Detroit Wheels
Founded December 1973
Folded September 1974
Based in Ypsilanti, Michigan
Home field Rynearson Stadium
League World Football League
Division Central
Colors Red, Gold & Black               

The Detroit Wheels were an American football team, a charter member of the ill-fated World Football League.[1]

The Wheels were founded December 13, 1973 by ten investors, whose number eventually grew to 33, including singer Marvin Gaye, Motown Records vice-president Esther Edwards, and pizza maker (and future Red Wings and Tigers owner) Mike Ilitch. Problems began when they were unable to sign any of their draft picks, then they were not allowed to play at Tiger Stadium, home of the NFL Detroit Lions. The Silverdome hadn't been built yet, and the University of Michigan, home of cavernous Michigan Stadium, also said no. Finally, the Wheels signed a deal to play at Eastern Michigan University's Rynearson Stadium in Ypsilanti, Michigan, 37 miles from downtown Detroit. The club even hired EMU's head coach, Dan Boisture, to helm the Wheels.

Things weren't encouraging on the field, either. The Wheels had a decent quarterback in Bubba Wyche (brother of NFL quarterback and later coach Sam Wyche), but little in the way of protection (he was sacked eleven times in one game) or receivers. Only 10,631 people attended their first home game, and their final home game drew only 6,351 fans. One home game, against the Portland Storm, was moved to London, Ontario (the Storm owner was from London). The Wheels lost in front an announced crowd of 5,105.

After losing their first ten games (half the projected twenty-game season), the Wheels got their only win, 15-14 over the Florida Blazers at Orlando. On September 24, the Wheels faced the New York Stars in Downing Stadium, losing 37-7 in what proved to be the Stars' last game before moving to Charlotte. After a 14-11 loss to the Shreveport Steamer (nee Houston Texans), the Wheels (and the equally struggling Jacksonville Sharks) folded for good.

Stan Hansen, the professional wrestler, had a brief stint as a player with the Wheels. Nevertheless, he was promoted as a "former star" of the team when wrestling in a promotion in his hometown of Amarillo, Texas.[2]

1974 schedule and results

  • Wed 10 July: Memphis 34, Detroit 15 (at Memphis; attendance 30,122)
  • Wed 17 July: Florida 18, Detroit 15 (at Ypsilanti; 10,631)
  • Sun 21 July: Hawaii 36, Detroit 16 (at Honolulu; 10,080)
  • Wed 31 July: Birmingham 21, Detroit 18 (at Ypsilanti; 14,614)
  • Wed 7 August: Birmingham 28, Detroit 22 (at Birmingham; 40,637)
  • Wed 14 August: Memphis 37, Detroit 7 (at Ypsilanti; 14,424)
  • Thu 22 August: Chicago 35, Detroit 22 (at Ypsilanti; 10,300)
  • Wed 28 August: Philadelphia 27, Detroit 23 (at Philadelphia; 15,100)
  • Mon 2 September: Portland 18, Detroit 7 (at London, Ontario; 5,105)
  • Fri 6 September: Southern California 10, Detroit 7 (at Ypsilanti; 6,351)
  • Wed 11 September: Detroit 15, Florida 14 (at Orlando; 11,511)
  • Wed 18 September: Southern California 29, Detroit 24 (at Anaheim; 22,143)
  • Tue 24 September: New York 37, Detroit 7 (at New York; 4,220)
  • Wed 2 October: Shreveport 14, Detroit 11 (at Shreveport, LA; 22,012) [originally scheduled for Ypsilanti against the Houston Texans]
  • Wed 9 October: Detroit at Chicago (cancelled)
  • Wed 16 October: Hawaii at Detroit (cancelled)
  • Wed 23 October: Detroit at Houston (cancelled)
  • Wed 30 October: Detroit at Jacksonville (cancelled)
  • Wed 6 November: New York at Detroit (cancelled)
  • Wed 13 November: Philadelphia at Detroit (cancelled)


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