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The Las Vegas Posse were a short-lived football franchise which played in the Canadian Football League (CFL) during the 1994 season. Professional sports franchises have traditionally stayed clear of Sin City, and ultimately the Posse would discover why this is the case.
How did the Posse Start up?
The Posse were formed during of the CFL’s short-lived expansion bid into the United States. The CFL, noting that many of the major cities in the US had no NFL teams, sought to capitalize by expanding south of the border. In 1993, the CFL awarded a franchise for the city of Las Vegas to Nick Mileti, a previous owner of the AHL’s Cleveland Barons and NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
This marked the first time a major North American sports league tried to place a professional team in Sin City. The team’s home was the Sam Boyd Stadium located a few miles out of town. The team put together a relatively impressive roster with Ron Meyer at the helm as head coach.
The Las Vegas Posse in Competition
The Posse played their first competitive game on July 8 1994, beating Sacramento 32-24. They followed this up with a 32-22 overtime beating of the Saskatchewan Roughriders a week later. However, their season went belly up as they went on a run of one win in the next seven games, giving them a 3-6 record at the halfway point of the season. They won two out of the next three but then went out with a whimper as they lost all of the final six games. Their 5-13 record that season remains one of the worst in CFL history.
Las Vegas Posse Notable Players
Tamarick Vanover KR
Jon Volpe RB
Greg Battle LB
Shonte Peoples LB
Darian Hagan DB/QB
Carlos Huerta K
Anthony Calvillo QB
Las Vegas Posse Notable Moments
The Las Vegas Posse’s legacy was littered with many foibles worth forgetting. One of the most infamous ones was during the team’s first game at home against Saskatchewan when Dennis Parks, the team’s national anthems singer sang the Canadian national anthem to the tune of “O Christmas Tree.” For a team that relied mostly on visiting Canadians to sell tickets, the Posse were thoroughly embarrassed by that incident.
The Posse’s two home wins, against the Gold Miners and the Roughriders respectively at the start of the season most definitely rank top of the team’s few positive moments. Wins were rare after that as the team tanked and went under over the course of their lone season in action.
What Happened to the Las Vegas Posse?
From the start, many factors worked against the Posse’s longevity in Las Vegas. In Nick Mileti who was based in Cleveland, the team was owned by a seemingly semi-interested absentee owner. The Boyd Stadium where the Posse played their home games was an outdoor stadium which meant that players were unprotected from the notorious desert heat of Nevada.
With the CFL season running through the summer, this took its toll on the team’s on-field performances and made Las Vegas a much-hated favorite destinations for road teams. This was not helped by the fact that they trained at a less than standard-size facility on the grounds of the Casino Riviera. Their abysmal on-field performances and the fact that Sin City had a more favored distractions in gambling meant that crowds stayed scant.
The attendance figures dropped drastically as the season progressed, prompting management to slash ticket prices to just $9. They also introduced cheerleaders who notably hang out in notoriously bare outfits behind opposing benches, not only to serve as extra entertainment to fans but also seemingly as a distraction to opposing teams. The gimmicks failed to work however and during their second last game, they only attracted 2,300 fans.
In light of the poor attendance, the team decided to fold before playing the last game of the season. However, the league compelled them to play, citing contractual obligations. The CFL catered for the expenses, moving the game to Edmonton where the Posse played their last “home” game, losing 51-10 to the Eskimos.
There were initial efforts to relocate the Posse to Florida but with the CFL starting to doubt their American project, no such move materialized. The league held a dispersal to disintegrate the Posse, marking the beginning of the CFL’s pullout from the US. Other American CFL teams followed the Posse to the ground and by 1996, the CFL was exclusively operating north of the border once again.