Folded 2008; 2019
Played in Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio
|Arena Football League (1999–2008; 2019)|
|Team colors||Black, white, gray|
|Owner(s)||Arena Football League|
|Head coach||Matthew Sauk|
|League championships (0)|
|Conference championships (1)|
|Division championships (1)|
|Playoff appearances (3)|
The Columbus Destroyers were an Arena Football League (AFL) team based in Columbus, Ohio, with home games in Nationwide Arena. The team was founded in 1999 as the Buffalo Destroyers, based in Buffalo, New York, and relocated to Columbus in 2004. They folded along with the original incarnation of the AFL following the 2008 season, after a total of ten seasons of play.
On February 7, 2019, the AFL announced that it had placed an expansion team in Columbus and once again play at Nationwide Arena.The league announced on February 22, that the team as a re-launch of the Destroyers and revealed the new logo and Matthew Sauk as the head coach.
After the 2019 season, the AFL announced that they had suspended local business operations including the Destroyers, but were looking into become a traveling league. A month later, on November 27, 2019, the league announced that they had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and were ceasing operations.
The Buffalo Destroyers began play during the 1999 AFL season, playing their home games at HSBC Arena (now known as KeyBank Center), and were owned by Buffalo-area businessman Mark Hamister. The team was founded, in part, because of fears that a lease expiration could have led to the demise or relocation of the NFL's Buffalo Bills, the city's largest sports franchise. Those fears were unfounded as a multiyear lease deal to keep the Bills in Western New York was signed shortly thereafter and remained in effect long after the Destroyers left Buffalo (the lease was again renewed in 2012). The name "Destroyers" came from a naming contest and alluded to the naval ship of the same name, one of which sits outside the HSBC Arena in the nearby Buffalo Naval and Serviceman's Park.
The Destroyers initially attracted high attendance levels, but a lack of winning early on caused attendance to decline, something from which the team never recovered. Among the members of the inaugural roster was former NFL kicker Bjorn Nittmo. The first head coach, Dave Whinham, was fired in the middle of the Destroyers' second season after an abysmal 1–17 record.Former Buffalo Bills player Ray Bentley was selected as his replacement; however, he couldn't lead the Destroyers to a winning season. The closest he came was in 2001, when his team started 6–3 but would end the season on an 0–5 skid to just barely miss the playoffs. The team had another 6–8 season, this time enough to make the playoffs but lost in the first round, in 2002. Bentley abruptly resigned after that season to take a job in broadcasting, and Ron Selesky, a respected personnel man was hired to replace him. Selesky's record in 2003 was a lackluster 5–11. Jerry Crafts, former Bills offensive lineman, played for the Destroyers in 2001 and served most notably as nose tackle, anchoring one of the league's better defenses.
After the 2003 season concluded, talks of a re-location began, as the Destroyers had lost $5 million over five years, went nearly unnoticed by the media (NBC had blacked out all of their games in 2003), and suffered from a lack of local support reflected in low attendance levels. At the time, Destroyers owner Hamister was also in the running, along with partner Todd Berman, to buy the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL, but a deal for a state incentive package fell through and the team was instead sold to Rochester-area entrepreneur and politician B. Thomas Golisano. Shortly after the Sabres deal fell through, in September 2003, Hamister announced that he was relocating the Destroyers to Columbus, Ohio for the 2004 season.
On May 24, 2008 the Arena Football League announced that it was returning to Buffalo with a new franchise to be owned by Bills alumni Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas along with Rochester Raiders owner Bob Bartosiewicz. That team was to play in the AFL's minor league system, af2. The team was originally scheduled to begin play in 2009, but did not materialize in time for that season, and with the dissolution of the AFL as well as af2, the proposal appears to be dead, since the current version of the league has shown no interest in the Buffalo market, and the Raiders have since suspended operations.
In 2018, an exhibit honoring the 20th anniversary of the Destroyers' establishment went on display at the Buffalo History Museum. It was attended mostly by former front office staffers.
The Buffalo Destroyers moved to Columbus after the 2003 Arena Football League season. They played their home games in downtown's Nationwide Arena, which they shared with the National Hockey League's Columbus Blue Jackets. The last time the AFL played in Columbus was the expansion Columbus Thunderbolts back in 1991. After one season, they relocated to Cleveland.
The Destroyers were sold to John H. McConnell, founder of Worthington Industries and majority owner of the Blue Jackets, and accountant Jim Renacci. Also owning a stake in the team was NFL wide receiver and former Ohio State football standout Joey Galloway. Mark Hamister, who owned the team during the Buffalo tenure, initially stayed on as a minority owner, but would eventually sell his share.
The Columbus Destroyers, over their first two years, would often market people with the team who are also associated with Ohio State University football program, rather than the team itself. In the 2004 season, it relied heavily on head coach, former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce, and front office worker Chris Spielman. In the 2005 season, Spielman became head coach of the team and much of the Destroyers merchandise bore his name. However, as the 2006 season approached, the team appeared to have dropped marketing Ohio State personalities, instead promoting the Destroyers playing "Fast-forward football". Afterwards, the Destroyers have enjoyed more success, finishing 7–9 in 2006 and making a run all the way to ArenaBowl XXI in 2007.
