The Sports Lounge presents… REMEMBER THEM: Louisiana in the af2
This go-round I want to look at three teams from Louisiana that were a part of the af2, the developmental league for the Arena Football League. I’m putting all three teams together because 2 teams only lasted for one season and therefore do not have much of a history. So, without further ado, let’s look at the first team.
BATON ROUGE BLAZE
The Blaze were an expansion team in 2001, along with 12 other teams. The league had just begun in 2000 and wanted to expand the league into more smaller markets. The Blaze played their home games at the Riverside Centroplex, now known as the Baton Rouge River Center. The head coach of the Blaze was Alan Risher and the team went 10-6 in the 2001 season. Despite the good record, they did not make the playoffs and were actually the only team with double-digit wins that was left out of the postseason.
Even with a record about .500, things did not work out for the Blaze. Their first season was also their only. They did not return in af2 again. But, they were not the only team to go one-and-done.
The Lafayette Roughnecks were also an expansion team in the af2 in 2001. The Roughnecks played their home games at the Cajundome, the home of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette basketball team. The head coach of the Roughnecks was Buford Jordan. Jordan was a former RB for the New Orleans Saints of the NFL and the New Orleans/Portland Breakers of the USFL. He was also selected for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
The Roughnecks were not as successful as their expansion counterparts in Baton Rouge and finished with a record of 3-13. Jordan was replaced as head coach in the middle of the season with Dave Whinham. The franchise had no success and also folded after just one season. The franchise I will look at, however, lasted almost as long as the af2 itself.
BOSSIER-SHREVEPORT BATTLE WINGS
The Battle Wings were also founded in 2001 and were originally named the Bossier City Battle Wings. They changed their name for the 2004 season to incorporate the region in North Louisiana. They played their home games at the CenturyTel Center. The head coach of the Battle Wings was Jon Norris, who had played in the AFL for the Denver franchise and in the NFL for the Patriots and Bears. Unlike Baton Rouge and Lafayette, Bossier-Shreveport had some success in the af2. In the 2007 af2 playoffs, they lost to eventual Arena Cup champions Tulsa Talons. They also won their Division titles in 2008 and 2009.
The Battle Wings also had the only notable player on either three teams. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Quincy Carter signed with the Battle Wings in 2007 after personal problems led to trouble with the NFL. Through the first three games, Carter had 18 TD passes and a passer rating of 124.3 but he was suspended in May for missing team meetings. After his suspension was served, he became the starter again. In his first game back, he set a franchise-record with 8 TD passes in a 81-35 victory over the Corpus Christi Sharks. However, Carter was arrested in Shreveport in October of that year on possession charges and that ended his Battle Wings career.
The Battle Wings franchise played in the af2 from 2001 to 2009. The 2010 season was scrapped when no teams would commit to playing the season. In 2009, the AFL, the parent league of the af2, ceased operations even though the af2 continued on. But when the af2 suspended operations in 2010, the Battle Wings moved into the AFL and played one season in that league, going a disappointing 3-13. For the 2011 season, the owners of the Battle Wings decided to move to New Orleans to become the new VooDoo. The original VooDoo , owned by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, had ceased operations years earlier and the Battle Wings relocated to replace them. The Battle Wings took over the VooDoo name, all their stats and records, and mascots, Bones and Mojo.
So, in a way, one of the three teams is still going strong today. Even tough Bossier-Shreveport does not have a team anymore, the VooDoo can now be seen in New Orleans every spring. The other two cities are not as fortunate. Actually, while the AFL is back and growing again, the af2 has yet to return as of now. There are rumors that the developmental league may return in 2013 or 2014, but as I write this in the summer of 2013, these seem to be just what they were reported as: rumors. Until that changes, the smaller markets that made up the af2 will have to wait and remember their past franchises. Let’s just hope that if and when the af2 starts again, that the teams can last a lot longer than just one season.