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August 8, 1974 – Jacksonville Sharks vs. The Hawaiians

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Jacksonville Sharks vs. The Hawaiians
August 8, 1974
The Gator Bowl
Attendance: 43,689

World Football League Programs

 

A momentous day in American history couldn’t keep 46,000 Florida football fans from turning out at the Jacksonville’s Gator Bowl on August 8, 1974 to see what the new World Football League was all about.  But it could delay kickoff for fifteen minutes.

WFL officials delayed the start of the game so that those in attendance could listen to President Richard Nixon’s address to the nation over the Gator Bowl loud speakers.  When Nixon announced his resignation the crowd broke out into applause, according to reporters present.  The next morning,  United Press International would put a photo out on the national wire of the Sharks cheerleaders – the Sharkettes – crying during the National Anthem.

A different historic figure imposed his will on the game during the second half.  The Jacksonville Sharks were hurting at quarterback, as they would be pretty much all season.  Starter Kay Stephenson was out injured and backup Reggie Oliver, a rookie out of Marshall, was ineffective during the first half.

Eddie McAshanEnter Eddie McAshan, making his pro debut.  McAshan isn’t a household name today, but Jesse Jackson reputedly called him “the Jackie Robinson of Southern college football”.  A native of Gainesville, Florida he attended a recently integrated high school there.  His high school football coach found crosses burning in his front yard after playing McAshan at quarterback.  In 1969, he became the first African-American scholarship athlete at Georgia Tech University and in 1970, he became the first black man to start at quarterback for a major Southern college football program.   Between 1970 and 1972, McAshan rewrote the Yellowjackets record book. But a late season dispute with the athletic department and Head Coach Bill Fulcher over complimentary tickets – McAshan wanted four extra tickets for family members and was rejected – led to his suspension from the team and NAACP picket lines at the 1972 Liberty Bowl.

The New England Patriots drafted Eddie McAShan in the 17th round of the 1973 NFL draft. But he never played a down in the NFL.  Replacing Oliver midway through the game with the Sharks trailing the Hawaiians 14-7, McAshan was wild through the air (5-13 for 88 yards), but dangerous with his feet (11 rushes for 52 yards).   He led the Sharks on two 80-yard drives during the fourth quarter, capping it all off with a one-yard touchdown run with 20 seconds remaining to lift the Sharks to a 21-14 come-from-behind win.

And that, more or less, marked both the beginning and the end of McAshan’s pro career.  One glorious game, leading the game winning drive in front of a huge crowd in his home state.  Sharks owner Fran Monaco gushed to the press afterwards, calling McAshan “another Johnny Unitas”.  But McAshan hurt his knee on the game-winning drive.  Kay Stephenson and Reggie Oliver would take the rest of the snaps under center for the Sharks that year…right up until early October, when Fran Monaco ran out of money and the Sharks went out of business without finishing the 1974 season.

The following year, the World Football League put a new team into the Gator Bowl, known as the Jacksonville Express.  The Express signed McAshan to back up former NFL quarterback George Mira, but the team released him in training camp.  As far as we can tell, Eddie McAshan never threw another pro pass after this one strange night at the Gator Bowl.   The Jackie Robinson of Southern college football became the Moonlight Graham of professional football.

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Eddie McAshan was one of six black quarterbacks to play in the World Football League, along with his Sharks teammate Reggie Oliver, Dave Mays (Houston Texans/Shreveport Steamer), D.C. Nobles (Shreveport ) Matthew Reed (Birmingham Vulcans), and Johnnie Walton (San Antonio Wings).

 

Links

Jacksonville Sharks Home Page

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Written by AC

January 20th, 2013 at 10:31 pm

1974 Jacksonville Sharks

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1974 Jacksonville SharksWorld Football League (1974)

Born: 1973 – WFL founding franchise
Folded: October 10, 1974

Stadium: The Gator Bowl

Team Colors:

Owner: Fran Monaco

World Bowl Championships: None

 

The Jacksonville Sharks were a high profile flop in the World Football League (1974-1975).  The poorly financed club is remembered primarily for going out of business in the middle of the league’s first season in October 1974.

The Sharks debut on July 11, 1974 seemed promising.  A huge announced crowd of 59,112 showed up at the Gator Bowl to watch the Sharks defeat the New York Stars 14-7.  The next Sharks home game on July 24, 1974 drew over 46,000.  But word soon got out that many of the tickets were freebies and attendance plummeted.  By September, crowds dwindled to less than 20,000.

In early August the Sharks made headlines by signing NFL All-Pro linebacker Ted Hendricks of the Baltimore Colts to a futures contract for the 1976 season. But by the beginning of September, the club was in financial straits and owner Fran Monaco stopped paying his players.  Monaco surrendered his franchise back to the league on September 22nd.  Sharks players, unpaid for a month, threatened to boycott a September 25th road game against the Southern California Sun.  They were placated with game checks issued by the league office, but lost the game 57-7.  Another blowout loss followed a week later in Memphis (47-19) and this proved to be the final game the Sharks would play.  On October 10th, 1974, the WFL cut its losses and shut down the Sharks along with another floundering club, the Detroit Wheels.

The Sharks final record was 4-10 and the team’s final six games were cancelled.

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The kickoff of the August 8, 1974 game between the Sharks and the Hawaiians was delayed 15 minutes so that the 43,869 fans in attendance could listen to a live broadcast of President Nixon’s resignation speech on the Gator Bowl loudspeakers.  When Nixon announced his decision to resign the crowd broke out into loud applause.

The WFL returned to Jacksonville and the Gator Bowl the following year with a new franchise called the Jacksonville Express.   This time the entire league folded in mid-season on October 22, 1975.

Sharks quarterback Kay Stephenson later became Head Coach of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills from 1983 to 1985.  He also coached in the World League of American Football and the Canadian Football League in the 1990’s.

 

Jacksonville Sharks Shop


Sharks Retro T-Shirt by Throwback Max

WIFFLE: The Wild, Zany and Sometimes Hilariously True Story of the World Football League by Mark Speck

 

Jacksonville Sharks Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Former Sharks defensive coordinator and Head Coach Charlie Tate passed away in 1996 at age 77.

Former Sharks Head Coach Bud Asher died on July 5, 2013 at age 88.

 

Jacksonville Sharks Video

Rare local TV broadcast footage from the Sharks first road game against the Chicago Fire at Soldier Field on July 17, 1974.

 

 

Links

World Football League Media Guides

World Football League Programs

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Written by AC

January 20th, 2013 at 7:55 pm

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