Wheeling ironmen

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Wheeling Ironmen (1962–1964)
Ohio Valley Ironmen (1965–1969)Flag of the United States.svg
City: Wheeling , West Virginia
Founded: 1962
Resolved: 1969
League (): UFL (1962-1964)
COFL (1965-1969)
Greatest successes
UFL : 1962 and 1963 League champions

Wheeling Island Stadium

Address: 520 S. Penn St, Wheeling, West Virginia 26003

The Wheeling Ironmen were an American American football franchise from Wheeling in the State of West Virginia , the 1962 to 1964 under the name Wheeling Ironmen the game operation of the United Football League (UFL) participated, and from 1965 to 1969 under the name Ohio Valley Ironmen made an appearance in the Continental Football League (COFL) before disbanding after the 1969 game year.


The Wheeling Ironmen originated as a minor league team in the coal-mining area of ​​the Ohio Valley in West Virginia. In 1962, a group of 15 local business people and market leaders in their region founded the franchise in the town of Wheeling and deposited a sum of 1,000 US dollars per investor for inclusion in the United Football League (UFL), which had been founded a year earlier . Michael "Mike" J. Valan (1910–1986), who owned the franchise along with the other investors, was appointed President and General Manager of the franchise . In the professional minor league, in addition to the team from West Virginia, teams from Illinois , Indiana , Kentucky , Michigan and Ohio were also represented. In the first year of the game, the Wheeling Ironmen under coach Tom Keane had eight wins and four losses in twelve championship games. In the season-defining final, the franchise then competed against the reigning champions Grand Rapids Blazers and won the game 30:21. In the following season, 1963, the Wheeling Ironmen were able to defend their title when they, after a record of twelve wins and one loss from 13 games in regular time, defeated the Toledo Tornadoes franchise with 31:21. In the game year 1964, the last under head coach Tom Keane, the Ironmen completed a mediocre season in a league that was once again expanded and came in 14 championship games to a record of seven wins and just as many defeats. For this reason, there was no play-off place, which is why the franchise no longer had the opportunity to defend its title.

After the majority of the franchise owners who wanted to continue a regional league in the Midwest ceased to exist in order to found the Professional Football League of America (PFLA) in February 1965 , which was subsequently dissolved again in 1967, the UFL disbanded in early 1965. Subsequently, after the UFL collapsed, the Continental Football League (COFL) was founded in the same year . This should act as the third major league next to the National Football League (NFL) and the American Football League (AFL) and got its name partly after the Continental League (CL), the late 1950s and early 1960s next to the American League (AL) and the National League (NL) was planned as one of the three major leagues within Major League Baseball . In contrast to the UFL, the COFL was much more ambitious and even expanded nationwide in the late 1960s, producing franchises from numerous US states before COFL was also dissolved. Although much of the competition was still regional - the Ironmen didn't play against the Texan, Californian or Pacific Northwest teams of the COFL - the Ironmen traveled by plane to division opponents in Toronto or Orlando . The franchise was financially stricken, which was mainly known from the mid-1960s and was a topic in the sports magazines of that time. In addition, there was no sporting success. Two wins and twelve defeats from 14 games in the game year 1965 under coaches Mac Cara and Bob Snyder were followed by 14 defeats from as many games in the following year 1966.

In 1967, when Bob Snyder coached the team for the last time, the Wheeling Ironmen had a budget of $ 270,000 and ended the year with a loss of $ 90,000, partly because they were financially Badly ailing Brooklyn Dodgers who were sold to Akron , Ohio that year , partially paid the salaries. It wasn't until 1968 that the Wheeling Ironmen, now known as the Ohio Valley Ironmen , found their way back to winning ways, at least on a sporting level. After the franchise was close to its final end in April 1968 and had already been dissolved, the company quickly raised the necessary funds to ensure that the company would remain in the league. In a longer profile in the December issue of Sports Illustrated in 1968, the financial situation of the franchise was discussed. A player's maximum salary at the time was $ 200 per game and the entire team's salary cap was $ 5,000 per week. In the last two years of their existence, the now Ohio Valley Ironmen returned to sporting success. The game year 1968 ended with nine wins and three losses from twelve games and the last game year 1969 ended with six wins and as many losses from twelve championship games. At the end of 1969, the Ironmen disbanded. After the Continental Football League split up and several teams left the league, the league itself was dissolved a few months later.

Known players

Over the years, several actors, especially those who became known later, played in the Ironmen. In 1966 and 1967, the future head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals Sam Wyche was a quarterback in the team of the Wheeling Ironmen.

When the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs met in the very first Super Bowl in January 1967 , both teams had former Ironmen defensive linemen in their ranks. With the Chiefs it was Andy Rice , with the Packers it was Bob Brown who, among other things, recorded a sack in this encounter . Brown - not to be confused with the offensive lineman of the same name and born in 1941 - would subsequently win two Super Bowls with the Packers and be used in the Pro Bowl in 1972 .

In addition, John Amos made a few short appearances for the Wheeling Ironmen in the game year 1965. Amos became a successful television, film and theater actor after his minor league career ended in the late 1960s.


  • United Football League Championship won: 1963 and 1964

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Michael "Mike" J. Valan on MyHeritage.at, accessed January 7, 2018
  2. ^ New League Is Formed Of Leftovers , The Progress-Index, Associated Press, February 7, 1965
  3. A false start , accessed on January 7, 2018