Despite high hopes the 2008 Destroyers weren't able to capitalize on the previous two years success and finished with a 3-13 record. It was announced at the end of the season that Destroyers ownership and Doug Kay had reached a decision that he would not return as head coach.
The Destroyers' mascot's name was Bruiser.
The Destroyers were better received in Columbus than they had been in Buffalo, as their attendance levels were some of the highest in the AFL, and they were regularly covered in the media. Home games were televised locally on Columbus Sports Network, but this coverage ceased after the network folded. All games were broadcast on their radio partner Wink 107.1 FM.
In 2009, the AFL declared bankruptcy after the owners could not agree on a new financial plan. Arena Football 1, the entity that bought the AFL out of bankruptcy in late 2009, maintained the Destroyers trademark for the next decade. When the league relaunched in 2010, it kept the brands of several of the pre-bankruptcy teams.
On February 11, 2019, the league announced an expansion team for Columbus that would begin play the 2019 season.On February 22, at Nationwide Arena, the AFL announced that the team would be a revival of the Destroyers, with the same logo as before in a simplified grayscale color scheme, and introduced Matthew Sauk as the new head coach.
In October 2019, the league ceased all team operations, including the Destroyers, and then filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in November. The next month, the Indoor Football League announced it would expand to Columbus in the 2021 season.
First Playoff Game
Last Game in Buffalo
Last Game as Buffalo
Move to Columbus
Road to Arena Bowl XXI
|Head coach||Tenure||Regular season|
|Most recent coaching staff||Notes|
|Dave Whinham||1999 – 2000||1-17||0-0|
|Ray Bentley||2000 – 2002||17-21||0-2||OC: Tony Kimbrough|
|Earle Bruce||2004||6-10||0-0||OC: Pete Costanza|
DC: Weylan Harding
|Chris Spielman||2005||2-14||0-0||OC: Pete Costanza|
DC: Ron Selesky
STC: Jeff Hoffman
|Doug Kay||2006 – 2008||19-30||3-1||OC: Ken Matous and Lary Kuharich (Kuharich took over after week 7)|
Other Coaches: Cecil Doggette, John Churchill, John Zinser, Michael Baker, Josh Taylor
|Pat Sperduto||2009||0-0||0-0||OC: Chris Boden|
DC: Doug Lytle
Line Coach: Pat Downey
|Buffalo / Columbus Destroyers Hall of Famers|
|No.||Name||Year Inducted||Position(s)||Years w/ Destroyers|
The following Destroyers players were named to All-Arena Teams:
The following Destroyers players were named to All-Ironman Teams:
The following Destroyers players were named to All-Rookie Teams:
The Arena Football League (AFL) was a professional indoor American football league in the United States. It was founded in 1987, making it the third longest-running professional football league in North America after the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the National Football League (NFL) until the AFL closed in 2019. The AFL played a proprietary code known as arena football, a form of indoor American football played on a 66-by-28 yard field, with rules encouraging offensive performance, resulting in a faster-paced and higher-scoring game. The sport was invented in the early 1980s and patented by Jim Foster, a former executive of the United States Football League (USFL) and the NFL. Each of the league's 32 seasons culminated in the ArenaBowl, with the winner being crowned the league's champion for that season.
The Cleveland Gladiators were an arena football team based in Cleveland, Ohio, United States, and members of the Arena Football League (AFL). The Gladiators played their home games at Quicken Loans Arena, which they shared with the Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association and the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League. The franchise was originally based in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and then later in Las Vegas, Nevada, before relocating to Cleveland for the 2008 AFL season. The Gladiators qualified for the playoffs eight times in their history, reaching the ArenaBowl in 2014.
The ArenaBowl was the Arena Football League's championship game. From 1987 to 2019, the ArenaBowl was hosted by either the team with the better regular-season record or the higher seeding in the playoffs. From ArenaBowl XIX in 2005 until ArenaBowl XXII in 2008, the game was played at a neutral site. When the AFL returned from a bankruptcy-induced hiatus in 2010, the original format was used for this and the next season; for 2012 and 2013, the game returned to being played at a neutral site. In 2014, it was announced that the ArenaBowl would return to the format in which the higher-seeded team would host the game. However, in 2018, the game's host was changed so that it would be at the site of the participating team with highest average attendance during the regular season. The final game, ArenaBowl XXXII, saw the Albany Empire defeat the Philadelphia Soul for the 2019 championship; the AFL ultimately filed for bankruptcy a second time later that year, ceasing operations as it underwent Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
The New Orleans VooDoo were a professional arena football team based in New Orleans, Louisiana. The VooDoo were a member of the East Division of the American Conference of the Arena Football League (AFL). They played their home games in Smoothie King Center. The VooDoo were unrelated to an earlier AFL team, the New Orleans Night, who had competed in the 1991 and 1992 AFL seasons in the Louisiana Superdome.
