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History of the Arena Football League in Detroit

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In 1988, Mike and Marian Ilitch fielded an indoor football team, Detroit Drive, in the Arena Football League.[1] In 1992, he purchased the Detroit Tigers. Purchasing the Tigers led Ilitch to sell the Drive in February 1994 given the leagues' overlapping schedules.

Detroit Drive (1988–1993)[edit]

In 1987, Mike Ilitch began negotiations with the Arena Football League (AFL), to join for the 1988 season.[2] The Drive began play in 1988 as a member of the AFL.[3] Under head coach Tim Marcum, the Drive finished the regular season 9–3 after starting the season 2–3.[4][5] Two of the Drive's losses came at the hands of the Chicago Bruisers, who finished the season with one loss. The Drive would get a chance at revenge when they advanced to ArenaBowl II against the Bruisers,[6] and they were able to defeat the Bruisers 24–13.[7]

With the AFL suspending operations prior to the 1989 season,[8] the league was revived and decided to play a short season, but that forced the Drive to begin the 1989 season by replacing quarterback Rich Ingold, who didn't want to take the pay cut of the short season.[9] The Drive won ArenaBowl III 39–26 over the Pittsburgh Gladiators.[10]

Head Coach Tim Marcum stepped away from the Drive in 1990 to join the University of Florida's football staff, and was replaced by Perry Moss.[11] The Drive bolstered their offense by signing quarterback Art Schlichter[12] (Who would become the AFL's MVP in 1990). Moss lead the Drive to a 6–2 regular season record and they remained a dominant force, leading the going to ArenaBowl IV, where they defeated the Dallas Texans 51–27.[13]

In 1992, the Drive played in the Northern Division. The Drive won ArenaBowl VI, claiming their fourth title in five seasons.

Ilitch sold the Drive so that they would not compete with the Tigers for attendance.[14] Ilitch still claims that he only kept the Drive because they were constant contenders.[citation needed]

The Drive had, arguably, the best management team in the league. Owner Mike Ilitch, General Manager Gary Vitto, and Head Coach Tim Marcum are all in the AFL Hall of Fame. Following the 1992 season, Ilitch purchased the Detroit Tigers of Major League Baseball and Vitto was transferred to the Tigers front office. Marcum assumed GM duties for 1993 and led the team to its final Arena Bowl.

Detroit Fury (2001–2004)[edit]

The Detroit Fury were an arena football team based in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The team was a member of the Arena Football League from 2001 to 2004 and played at The Palace of Auburn Hills, also the home of the NBA's Detroit Pistons. The team was co-owned by William Davidson, who owned the Pistons, along with William Clay Ford, Jr., son of the owner of the National Football League Detroit Lions.[15] On September 20, 2004, the AFL announced the termination of this franchise,[16] and that its players would be made available to the remaining teams in a dispersal draft. The Fury made the playoffs in their first season and again in 2003.

See also[edit]


  1. Shea, Bill (January 20, 2012). "Arena Football League wants rematch with Detroit". Crain's Detroit Business. Crain Communications, Inc. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  2. "Detroit may get arena football". Ludington Daily News. July 8, 1987. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  3. David Webster (March 25, 1988). "Arena football hits Detroit". The Michigan Daily. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  4. Andrew Bagnato (May 28, 1988). "Controversial Call Lifts The Undefeated Bruisers Over Drive". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  5. Gary Tuma (July 7, 1988). "Detroit driving with Ingold at QB". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  6. "Chicago Bruisers, Detroit Drive Square Off in ArenaBowl". Los Angeles Times. July 30, 1988. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  7. Andrew Bagnato (July 31, 1988). "Drive Downs Bruisers For Arena Bowl Title". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  8. "Football; Arena Football Is Halted". The New York Times Company. February 21, 1989. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  9. Mark Madden (June 22, 1989). "Rich Ingold will pass on Arena Football's short season". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  10. "Drive Arena Bowl Champs". The Argus-Press. August 18, 1989. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
  11. Brian Campbell (August 22, 1992). "Moss Caught In Role Reversal". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  12. "Schlichter signs pact with Drive". The Times-News. May 10, 1990. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  13. "Schlichter drives Detroit to another Arena football title". The Argus-Press. August 13, 1990. Retrieved February 15, 2013.
  14. Bill Shea (January 22, 2012). "Arena Football League wants rematch with Detroit". Crain Communications Inc. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  15. "Detroit lands Arena Football team". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. December 2, 1999. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  16. "Detroit Fury announces it will fold after failing to find buyer". The Argus-Press. September 21, 2004. Retrieved March 14, 2014.

External links[edit]

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