The World Football League came on the scene in 1974 with the hopes of becoming a big time competitor of the National Football League. The league made a big splash by signing a number of big name NFL stars away too. Though the league just lasted two seasons it is remembered fondly by those who were either fans of the teams in the league or just fans of alternate professional sports leagues in general.
The Memphis Southmen were the first professional football team to be based in the Memphis, Tennessee area. They would be followed by the Memphis Showboats of the USFL in the 1980s and the Memphis Mad Dogs of the Canadian Football League in 1995. The NFL’s Houston Oilers would eventually move to Memphis for one season before moving into their home stadium in Nashville. Memphis would also be home to the Memphis Maniax of the XFL in 2001.
The Memphis Southmen, an unusual name indeed, were not supposed to be headquartered in Memphis though. The team had been organized with the intent of being based in Toronto and playing as the Toronto Northmen. Lawmakers in Canada quickly introduced the Canadian Football Act of 1974 though to protect the pro football environment that had been cultivated by the Canadian Football League for a number of years. The act was never signed into law though as just the threat of it forced the team to consider relocating and eventually move to Memphis.
The team played a big role in the history of the World Football League and of professional football in the state of Tennessee too. That wouldn’t have happened though had the team been able to play where they were originally planned to in the Canadian city of Toronto.