Tampa Bay Rowdies (1975–1993)

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Tampa Bay Rowdies
Tampa bay rowdies nasl.png
Full nameTampa Bay Rowdies
Nickname(s)Rowdies
FoundedJune 19, 1974
DissolvedJanuary 31, 1994;26 years ago (January 31, 1994)
GroundOutdoor:
Tampa Stadium (71,000)
USF Soccer Stadium (4,000)
Indoor:
Bayfront Center (6,410)
Expo Hall (9,200) [1]
Lakeland Civic Center (8,178)
Owner George W. Strawbridge, Jr. (1974–1983)
Stella Thayer, Bob Blanchard & Dick Corbett (1983–1986)
Cornelia Corbett (1986–1994)
Chairman Beau Rogers, IV
Chas Serednesky, Jr
Coach Eddie Firmani (1975–1977)
John Boyle (1977)
Gordon Jago (1978–1982)
Al Miller (1982–83)
Rodney Marsh (1984)
League North American Soccer League (1975–1984)
American Indoor Soccer Association (1986–1987)
American Soccer League (1988–1989)
American Professional Soccer League (1990–1993)

The Tampa Bay Rowdies were an American professional soccer team based in Tampa, Florida, that competed in the original North American Soccer League (NASL) from 1975 to 1984. They enjoyed broad popular support in the Tampa Bay area until the NASL folded in 1984, after which the team played in various minor indoor and outdoor leagues before finally folding on January 31, 1994. [2] The Rowdies played nearly all [3] of their outdoor home games at Tampa Stadium and nearly all [4] of their indoor games at the Bayfront Center Arena in nearby St. Petersburg, Florida. Although San Diego played indoors until 1996, the Rowdies were the last surviving NASL franchise that played outdoor soccer on a regular basis.

Contents

NASL: 1975–1984

On June 19, 1974 [5] George Strawbridge and Beau Rogers, IV purchased an expansion franchise in North American Soccer League for the sum of $25,000 and by July 24 they named Eddie Firmani their coach. [6] In October 1974, Alex Pringle becomes the first player to sign with the team. On November 21, 1974, the Tampa Bay Professional Soccer Club [7] announced that they would henceforth be known as the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The Rowdies played ten seasons at Tampa Stadium and won their only Soccer Bowl championship in their 1975 inaugural season, defeating the Portland Timbers 2–0 on August 24. The Rowdies also finished as runners-up in 1978 and 1979. The team showcased international stars such as midfielder, and team captain Rodney Marsh (England), 1979 league scoring leader Óscar Fabbiani (Chile), swift and forward Steve Wegerle (South Africa), rock-solid defenseman Arsene Auguste (Haiti), 1976 NASL goal scoring champion Derek Smethurst (South Africa), who was also the franchise's all-time leading goal scorer with 57 tallies in 65 games, as well as forward Clyde Best (Bermuda). Coached along the way by Firmani, John Boyle, Gordon Jago, Al Miller, and Marsh after his retirement, their catch phrase and marketing slogan was "The Rowdies arrrre...a kick in the grass!"

While no NASL team ever captured a treble, in 1975–76 Tampa Bay came the closest by winning the three different NASL titles available at the time (Soccer Bowl '75, 1976 Indoor Title, 1976 Regular Season title) in succession within twelve months. On and off the pitch, the Rowdies would prove to be one of the league's most recognizable brands. At one three-year point in their history, the team regularly drew crowds of well over 25,000 a night. In 1979 three different matches were attended by over 40,000 people, and the following year two more surpassed the 50,000 mark. The Rowdies had long-standing rivalries with both the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers and the New York Cosmos.

