northwest as they dropped their final game to the Hawaiians 23-0. Dick Coury told reporters that the WFLís decision to oust his team from the playoffs was sickening. The WFL changed the playoff format more than the weather changes in Oregon. The teams with the best second half records were to get playoff berths. Portland, at 7-3 is definitely one of those teams. But after their 23-0 loss to Hawaii, the Storm learned they were eliminated from the WFL playoff picture. "For several weeks now, it seems the league has been using us saying weíll get in the playoffs and to keep up the great work even if we arenít getting paid," Coury said. "I just wish somebody would start telling us the truth."
The Storm players, after a brief strike ended with promises of back paychecks, managed to qualify as one of the eight teams for the post season playoffs originally scheduled by the WFL. In a meeting of the WFL officials the league eliminated five teams, including the Storm, and then finally settled on a six-team contest for the WFL title. Portland and Charlotte were not included. The new plan was adopted after a conference call according to league officials.
"What conference call?" asked Coury, They did it without including us or even telling us? I heard it on the news after dinner and called (General Manager) Ron Mix. He said he received no call. "All this makes me sick. Itís really sad because I donít think they know what a conference call is in this league." Meanwhile, Don Reagan, acting WFL commissioner was expected in Portland for meetings with potential local investors.
Local ownership appeared to be the only way to salvage the franchise in Portland. A local banker, Bob Hazen, has been working to buy the team from Canadian millionaire Robert Harris. Hazen reported that only two of the four persons he had negotiated with earlier are still interested in putting up $200,000 each toward the $1 million to buy the team from Bob Harris, who is reported to have bills totaling at least that much after the first year of operations. Hazen told reporters, "We had $800,000 on deposit in a bid to buy the team earlier this year, but that doesnít seem possible now."
The Portland Storm ended their season at 7-12-1, alienated thousands of fans who held tickets to the Florida game and averaged only 15,239 in attendance.
On November 13, 1974, the IRS filed a lien against the Portland Storm for $168,000. The IRS petition claimed that unless the suit was settled the franchise would be foreclosed. Many WFL officials wondered if the Storm still existed at all. Reports had owner Robert Harris losing close to $1 million on the WFL- Portland and Robert Harris disappeared from the WFL picture.
NOTE: The 1974 Portland Storm team page was researched and written by Jim Cusano. This page appeared on the former World Football League Hall of Fame Website and is used with permission.
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