Remember that time I wrote about the World Football League that existed before the World Football League we all came to know (the latter which forced another World Football League to change its name to Universal Football League)?
Well, guess what?
I found one more.
Yep, aside from the WFL proposed by Louis P. Roberts, the WFL pitched by partners Tony Razzano and Louis S. Goldman and Gary Davidson’s WFL – the only one that actually played – a newspaper publisher in Oklahoma City named Don Pavel also wanted in on the crowded World Football League field.
Davidson’s league was incorporated on August 3, 1973 while Pavel claimed his group had filed paperwork on January 29, 1973.
“I was making feasibility studies then and planned to be ready for the 1975 season,” Pavel, publisher of the MidwestCity Monitor, said in an interview with the Courier-Journal of Louisville on February 5, 1974. “Then this Gary Davidson came along. He incorporated under the name World Football League in August of 1973. That meant I had to get off my you-know-what and be ready by 1974.
“The more Davidson gets that name in headlines, the better for me. Oh, we’ll probably have a lawsuit over that pretty soon now. But I have the papers to show I’d incorporated previous to him.”
The other WFLs all had similar plans – plans that included signing top-quality players to major market teams scattered across the United States and beyond. Pavel said he was eyeing franchises in five U.S. cities (located in Alabama, Oklahoma, Florida, Texas and Kentucky) as well as Mexico City, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Caracas, Venezuela. The league would expand to two European locales in its second season.
The difference in Pavel’s WFL, however, would be that his franchises would sign “local” talent from nearby college teams. If a team was placed in Louisville, he said, then 85 percent of its roster would have to come from the conference the Cardinals played in (at the time, it was the Missouri Valley).
“We don’t have any long, drawn out plan,” Pavel said. “There’d be a tryout camp seven days, then you’ve got a team together.”
Pavel also spoke to the Commercial Appeal of Memphis on February 5, adding an important detail – his WFL had no desire to challenge the NFL for players.
“I don’t want to compete with the National Football League … I don’t think anyone can,” he said. “I want to get into an extended program of football like minor league baseball, so some of the 7,000 kids who don’t get to play when they graduate will go on with their careers.
“We’ll pay good salaries, but it won’t be in terms of $50,000 or $60,000 a year.”
Normally when I research leagues of old (planned or realized), most of them have a concept that looks workable, at least on paper. But this WFL gave me a major “seat-of-the-pants” vibe.
First, there’s the local conference requirement. Where would Mexico City, San Juan, Caracas and two European franchises get their players from?
And if anyone wants to throw a bunch of guys together and call them a team after a week, that tells me they probably haven’t thought this thing through.
“I got into this through my newspaper,” Pavel told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “One of my men said we weren’t getting enough news about football so we wrote the NCAA and they must’ve sent us 90 pounds of material.
“It was then I got the idea (in 1972) that these thousands of college football players never get to play in the NFL. Some of them get asked to try out, but 99 percent aren’t even looked at.”
Pavel was also convinced small crowds would translate to big profits.
“With an average crowd of 10,000, an owner can make a couple of hundred thousand a year,” he said.
Pavel was supposed to announce the franchises in March and hit the field in the summer of 1974, but as you might’ve guessed, that didn’t happen. The only World Football League we were blessed with that year was the wild, wonderful mess spawned by Davidson.
Of course if you want to look on the bright side, Pavel got his wish.
He didn’t want his WFL to compete with the NFL, and it never did.