Friday Flashback: Minor League Football System


MLFS League Map for the 1990 Season

In the summer of 1989 a new Minor League Football organization emerged with hopes to be the official feeder league for the National Football League (NFL).  With the demise of the United States Football League (USFL) the Minor League Football System (MFLS) made an attempt to fill that niche.

One of the unique aspects of the league was that the league did not pay its players so that college-age players could maintain their eligibility.   Instead of paying the players, the league became a temp agency in trying to find employment for the players and provide housing during the season.

The league’s first commissioner was Roger Wehrli who had played 14 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL.

The league kicked off in the summer of 1989 with 11 teams in Charlotte (NC), Harrisburg (PA), Pocono (PA), Fairfax (VA), Palm Beach (FL), San Jose (CA), Colorado Springs (CO), Pueblo (CO), St. Louis (MO), Hayward (CA) and Seattle (WA).   The Pueblo Crusaders won the championship.

You can watch video from the 1989 championship game here:  Pueblo vs. Colorado Springs

1989 Final Standings:

  • Eastern Division
    • Charlotte Barons (12-0)
    • Harrisburg Patriots (6-4)
    • Pocono Stallions (3-7)
    • Virginia Storm (3-7)
    • Florida Renegades (2-8)
  • Western Division
    • San Jose Bandits  (7-3)
    • Colorado Springs Spirit (8-4)
    • Pueblo Crusaders (6-4)
    • St. Louis Riverboat Gamblers (6-6)
    • Hayward Outlaws (6-6)
    • Seattle Express (1-11)
  • Playoffs:
    • Pueblo 20, Harrisburg 7
    • Colorado Springs 35, St. Louis 24
    • Colorado Springs 19, San Jose 7
    • Pueblo 20, Charlotte 12
    • Pueblo 21, Colorado Springs 14

There were some changes going into the 1990 season as Bay State (MA) and Macon (GA) were added.  Pocono moved to Scranton (PA), St. Louis moved to Oklahoma City (OK), Hayward moved to Sacramento (CA), San Jose moved to Fresno (CA) and Seattle moved to Tacoma (WA).  The league limped along to finish the season as Charlotte claimed the championship after a revised playoff.

1990 Final Standings:

  • Eastern Division
    • Charlotte Barons (8-1)
    • Bay State Titans (8-2)
    • Middle Georgia Heat Wave (6-4)
    • Florida Renegades (4-7)
    • Harrisburg Patriots (2-8)
    • Scranton Stallions (2-9)
  • Western Division
    • Pueblo Crusaders (8-1)
    • Colorado Springs Spirit (7-1)
    • Oklahoma City Twisters (7-2)
    • Fresno Bandits (4-6)
    • Tacoma Express (1-7)
    • California Outlaws (0-9)
  • Playoffs:
    • Charlotte 21, Bay State 20
    • Pueblo 21, Oklahoma City 10
    • Charlotte 24, Pueblo 18

The NFL’s creation of World League of American Football (WLAF) doomed the league’s chances of becoming a minor league for the NFL and the MLFS folded.

The MFLS had some quality coaches with Ray Hamilton (Bay State) former player for the New England Patriots, Lou Saban (Middle Georgia) former coach for the Buffalo Bills, Darryl Rogers (Oklahoma City) former coach of the Detroit Lions and Walt Michaels (Scranton) who previously coached for the New York Jets.

The league had planned to expand to Boise (ID), Lincoln (NE), Salem (OR), Albany (NY) and Denver (CO) with hopes to eventually match the number of franchises in the NFL.

The WLAF began play in 1991 as the NFL’s developmental league which eventually became NFL Europe.  The league folded after the 2007 season.

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