Friday, February 08, 2008
Eagles take season off to rebuild
|Eagles take season off to rebuild|
|BY MARK COONS|
The Scranton Eagles, a longtime fixture in the area, have been granted a one-year leave of absence from the Empire Football League, the league announced Monday.
"We decided to take a leave of absence in order to rebuild the organization to get it back to where it was during our glory years," team president George Romiti said.
This past season, the Eagles posted a 3-8 record, losing to the Ottawa Bootleggers, 45-3, in the first round of the EFL playoffs.
"This past year, in particular, was a struggle," Romiti said. "Over the last few years, myself, (former quarterback) John Kennedy and (2007 head coach) Mike Arcure would put money into the team with the hope that we would be repaid. Unfortunately, we never got our money back. It gets to a point where your can put in so much your own money into it. Obviously, we have to take care of our families as well."
The Eagles trace their roots back to 1971, when the Lackawanna County Eagles joined the EFL. Success came early for the team as the Eagles won the league title in their first season. The following year they lost in the championship game. After that season, several EFL franchises, including the Eagles, joined the Seaboard Football League.
The Eagles lasted a season and a half in the SFL before folding midway through the 1974 season due to poor attendance.
Spearheaded by former L.C. Eagles quarterback John Rogan, the Scranton Eagles were born in 1982 and like their predecessor, found a streak of good luck that lasted for a decade.
The Eagles won Empire Football League titles each of their first three seasons, culminating with a 21-6 victory over the Racine Gladiators to capture the Minor Professional Football Association National Championship in 1984 at Scranton Memorial Stadium.
The local team continued to be successful on the field, playing in the EFL championship game each year from 1986 to 1994, winning six titles in that span.
"Successful teams usually have at least one of two things," Kennedy said. "They either have a rich owner with deep pockets and are willing to take a loss in the team or you have a lot of former players around who a lot of pride in the team."
The Eagles added a pair of national championships during this time, winning the American Football Association championship in 1989 and the Minor League Football Alliance crown in 1990.
It was also during this time that attendance at Eagles' games began to suffer.
"I trace it back to when the Red Barons came, then the Penguins and Pioneers coming. They were taking a lot of our fan base away," Romiti said.
The Eagles continued to compete in the Empire Football League, winning their last championship in 1999.
Among the struggles that dogged the Eagles this past season included travel costs.
Last offseason, the local team's two closest rivals, the Broome County Dragons and the Tri-State Bulldogs from Suffern, N.Y., were not on the league's schedule. The Dragons took a leave of absence from the EFL and the Bulldogs moved to another league. The closest team to Scranton was Amsterdam, N.Y., which is 189 miles away.
According to Romiti, renting a bus costs the team as much as $5,200.
"We put over 3,000 miles traveling to away games this past season," Romiti said. "The last few weeks, we canceled the buses and players paid for their own gas and drove to games."
Additional expenses are an $1,800 per-game stadium rental, $650 for game officials, not to mention costs for announcers and people to work the chains. The team also gave the water boys a small stipend for their efforts.
"It takes about $35,000 a year to run the team," Romiti said. "And that is without paying coaches."
Romiti said the coaches can be paid by the team, but the players are not allowed by EFL rules to draw a salary.
With the announcement, Romiti said he is retiring as an active player.
A former West Scranton standout, Romiti played linebacker for the Eagles for the past 12 seasons, was named all-EFL seven times and won the league's defensive player of the year award each of the past two seasons.
"I'm going to miss playing," the 46-year-old Romiti said. "I still have my workout routine just as if I was still getting ready for the season."
Kennedy said that many former players and coaches have decided to create an alumni association to help the team get back on it's feet.
"If the alumni gets involved and is willing to go out and talk to businesses and movers and shakers about town, the process of rebuilding the Eagles could begin," Kennedy said.
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A state Supreme Court judge has ordered Sports Partners Inc. to show cause why a preliminary injunction should not be entered against it preventing the company's semipro football team from using the name Red & Black.
Greater Watertown Red & Black Inc., which bills itself as the "original" Red & Black, filed suit Jan. 31 against Sports Partners and its general manager, Thomas J. Shultz, claiming the company is misrepresenting its affiliation with the team and creating confusion among players, fans and sponsors as to who owns the right to field a team named Red & Black.
Judge Hugh A. Gilbert has now ordered Sports Partners to submit papers Feb. 28 showing why it has a claim to the name. Neither side needs to appear in court that day.
According to court documents filed Tuesday at the Jefferson County Clerk's office, Judge Gilbert made his ruling after reviewing affidavits supporting a temporary injunction submitted by James A. Burrows, a Watertown attorney representing Red & Black Inc.; George Ashcraft, its coach; David E. Burch, commissioner of the Empire Football League; and Samuel S. Verbeck Jr., a team trainer.