Following the 1981 season the Dallas Tornado merged with Tampa Bay. At the time, Dallas principals Lamar Hunt and Bill McNutt retained a minority stake in the Rowdies. [8] [9] Two years later after the 1983 season, Strawbidge, Hunt and McNutt sold the team outright to local investors Stella Thayer, Bob Blanchard and Dick Corbett. [10]

Year-by-year

YearRecordRegular Season FinishPlayoffsLeading Goal Scorers [11] Avg Attend.
1975 16–61st, Eastern DivisionNASL Champions (3-0) Derek Smethurst-18, Stewart Scullion-710,728
1976 18–61st, Eastern Division, Atlantic ConferenceAtlantic Conf. Championship (1-1) Derek Smethurst-20, Rodney Marsh-11, Stewart Scullion-1016,452
1977 14–123rd, Eastern Division, Atlantic ConferenceDivisional Playoffs (0-1) Derek Smethurst-19, Rodney Marsh-8, David Robb-819,491
1978 18–121st, Eastern Division, American ConferenceRunners-up (4-3) Rodney Marsh-18, David Robb-16, Steve Wegerle-718,123
1979 19–111st, Eastern Division, American ConferenceRunners-up (6-2) Óscar Fabbiani-25, Rodney Marsh-11, Petar Baralić-927,650
1980 19–131st, Eastern Division, American ConferenceAmerican Conf. Semifinals (3-2) Oscar Fabbiani-13, Neill Roberts-10, [12] Steve Wegerle-928,345
1981 15–174th, Southern DivisionQuarterfinals (3-2) Frank Worthington-11, Luís Fernando-9, David Moss-922,299
1982 12–203rd, Southern DivisionDid Not Qualify Luís Fernando-16, Tatu-722,532
1983 7–233rd, Southern DivisionDid Not Qualify Tatu-12, Manny Rojas-818,507
1984 9–154th, Eastern DivisionDid Not Qualify Roy Wegerle-9, Neill Roberts-9, Wes McLeod-710,932

Home Attendance Records

YearAttendance [13] Opponent
198056,389 California
198054,247 New York
198148,355 San Diego
197945,888 Rochester
197745,288Cosmos
197642,611New York
197841,888Cosmos
197741,680 Zenit Leningrad
197941,102 Ft. Lauderdale
197940,701New York
198040,368Ft. Lauderdale
198240,098 Jacksonville
197938,766San Diego*
197837,249Ft. Lauderdale*

*playoff game

NASL Indoor Soccer

In the winter of 1975, the NASL ran a two-tiered, 16 team indoor tournament with four regional winners meeting in a "final-four" style championship. The Rowdies defeated the New York Cosmos 13–5 in the semi-final, before losing 8–5 to the host San Jose Earthquakes in the finals on March 16 at the Cow Palace. The Rowdies again reached the final-four in 1976, but that year were the host team. This time Tampa Bay would not be denied, as they followed up a 6–2 semi-final win over Dallas with a 6–4 finals triumph over the Rochester Lancers on March 27 in the Bayfront Center. Over the next few years, the Rowdies (and a handful of other NASL teams) played indoor friendlies and invitationals [14] as preparation for the start of the outdoor season. [15] The NASL did not sanction a full indoor season until 1979–80, when the Rowdies won the championship by defeating the Memphis Rogues 2 games to 1. The 1980–81 campaign marked the first time Tampa Bay had ever missed the playoffs, indoor or outdoor. In the 1981–82 season they lost the finals to the San Diego Sockers 2 games to 0. Once again the NASL chose not to sanction a full indoor season in 1982–83, but (in addition to a few friendlies) Tampa Bay and three other teams participated in the Grand Prix of Indoor Soccer. [16] The Rowdies finished second in the round-robin stage and subsequently went on to defeat Montreal for the championship in a double overtime thriller at the Montreal Forum; 5–4. [17] The final NASL indoor season took place in 1983–84 and the Rowdies finished last out of the seven teams. Due to scheduling issues that season, the Rowdies played five games at the Bayfront Center, eight at the State Fairgrounds' Expo Hall in Tampa, and three in the Lakeland Civic Center. [4] Tampa Bay regularly drew home crowds of over five thousand "fannies" to the Bayfront Center, despite the arena's limited seating capacity and relatively remote location. [18]

