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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Pro football coming to Tucson

Gordon Bates/ Arizona Daily Wildcat
Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

Indoor Football League commissioner Tommy Benizio stood up at a press conference at the Westin La Paloma resort on Monday to announce the league would bring a new expansion team to Tucson.

The IFL is currently in its second year of existence and is looking to add a number of teams from the southwestern region of the U.S. before the start of its third season.

The IFL will be become one of a long list of minor league-type professional leagues to bring a team to southern Arizona. The 25-team league hopes to accomplish what a plethora of leagues have failed at in Tucson — maintain a stable professional team.

“”We feel like we’re in the right place, we’re in the right time,”” Benizio said. “”It’s very exciting. We hope this is the first of four or maybe five teams that will play football in the IFL in the Southwest.””

Tucson has a history of failed professional teams, with the most recent being the Tucson Sidewinders baseball team in 2008. After a decade-long tenure in the Old Pueblo, the minor league affiliate left Tucson for Reno, Nev.

Benizio shares at least one of the many professional team failures with the Tucson community, as he was a part of a group that managed the Tucson Scorch, a minor league hockey team that failed before even playing its first game.

“”It wasn’t my proudest moment as a sports marketer,”” Benizio said of his prior experience in Tucson. “”In 17 years (in sports) this may not have been my most successful stop, but I had a chance to attend an Arizona football game once and I could confidently state that I think we have some football fans in this area.

“”When you look at minor league professional sports, there is always the question of stability,”” he added. “”We’re not perfect, we do have some attrition, but when it’s all said and done, we’re the most stable football league in the country aside from the NFL.””

Though Benizio failed during his brief stop in Tucson in 2001, he is confident that with the ownership put into place for the yet-to-be-named Tucson team, his second go-around will be a success.

During the press conference, the new team’s owners were introduced, led by Tucson businessman Mario Wiggins, who will serve as the majority owner. Wiggins served eight years in the Air Force, most of those years at Davis Monthan Air Force base in Tucson.

“”Football in Tucson will be great, it will be something for us to do,”” Wiggins said. “”I’m sure Tucson is interested and ready for this IFL team.””

Wiggins will be joined in ownership by Dart Clark, Terri Clark, Demond Williams and former Wildcat David Adams, who is working on buying a stake in the team and called it all but done.

Adams, who played at Arizona from 1984-86 and in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys, is confident that an IFL team will fill a void in Tucson sports.

“”After basketball season we don’t do nothing, after football season we get mad because we went 7-4,”” said Adams. “”Tucson needs something to do besides wait for basketball season and football season.””

Adams and Williams, who is the director of player personnel, mentioned that former Wildcats who are unable to make an NFL team would be a focus for the team when it comes to filling roster spots.

“”We want make sure they know they have somewhere to go,”” said Williams, who played two years at Pima Community College and at Michigan State. “”It’s basically going to be a pipeline for the guys before they can get their next contract.””

The team is expected to have a name and a head coach by Aug. 4, and start its first season in March 2011.

“”Everyone should buckle up and get ready to go because it’s going to be something the Tucson community will thoroughly enjoy,”” Adams said.

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