Memphis  WFL

Southmen  - 1975  Larry Csonka
(Authentic Reproduction)

The biggest splash made by the World Football League in 1974 was related to the off-the-field events that surrounded the signing of some of the biggest names in the National Football League. L.C. Greenwood, Ken Stabler, Daryle Lamonica, Ted Kwalick, and the “Big Three” of the Miami Dolphins Super Bowl teams, Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Paul Warfield were legitimate NFL stars whose defection from the senior league would give instant credibility to the newcomers on the block. Stabler and Greenwood did not report to their respective WFL teams for 1975 and it was no doubt a mutually satisfying decision as the NFL stars realized that the financial disaster of 1974 did not make for a rosy future in the New League version of the WFL and the owners of WFL teams did not want the financial burden of paying the contracts of these established stars. Memphis owner John Bassett was perhaps the most solvent of the WFL owners but still faced serious financial responsibilities when he announced the signing of the three Miami stars to 1975 Memphis contracts. The “deal’ was that each franchise would pay a portion of what was then, an exorbitant “personal services” contract that the three players received. The “perks” not shared by the league were provided by Bassett and included three-bedroom apartments during the season and Cadillacs, a silver Seville for Csonka, a brown one with beige stripes for Kiick, and a navy blue model for Warfield. The $3.5 million package deal for the three stars who had led the Miami Dolphins to Super Bowl glory was however, a shared expense but the per-team figure varied dependent upon the source. Some owners understood that the signing of these players gave the 1974 league credibility and others understood that they needed to survive until these three players and other NFL stars of similar quality entered the league and started to bring in the fans. Some of the owners saw Bassett’s move as the death knell of the league, a way to disrupt a limited salary structure that was necessary for everyone’s benefit. Of course the salaries of the incoming NFL stars certainly was in opposition to the 1975 Hemmeter Plan that the entire league was operating under and ultimately, the debt accrued for player salaries was in fact a major factor in the demise of the league. As one article quipped, getting the three NFL stars was, for the WFL, “like getting the Good Housekeeping Seal Of Approval” but now that 1975 had arrived, it was time for them to produce.  MORE...

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