The Cleveland Thunderbolts were an Arena football team based in Richfield, Ohio. The Thunderbolts were founded in 1991 and were a member of the Arena Football League (AFL). In 1994, the franchise relocated to Columbus The team played for four seasons total, making the playoffs once. They played their home games in the Richfield Coliseum. The team was moved to Cleveland by John J. Kuczek.
The San Jose SaberCats were a professional arena football team based in San Jose, California. The SaberCats had been members of the Arena Football League (AFL) since 1995 ; and until 2015, they belonged to the AFL's National Conference. Over nineteen seasons of play, the SaberCats emerged as one of the Arena Football League's most successful franchises; at the conclusion of the 2015 season, the SaberCats boasted a lifetime regular season record of 198–98. Moreover, the SaberCats had won a total of four AFL Championships. Their lifetime postseason record stood at 19–12.
The Spokane Shock are a professional indoor American football team based in Spokane, Washington, playing their home games at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. The team was initially a member of arenafootball2 (af2), the Shock won division titles in all four seasons and ArenaCups in 2006 and 2009 before they joined the Arena Football League (AFL) in its 2010 relaunch. The team advanced to the playoffs three times after joining the AFL, winning ArenaBowl XXIII in their first season, making them the only arena football franchise to win both the ArenaCup and the ArenaBowl.
The Kansas City Command were a professional arena football team that played in the Arena Football League (AFL). The team was founded before the 2006 season. Former Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Kevin Porter served as head coach. The team's new head coach in 2011 was Danton Barto; he also coached the AFL's Las Vegas Gladiators, af2's Memphis Xplorers and Manchester Wolves, and the IFL's Arkansas Diamonds.
Earle Bruce was an American football player and coach. He served as the head coach at the University of Tampa (1972), Iowa State University (1973–1978), Ohio State University (1979–1987), the University of Northern Iowa (1988), and Colorado State University (1989–1992), compiling a career college football record of 154–90–2. At Ohio State, Bruce succeeded the legendary Woody Hayes and won four Big Ten Conference titles. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 2002. Bruce returned to coaching in 2001 to helm the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League for a season and also later guided the Columbus Destroyers.
Cecil Doggette is a former Arena Football League Defensive specialist. He played college football at Hudson Valley Community College and West Virginia.
The Rochester Brigade was a professional arena football team based in Rochester, New York. The team was a member of af2, the minor league of the Arena Football League, and played their home games at the Blue Cross Arena. The Brigade began play in 2001 and ceased operations following the 2003 season.
Matthew Louis D’Orazio is a former American football quarterback who played in the Arena Football League (AFL). He played college football at Otterbein College.
The East Division was a division of the Arena Football League's American Conference. It was first formed in 1995 as part of the National Conference when expansion led to the creation of divisions.
The Jacksonville Sharks are a professional indoor football team based in Jacksonville, Florida, playing their home games at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Beginning in 2017, the Sharks began play as charter members of the National Arena League (NAL). They were members of the Arena Football League (AFL) from 2010 to 2016 and won the championship of their division in the first four seasons of their existence.
The Denver Dynamite were an arena football team based in Denver, Colorado. The team began play in 1987 as a charter member of the Arena Football League. The team was brought in by businessman Sidney Shlenker and the team achieved success instantly, winning the first ever ArenaBowl under future AFL Hall of Fame coach Tim Marcum. After sitting out the 1988 season, the Dynamite were purchased by investment banker Gary Graham for $125,000. Graham then hired former NFL and AFL coach Babe Parilli to lead the team. Under Parilli, the Dynamite would return to the playoffs every season, but failed to return to the ArenaBowl. After the 1991 season, the franchise was sued by their public relations firm and filed for bankruptcy. They played their home games at McNichols Sports Arena. The team's logo was a bundle of dynamite sticks with a burning fuse.
Kyle Rowley is an arena football quarterback who is currently a free agent. He also played in the former af2. He played college football at Brown.
Ronald R. Selesky, Jr. is a former American football center and arena football coach. He played college football at North Central College and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League (NFL). He also served as the Director of Football Operations for the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football (AAF), and currently works in the same position with the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL.
The 2019 Arena Football League season was the 32nd and final season in the history of the Arena Football League (AFL). Prior to the start of the season, the league expanded from four to six teams with two added expansion teams. The 12-game regular season began on April 26 and ended on July 21.
For 14 seasons between 1990 and 2011, four Arena Football League (AFL) teams competed in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex. The Dallas Texans played at Reunion Arena in Dallas from 1990 to 1993, the Fort Worth Cavalry played a single season at the Tarrant County Convention Center in 1994, and the Dallas Desperados and Dallas Vigilantes played at the American Airlines Center in Dallas from 2002 to 2008, and 2010 to 2011, respectively.