Indoor YearRecordRegular Season FinishPlayoffsLeading Goal Scorers [11] Avg Attend.
1975 3–11st, Region 3 (2–0)Runners-up (1–1) Doug Wark-10, Cantillo-5, Hartze-44,235
1976 5–01st, Eastern Region (2–0)NASL Champions (2–0) Clyde Best-11, Scullion-6, Smethurst-4, Marsh-45,458
1977 1–1(friendlies only)none Derek Smethurst-5, Marsh-4, S. Wegerle-3 [19] [20] 5,685
1978 6–2(friendlies only)none Smethurst-14, Fink-10 Marsh-9, McLeod-8 [21] [22] 5,901
1979 3–22nd, Budweiser Invitational [14] (2–0)Invitational Runners-up Mirandinha-5, S. Wegerle-5, Marsh-4 [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] 6,181
1979–80 8–42nd, Eastern DivisionNASL Champions (5–1) Peter Baralić-21, McLeod-13, P. Anderson-75,712
1980–81 9–92nd, Eastern DivisionDid not qualify Óscar Fabbiani-31, S. Wegerle-25, McLeod-215,175
1981–82 11–72nd, Cent. Division, American Conf.Runners-up (4–4) Tatu-21, Zequinha-19, McLeod-15, Pesa-155,372
1983 [28] 10–22nd, in Grand Prix preliminaries (4–2)Grand Prix Champions (2–0) Hugo Pérez-12, Tatu-12, Karpun-11, McLeod-8 [29] 4,771
1983–84 9–237thDid not qualify Tatu-49, Peter Roe-22, Van der Beck-182,334

Indoor Home Attendance Records

YearAttendance [13] Opponent
19786,410 Washington [30]
19786,410 Minnesota
19786,399 Dallas
19786,384 Tulsa
19776,354 Zenit Leningrad
19796,342 Fort Lauderdale
19796,338Tulsa
19826,325 San Diego*
19806,243Fort Lauderdale
19806,200 New England
19806,145 Detroit
19806,141 Atlanta*
19796,040 Dynamo Moscow
19796,002 Houston

*playoff game

Players, coaches, and honors – NASL era

Honors

Head coaches

CoachTenureLeagueCup^IndoorIndoor Cup^Totals*
Flag of Italy.svg Eddie Firmani 1977–198441–153–14–03–151–17
Flag of England.svg Lenny Glover (interim)19770–10–1
Flag of Scotland.svg John Boyle 19777–80–17–9
Flag of England.svg Gordon Jago 1978–198281–5617–928–2011–5137–90
Flag of England.svg Kevin Keelan (interim)19820–10–1
Flag of the United States.svg Al Miller 1982–19839–300–04–22–015–32
Flag of England.svg Rodney Marsh 1983–19849–159–2318–38

*Excludes friendlies.^Cup includes playoff games and mini-games. [41] [42]

Team captains

CaptainOutdoor seasonsIndoor seasons
Flag of Scotland.svg John Boyle 19751975
Flag of South Africa (1928-1994).svg Derek Smethurst -1976
Flag of England.svg Rodney Marsh 1976, 1978, 19791978, 1979
Flag of England.svg Tommy Smith 1976-
Flag of Scotland.svg Alex Pringle -1977
Flag of Scotland.svg Lenny Glover 1977-
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Jan van der Veen 1978, 19811979–80, 1980–81
Flag of South Africa (1928-1994).svg Mike Connell 1981, 1982, 1983, 19841981–82, 1983–84
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Wes McLeod -*1983

*due to Connell injury

Most appearances in club history

*Excludes friendlies and indoor matches.^Includes playoff games. [43] [44]

