A few weeks ago, I was reading an article about a XFL game, and it mentioned that it was the worse scoring game since 1990 when the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks had a bad game. I was reading this line and that’s when it hit me, who the hell are the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks?
I’ve lived most of my life in the Raleigh area of North Carolina. I was here in the late 80s and early 90’s, and then returned in the mid 2000’s. I’ve spent a lot of time researching old history like the forgotten NASCAR tracks and defunct arena football teams, but never have I seen the name Skyhawks. So, who exactly were they?
Well, the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks were part of the World League of American Football, which I knew about thanks to collecting random World League cards that would come in NFL trading card packs in the early 90’s. The WLAF and later NFL Europe, was an attempt at a developmental minor league football league that would help spread the sport to European countries. The league began with ten teams, six of them were in the United States, one in Canada, and three in Europe. It ran for two seasons, but the American cities did not embrace the new league like the European cities did, so they shuttered the league and relaunched as a strictly European league.
The league has a much longer and more complex history, so if that’s your thing, please go check out the Wikipedia.
One of the teams announced for the opening season in 1990 was the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks. They played at Carter Finley Stadium, home of the NC State Wolfpack, which complicated things. Since the football stadium is “on campus,” (in reality, it’s nowhere near the campus) they couldn’t sell beer. The team averaged 12,066 fans per game and ended up folding after the first season which saw them finish with a 0-10 record.
The team was owned by the then-Charotte Hornet’s owner George Shinn, and the team was coached by former NFL player Roman Gabriel, who was also an NC State alumnus.
The name was chosen by the citizens of Raleigh and the logo featured three jet-trails and three planes in flight, as well as utilizing a triangle to represent the Research Triangle of (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill.) The cheerleaders were called the Kittyhawks.
The Research Triangle is college basketball country. Even now, thirty years later, this area does not support sports team unless they are winning. It’s also an area made up of many transplants, which have their own team allegiances that don’t extend to the local teams. I’m pretty sure this is why all of our professional teams, with exception to the Carolina Hurricanes, play in Charlotte, and not in Raleigh.
If you are interested in seeing what the WLAF looked like, there are quite a few games on YouTube. I’ve posted some links below.