Lively Tales About Dead Teams

1988-1993 Detroit Drive

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Detroit DriveArena Football League (1988-1993)

Born: 1988 – Arena Football expansion franchise.
Moved: March 1994 (Massachusetts Marauders)

Arena: Joe Louis Arena (17,446)

Team Colors: Victory Blue, Orange & White

Owner: Mike Ilitch

Arena Bowl Champions: 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1992

 

The Detroit Drive were a championship dynasty during the early years of the Arena Football League.  Formed as an expansion franchise for the AFL’s second season, the Drive went on to play six years.  Incredibly, the Drive appeared in the Arena Bowl title game in all six seasons they competed.  They won the Arena Bowl four times (1988, 1989, 1990 and 1992) and compiled an overall regular season & playoff record of 58-12 in six seasons – an astounding 83% winning percentage.  The team’s two Arena Bowl losses in 1991 and 1993 both came at the hands of the Tampa Bay Storm.

Detroit DriveThe Drive’s most famous player was former Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter.  Schlichter, the #4 overall pick in the 1982 NFL draft by the Baltimore Colts, was a degenerate gambler and con artist.  During his rookie season in 1982, he gambled away his entire $350,000 signing bonus.  He was suspended from the NFL for gambling twice and never played an NFL down again after 1985.  Schlichter mounted a comeback with the Drive in 1990 at age 30 and promptly led the club to a third consecutive Arena Bowl title and was named the Arena league’s 1990 Most Valuable Player.

After leading the Drive to a fourth straight title appearance in 1991, the team traded him to the expansion Cincinnati Rockers prior to the 1992 season.  Although Schlichter would have his best statistical season with Cincinnati in 1992, the trade proved a shrewd deal for Detroit as the quarterback’s gambling addiction roared back to life in Ohio.  He passed at least two bad checks during the 1992 season and was arrested two weeks before the end of the season.  Schlichter never played another down of professional football after 1992 and spent much of the next decade in prison on various fraud charges.

The owner of the Detroit Drive was Little Caesar’s pizza mogul Mike Ilitch, who also owned the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings.  The team was a popular attraction in Detroit, averaging over 14,000 fans per game at Joe Louis Arena over six seasons.  But Ilitch purchased the Detroit Tigers in 1993 and reportedly came to view the Drive as competition for the Tigers during the spring and summer months.  Ilitch sold the Drive to Joseph O’Hara in February 1994.  O’Hara moved the franchise to Worcester, Massachusetts where it played one undistinguished season as the Massachusetts Marauders in 1994 and then went out of business.

 

Detroit Drive Programs

 

==YouTube==

The Detroit Drive host the Los Angeles Cobras at Joe Louis Arena, June 10th, 1988.

 

Arena Bowl V. The Drive host the Tampa Bay Storm before 20,000+ at Joe Louis Arena. August 17, 1991

 

==In Memoriam==

Offensive Line/Defensive Line Jon Roehlk (Drive ’90-’93) passed away on March 13, 2016 at 54 years of age.

 

==Links==

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

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Written by AC

April 26th, 2014 at 8:43 pm

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