PlayerTotal Apps*LeagueCup^TenureLeagues
Flag of South Africa (1928-1994).svg Mike Connell 277252251975, 1977–1984NASL
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Wes McLeod 211188231977–1984NASL
Flag of South Africa (1928-1994).svg Steve Wegerle 210188221977–1981, 1984, 1988–1990NASL, ASL, APSL
Flag of the United States.svg Perry Van der Beck 190171191978–1982, 1984, 1989–1993NASL, ASL, APSL
Flag of the United States.svg Winston DuBose 165147181977–1982, 1988–1991NASL, ASL, APSL
Flag of Yugoslavia (1946-1992).svg Refik Kozić 13412591980–1984NASL
Flag of Scotland.svg John Gorman 128111171979–1982NASL
Flag of England.svg Rodney Marsh 11094161976–1979NASL
Flag of South Africa (1928-1994).svg Derek Backman 10090101988–1993ASL, APSL
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Jan van der Veen 9484101979–1981, 1983NASL

Retired numbers

In a ceremony held before the final home game of the 1989 regular season, Steve Wegerle became the first Tampa Bay Rowdies player to have his number retired by the team. [45] That night he assisted on all three Rowdies' goals in a 3–0 victory over arch-rival Fort Lauderdale. [46] He went on to appear in several home matches during the 1990 season as well. [47]

While Mike Connell's and Perry Van der Beck's numbers have since been retired by the current franchise, Wegerle's #7 continues to be reissued each season. [48]

No.PlayerPositionNationTenureDate RetiredRef
6 Mike Connell Defender Flag of South Africa.svg South Africa 1975–198410 August 2013 [49]
7 Steve Wegerle [note 1] Forward Flag of South Africa.svg South Africa 1977–1981, 1984, 1988–199022 July 1989 [50]
12 Perry Van der Beck Midfielder Flag of the United States.svg United States 1978–82, 1984, 1991–931 October 2010 [48] [51]
Notes
  1. Number reissued by the current Rowdies franchise, which did not acknowledge the retirement.

Club culture

As part of a name-the-team contest, on November 21, 1974, the franchise announced that the name Tampa Bay Rowdies had been selected. Out of nearly 12,500 entries it was Clearwater attorney, Bill Wilhelm's suggestion that won. That suggestion earned Wilhelm a vacation to Acapulco for his efforts, along with a lifetime pass to all home games. [7] [52] The Rowdies' fans were known as "Fannies". Advertisements for the club declared that "Soccer is a kick in the grass" and encouraged their supporters to "Get up, get out, and get Rowdy!" and to "make a fanny of yourself!". The calls were answered by fans who threw confetti, drank beer, chanted during games, and generally "let the guys know we're behind them." [53] One memorable fan named Bob Rogers won a "Rowdiest Fan" contest by donning a giant soccer head and throwing himself into the Tampa Stadium goal. The club gave "Soccer Head" complimentary tickets to future games so that he could continue his antics for the crowd, even bringing him along when the Rowdies played in Soccer Bowl '79. [54]

While anyone who supported the club could call themselves a Fanny, members of the official Rowdies Fan Club particularly claimed the moniker as their own. The fan club held regular meetings and social events and published a newsletter. [53]

The "Wowdies" were the Rowdies' cheerleaders. The team also had a pep band known as the "Loudies" that sat in the south endzone and attended local pep rallies. [55] [56]

Post-NASL: 1985–1993

The NASL folded in 1984, but the Rowdies continued to play for several more years. Tampa Stadium continued to be used as their home ground for outdoor games except during the 1991 and 1992 seasons in the APSL. Those two years were spent at the USF Soccer Stadium, [3] [57] before returning to Tampa Stadium in 1993 for the team's final season in existence.

