On July 11, 1974 the Jacksonville Sharks opened their
season impressively. A packed Gator Bowl in Jacksonville played host to America
as the opening week of the World Football League season beamed its first
televised game in front of a loud, enthusiastic, and supportive gaggle of fans.
59,112 Gator Bowl fans and what was described as “a national TV audience” saw
the Sharks defeat the New York Stars and everyone connected to the WFL had stars
in their eyes, at least for the first few weeks of the season. It was after the
next two home games with announced attendance figures of 46,780 against the Sun
and 43,869 for the Hawaii game that it was revealed that the Sharks and
specifically owner Fran Monaco had “papered the house” with free tickets, many
used as part of a supermarket give-away and that the actual paid attendance was
actually averaging 9000 to 13,000 per game. The fans however were extremely
enthusiastic, whether or not they had actually paid to attend and Jacksonville
was still viewed as a viable professional football area by the New League WFL.
As the Sharks had closed shop and folded with six games remaining on the 1974
schedule, it was not going to be an easy sell to a new ownership group but there
was enough civic pride and optimism to give the WFL one more fling in 1975.
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