Red & Black Inc. is also seeking a permanent injunction against Sports Partners in an attempt to prevent the company from using the name it has operated under since its inception in 1896.
Ashcraft states in his affidavit that he held "preliminary discussions" with Shultz either in late 2006 or early 2007 about a potential partnership in which Sports Partners "might possibly" assist Red & Black Inc. with some of the team's routine fundraising and business activities.
"The discussions were preliminary and no formal agreement was ever reached," Ashcraft wrote. "The Corporate Board for Red & Black Football did not ever consider, nor adopt, any corporate resolution to contract with Sports Partners or Thomas J. Shultz."
He adds no rights or assets were transferred by Red & Black Inc. to Sports Partners and that no money was paid to the team by the company.
Mr. Shultz claimed Wednesday he came away from the discussions with an agreement with Ashcraft to transfer the team's ownership to Sports Partners. He said Ashcraft was present when he incorporated Sports Partners and when he filed a document stating the company would be doing business as Watertown Red & Black Football.
"Why did he shake hands and say we had a deal?" Shultz said. "I just want them to honor the deal."
Watertown attorney David A. Renzi assisted Shultz in setting up his corporation and said Ashcraft was present during these discussions, but said Ashcraft represented "just one member of a board for a not-for-proft organization" and "there was no authorization for George to do anything."
"Initially, they wanted to work together to better the program and maybe reorganize the program, but it fell apart very quickly thereafter," Renzi said.
Shultz said the matter is complicated over the question of whether the assets of a nonprofit organization can legally be transferred to a for-profit corporation. He described the matter as being in "legal limbo."
"A judge may say, 'Yes, Tom, you can operate the team,' or 'No, Tom, you can't operate the team,' but either way, I'll field a team next year," he said.
Sports Partners has received approval from the Northeastern Football Alliance to compete in its 15-team league using the name Watertown Red & Black. The original Red & Black plays in the Empire Football League.
Burch, commissioner of the EFL, said in an affidavit that Shultz's claim to the Red & Black name has "created a great deal of confusion and uncertainty in regard to the ownership and operation of the team," specifically as to which entity the league should be communicating with in regard to the team, its programs and schedules, both during the 2007 season and the upcoming season.
He said he has been "informed" that neither Sports Partners nor Shultz are the owners or operators of Red & Black and that "the organizational structure of Red & Black Football remains intact." However, he said information on Sports Partners Web site continues to "create confusion" for the upcoming 2008 football season.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Empire Football League Press Release February 04, 2008
Empire Football League Press Release February 04, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Empire Football League held its 39th Annual Meeting recently in
The EFL season starts July 12th, has a bye September 1st and ends September 20th. The EFL Playoffs will take place on September 27th and will conclude with the EFL Championship Game on October 4th.
The Empire Football League, in its 40th season of playing football, will be celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2009.
2008 Empire Football League Officers were elected as follows:
- Dave Burch, EFL Commissioner
- Bill Higgins, Commissioner of Officials
- Gary Shaver, Treasurer/Deputy Commissioner
- Al Dole, Rules Committee Chairman/Deputy Commissioner
- Jane Dole, Secretary
For additional information visit our EFL web site at www.empire-football-league.com
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Red & Black files lawsuit CASE GOES TO JUDGE: Football team sues Shultz over rig
The "original" Watertown Red & Black has gone on offense in an attempt to protect the name the semipro football team has used since its inception in 1896.
Greater Watertown Red & Black Inc. kicked off a state Supreme Court lawsuit Thursday at the Jefferson County clerk's office against Sports Partners Inc., which is claiming it owns the team and the rights to use its name.
The suit also names Thomas J. Shultz, general manager of Sports Partners and owner of Re-Sale America, 302 Court St., who claims he purchased the team and has a contract to prove it. Red & Black Inc. denies in court documents that any contract exists, stating Sports Partners never purchased the assets of the team nor the right to use its name or logo.
Red & Black Inc. claims Sports Partners has no football program nor facilities upon which to play football, yet is representing itself to the public as having plans to make a variety of personnel, equipment and venue changes for the team. It also is soliciting funds from the public and has attempted to sell season tickets as the Red & Black, it is alleged.
Red & Black Inc. claims the representations are misleading and creating confusion for potential donors and fans who believe the two entities are the same team.
The original team is asking a judge to order Sports Partners to stop using the Red & Black name or its logo to solicit money; to not sell products, equipment or tickets under the team name; and to not advertise or otherwise represent any affiliation with the Red & Black.
The suit was brought on Red & Black Inc.'s behalf by its president, Robert C. Freeman III. The team is represented by Watertown attorney James A. Burrows.
Shultz has received approval from the Northeastern Football Alliance to compete in its 15-team league using the name Watertown Red & Black. The original Red & Black plays in the Empire Football League.