Independent: 1985–1987

With Rodney Marsh staying on as coach (through 1987), the Rowdies operated as an independent team for two years before joining the American Indoor Soccer Association for one season (1986–87). Cornelia Corbett, Dick Corbett's wife and a businesswoman in her own right, became sole owner of the team in 1986. As a footnote, in 2011 the University of South Florida opened the new Corbett Soccer Stadium for their NCAA Division I men's and women's teams, after the Corbetts had made a $1.5 million donation to the project. [58] The stadium features several display cases that highlight the history of the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Since 2005, the USF Bulls and the crosstown rival University of Tampa Spartans men's squads have competed annually for the preseason Rowdies Cup, which celebrates the city's rich soccer history. To date the NCAA Division II Spartans have only captured the trophy once, back in 2012. [59]

1985 Outdoor

As an independent club, the Rowdies played only one match in 1985. It was against the U.S. Men's team on the Fourth of July in front of 30,038 fans.

1986 Outdoor

In the summer of 1986 the Rowdies staged a four-game series at Tampa Stadium called the Coca-Cola Classic International Soccer Series, which culminated with a Fourth of July match, and also included a post-game fireworks display and laser light show. Since Tampa Bay had only a handful of players under contract at the time, their roster was composed mostly of guest players from Queens Park Rangers F.C. [60] [61] The only NASL-era Rowdies on this roster were Roy Wegerle, Steve Wegerle, Dave Power, and the head coach, Rodney Marsh. Four former Rowdies played in the final game of this series for the opposing NASL All-Stars. These included Mike Connell, Winston DuBose, Wes McLeod and Tatu. [62]

They also played a pair of friendlies against the newly established Orlando Lions on February 22 and July 2 at Lake Brantley High School, using their regular players. Tampa Bay won the matches by scores of 1–0 and 2–1 (SO) respectively. [63] [64]

1987 Outdoor

In 1987 Tampa Bay played twice against the Orlando Lions, on May 16 at the Florida Citrus Bowl, and then again on May 23 at Pepin-Rood Stadium. The Rowdies lost the first encounter, 2–0, with the teams tying, 2–2, in the return leg. [65] [66]

1985–87 Outdoor results

DateOpponentVenueResultAttendanceGoal ScorersRef.
July 4, 1985 USMNT Tampa Stadium 1–230,038 Hoddle [67]
February 22, 1986@Orlando Lions Lake Brantley High School 0–14,200 G. Wegerle [68]
June 7, 1986 Glentoran F.C. Ulster Banner.svg Tampa Stadium1–06,900 Chivers [69]
June 14, 1986 Dundee F.C. Flag of Scotland.svg Tampa Stadium2–1 (SO, 4–3) 2,787 R Wegerle [70] [71]
June 21, 1986 Canada U-20 Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Tampa Stadium0–14,010 [72]
July 2, 1986@Orlando Lions Lake Brantley High School1–2 (SO, 2–3) White [73]
July 4, 1986NASL All-StarsTampa Stadium3–4 (SO, 5–6) 29,755 R Wegerle, James, Loram [74]
May 16, 1987@Orlando Lions Florida Citrus Bowl 2–02,060 [75]
May 23, 1987 Orlando Lions Pepin-Rood Stadium 2–2 Marsh, Astigarraga [76] [77]

AISA: 1986–1987

The Rowdies played one season of indoor soccer in the American Indoor Soccer Association, once again using the Bayfront Center as their home. After a strong start they finished third in their division and eventually lost in the first round of the playoffs. Steve Wegerle was selected as a starter in the AISA All-Star game and scored the game's first goal. Arnie Mausser, Rubén Astigarraga, and Glenn Ervine also made the Southern Division team. Ervine added a goal in the fourth quarter. Tim Walters was a late All-Star addition, because Astigarraga was unable play in the match. [78] [79]

Year-by-year

YearLeagueGamesWonLostGFGARegular SeasonPlayoffsAttendance (21 games)
1986–87 AISA [80] 4221211701723rd, SouthernQuarterfinals43,015 (avg. 2,048)

1986–1987 roster

[81] [82] [83] [84]

