June 21, 2010: Call it the power of positive thinking. The fledgling United Football League, which is not scheduled to begin its second season until September, has granted "conditional approval" for Norfolk, Virginia, to join the league when the UFL plays its third season in 2011. Financial details were not revealed.
The UFL said that Virginia businessman Jim Speros would be the provisional Tidewater region team’s owner and that Doug Williams, former NFL quarterback who was named MVP of Super Bowl XXII with the Washington Redskins, would be the team's general manager. The UFL did not say where the team would play its home games, but reports from the area said that league officials had toured several potential sites over the past few weeks.
The Norfolk-based team would be the sixth UFL franchise, joining a league that currently includes the Florida Tuskers, Hartford Colonials, Las Vegas Locos, Omaha Nighthawks, Sacramento Mountain Lions. The UFL said that "additional potential expansion teams" might be in place when the third UFL season kicks off next year.
The location of the franchise would put it less than 200 miles from the Redskins and less than 250 miles from the Baltimore Ravens.
“Virginia is a great state, but it does not have a professional sports team," Speros said in a statement. "It has the legendary 757 area code that has produced the likes of Bruce Smith and Michael Vick and is truly a hotbed for football. The fans are knowledgeable, there is a military presence here and I am sure they will all enjoy the opportunity to watch quality football.”
The 2010 UFL season is scheduled to begin Sept. 17 with a rematch of the 2009 UFL title game between league champion Las Vegas and Florida. The UFL played with four teams during its premiere season, adding Omaha for 2010. However, two of the four original teams have relocated for the second season: Hartford (formerly the New York Sentinels) and Sacramento (formerly the California Redwoods based out of the San Francisco Bay Area).
"Virginia has the legendary 757 area code that has produced the likes of Bruce Smith and Michael Vick and is truly a hotbed for football." — Jim Speros
“I am very fortunate to be able to bring a pro football team to the state of Virginia and especially to the Tidewater region,” Speros said. “There is already a lot of football history in this area and I believe Norfolk will become the shining star of the United Football League.
From 1993-1997, Speros was president and owner of the Baltimore Stallions, which in 1995 became the only American-based team in the history of the Canadian Football League to win the championship Grey Cup. He remained president and owner when the franchise relocated north of the border for the 1996 CFL season as the Montreal Alouettes. In addition, Speros was the vice chairman of the CFL and chairman of its U.S. expansion committee.
Speros played college football at Clemson University from 1977-80 and was the team's strength and conditioning coach in 1981 under head coach Danny Ford when the Tigers went 12-0, won the Orange Bowl and were voted the consensus National Champions by the AP, UPI, Football Writers Assn. of America and the National Football Foundation. He was an assistant coach in the NFL under Joe Gibbs with the Redskins from 1982-84, which included a victory in Super Bowl XVII. He also spent two years as an assistant coach with the Buffalo Bills before moving into executive and ownership positions in sports and business in the Virginia area.
In Super Bowl XXII, Williams completed 18 of 29 passes for 340 yards and four TDs in a 42-10 victory over John Elway and the Denver Broncos. Williams most recently was pro scouting director of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers until parting ways with the team in May. Tampa Bay had drafted Williams in the first round out of Grambling State in 1978, where he played quarterback until 1982. Following two seasons with the Oklahoma/Arizona Outlaws of the United States Football League, Williams played for the Redskins from 1986-89, which included becoming the first African American quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Williams also made his mark as the head coach of his alma mater beginning in 1998 when he succeed legendary Grambling State head coach Eddie Robinson, remaining there through 2002 when he joined the Buccaneers as a personnel executive.
According to UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue, “We are delighted to welcome Norfolk, Virginia, and the Tidewater region as our sixth city and are excited to have a successful team owner in Jim Speros and a proven winner in Doug Williams on board to lead the team. Like Omaha, which came on board as an expansion team in April and has already generated considerable excitement, Norfolk fits the ideal UFL model of having a passionate fan base that we believe deserves a professional football team.”