Commanding Respect: Pro Football is in San Antonio – again

Commanding Respect: Pro Football is in San Antonio – again

The Alliance of American Football (AAF) is on its way. In the West Division you will find the San Antonio Commanders. This article is NOT about them!

What this is about, is a look back at the repeated attempts to have a pro football team in San Antonio. Not least because, very briefly, one of those teams was in the CFL.

There is quite a list of defunct franchises in San Antonio. Including, the Wings, Gunslingers, Texans, Force, Talons, Riders, Matadors and Steers. There may be more, contact me and tell me if I’ve missed any!

There is quite a mixture of pro and semi pro teams, as well as indoor and outdoor football in San Antonio’s football history. So let’s have a look at who has gone before the Commanders.

San Antonio Wings: World Football League

The World Football league had a very brief existence. It was only around in 1974, and 1975. To say it wasn’t a success would be an understatement. Often referred to as “the wiffle”it never really took hold.

The Wings existed from January to October of 1975 before folding for good. Built largely out of the now defunct Florida Blazers and an expansion draft.

Despite reaching the 1974 World Bowl the Blazers had never drawn particularly well. Their players went unpaid for a period and their owner later served three years for cocaine trafficking.

From such auspicious beginnings the Wings would finish the season with a 7-6 record. They won all seven home games and lost all six road games.

The league folded on October 22, 1975 and that was that for the Wings.

San Antonio Gunslingers: USFL

The United States Football League (USFL) played for three seasons, from 1983 through to 1985. At its conception it was designed to be a pro league that would play in the summer, when the NFL and college football were in their off-season.

The death knell for the league came when a group of owners led by a certain Donald J Trump opted to move to an Autumn schedule and take the NFL head on.

A failed lawsuit against the NFL saw The USFL finally receive a cheque for $3.76 in damages in 1990 by which time the league’s moment had long passed.

The Gunslingers were founded in 1984 and folded in 1985. They went 7-11 and 5-14 in their two seasons in the USFL.

The team struggled with finance, player and coaches paydays were missed. We could perhaps generously say they weren’t well managed.

San Antonio Force: Arena Football League

The Arena Football League (AFL) was founded in 1987 and is still running. This makes it the third longest-running professional football league in North America after the NFL & CFL.

The San Antonio Force played in the AFL for one season only in 1992.
They played their home games at the then the home of the San Antonio Spurs basketball team.

They became the first arena football team ever to be shut out in a game, losing 50-0 to the Orlando Predators and set the all-time lowest record for field goal percentage in a season, 11.8% (4-34), using three different kickers in the process.

The team folded upon the completion of the season, citing that there were not enough available dates at local stadia for the team to host games.

San Antonio Riders: WLAF

The World League of American Football (WLAF), later NFL Europe was backed by the NFL. It was a developmental league for the NFL and lasted from 1991 to 2007 in various formats.

The Riders played in the WLAF in 1991 and 1992. They went 4-6 in their first year and 7-3 in their second. Unfortunately for them they were in a competitive division and did not see the playoffs.

One of their most famous ex-players may well be current Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.

After the 1992 season the WLAF was suspended. Ultimately the North American teams were scrapped as NFL Europe was developed.

San Antonio Texans: CFL

After the 1992 season saw the WLAF scrap North American teams, the owners of the Riders applied to the CFL to have the Riders join their US expansion for the 1993 season. The CFL accepted, and admitted the Riders to the league.

The Riders were to change names to the San Antonio Texans as the Roughriders (Saskatchewan) and Rough Riders (Ottawa) already existed in the CFL.

At the 11th hour they backed out. This left the Sacramento surge of the WLAF as the only hold-over. They would become the Gold Miners for two CFL seasons in 1993 and 1994.

Following two years of heavy financial losses in Sacramento, the Gold Miners moved to San Antonio in 1995. After the move, the franchise adopted the San Antonio Texans name from the aforementioned failed Riders expansion attempt.

A successful year

The Texans finished the 1995 season with a 12-6 record. That was good for 2nd place in the CFL’s South Division, which was comprised of the league’s 5 American clubs.

On November 5th, 1995 the Texans thrashed the expansion Birmingham Barracudas 52-9 in the South Division semi-final playoff game before 13,031 people at the Alamodome.

The following week the Texans travelled to Baltimore for the South Division final against the division champion Baltimore Stallions. The Stallions defeated San Antonio 21-11 in front of 30,217 fans at Memorial Stadium in what would be the last CFL game played in the US.

The Texans averaged 15,855 fans per game for nine regular season home games, which ranked 11th among the CFL’s 13 franchises in 1995.

Despite that ownership appeared committed to another season in 1996. However, the CFL’s remaining American franchises in Baltimore, Birmingham, Memphis and Shreveport folded.

In February 1996 the CFL announced the end of its American expansion and the Texans ceased operations.

San Antonio Matadors: Spring Football League

The Spring Football League (SFL) lasted just one part of a mini season in 2000. The league had several variant season plans.

Eventually the SFL announced the league had four teams that would play four-game schedules on Saturdays from April 29, followed by a championship game in Miami on May 27. The Matadors were on of those teams.


The Matadors were undefeated and were named co-SFL Champions along with the Houston Marshals.

The league never really took off and operations ceased relatively quickly.

San Antonio Steers: National Indoor Football League

The National Indoor Football League (NIFL) was an indoor football league founded in 2001 that ceased operations in 2008.

The Steers played just one season in 2007.

San Antonio Talons: Arena Football League

Arena football returned to San Antonio in 2012 in the guise of the Talons. The team had been founded in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2000 as the Tulsa Talons. They had originally been a developmental team but joined the AFL proper in 2011.

The team moved to San Antonio due to poor ticket sales in Tulsa. They played there from 2012 to 2014 when the franchise folded.

The other two

You can look up the history of football in San Antonio on Wikipedia. There two other teams are mentioned. The San Antonio Toros (1967-71) and the San Antonio Charros (1977-1981).

There is very little information to be found about either team, hence if anybody has anything to pass on about them I’d love to hear it!

So what now?

Leaving aside indoor football we have seen the WFL, WLAF, USFL, and CFL attempt to have a franchise in San Antonio. We noted early on that the AAF reminded us of pro football in certain cities.

So where does that leave the Commanders? We don’t know. We don’t know if they or the league will succeed. History suggests not looking at all these defunct franchises.

Just because it hasn’t worked before doesn’t mean it won;t ever work. If it is done properly. I do think the AAF could impact the CFL in a big way.

As ever it will be intriguing to see how it all plays out.

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