ASL/APSL: 1988–1993

In the summer of 1988, the Rowdies joined the third incarnation of the American Soccer League. They would stay in this league and its successor (the APSL) until the team folded after the 1993 season. During this six year stretch they achieved moderate success, winning one division title and making the playoffs four times. In 1992 they finished as runners-up to Colorado in the regular season, in the Professional Cup final, and in the APSL final as well. [85]

Year-by-year

YearLeagueWonLostPointsRegular SeasonPlayoffsU.S. Open Cup
1988 ASL1010303rd, SouthernDid not qualifyDid not enter
1989 ASL128351st, SouthernSemifinalsDid not enter
1990 APSL1010292nd, ASL SouthASL SemifinalsDid not enter
1991 APSL813693rd, AmericanDid not qualifyDid not enter
1992 APSL106872ndRunners-upDid not enter
1993 APSL12121183rdSemifinalsDid not enter

Players, coaches, and honors – post-NASL era

Honors – post-NASL

Coaches – post-NASL

Team captains – post-NASL

Legacy

Tampa Bay Mutiny: 1996–2001

Due in large part to the Rowdies' historical success on and off the pitch, in 1994 MLS selected the Tampa Bay Mutiny as one of its original ten teams. The Mutiny won the first ever Supporters' Shield and qualified for the playoffs in four of their six seasons. Several former Rowdies, including Perry Van der Beck, Farrukh Quraishi, Roy Wegerle and Steve Trittschuh among others, were involved with the Mutiny as players, coaches, or front office staff. They also played for three seasons on the Rowdies' home pitch, Tampa Stadium. While the Mutiny have no connection to either Rowdies franchise, the team often paid tribute to the former Rowdies by wearing jerseys of their colors, and even wearing the logo of both the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Rowdies on the same shirt. [90]

MLS initially operated the team with the hope of selling to a private local owner. [91] That became difficult after Malcolm Glazer bought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League in 1995 and demanded that the community build a new stadium. Raymond James Stadium was completed in 1998 and Tampa Stadium was demolished soon thereafter, forcing the Mutiny to move to the new facility.

The Bucs' lease agreement in their new home allowed them to keep most non-ticket revenues from all events at the facility, including Mutiny matches, severely damaging the financial viability of the soccer club. [92] [93] As financial losses mounted (up to $2 million a year), MLS desperately courted Glazer to buy the Mutiny. Glazer declined, so the league opted to fold the Mutiny, along with other Florida-based MLS team of that era, the Miami Fusion, in early 2002. [94] [95]

New Rowdies: 2010–present

In 2008, it was announced that a new incarnation of the Tampa Bay Rowdies would play in a new second division NASL. They wore striped green and gold kits similar to the old Rowdies, and a star reflecting the 1975 championship. After several changes to the league, Tampa Bay finally kicked off in the summer of 2010, but they took the pitch as "FC Tampa Bay" due to a licensing dispute over the Rowdies name and trademarks. [96] [97] Beginning in 2012, the team reached an agreement to officially use the Rowdies name along with logos and other intellectual property of the original team, and won Soccer Bowl 2012.

To date, the new Rowdies have honored both Mike Connell's and Perry Van der Beck's significant contribution to soccer, both on and off the field in the community at large, by retiring their jerseys. The Rowdies won the 2012 NASL Championship. As of 2017 they are currently members of the second division, United Soccer League, and have announced their intention to gain entry into MLS's next wave of expansion.

Rowdies Cup

The South Florida Bulls annually face their crosstown rivals, the Tampa Spartans, in an NCAA men's preseason soccer match which celebrates the Tampa Bay Area's rich soccer history. In addition to holding the Rowdies Cup trophy for the next 12 months, the winning side also get to hoist the actual Soccer Bowl trophy that was won originally by the Rowdies in 1975. The trophy is currently housed at Corbett Soccer Stadium on the USF campus. Formerly called the Mayor's Cup from 1979 until 2005, as of the 2019 edition, USF holds a 24–10–3 edge in the all-time series, which dates back to 1972. [98] [99] [100] [101]

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