In 2001, 18 franchises spanning across the United States joined together to form the National Indoor Football League (NIFL). A mix of former teams from the now defunct Indoor Professional Football League (IPFL) and Indoor Football League (IFL) along with eight markets brand new to the indoor football ranks joined together with a vision to provide an alternative to other leagues, building upon providing inexpensive family entertainment and quality football action for their communities.
The inaugural member teams of the NIFL in 2001 included:
Billings Outlaws (Billings, MT)
Johnstown J-Dogs (Johnstown, PA)
Lake Charles LandSharks (Lake Charles, LA)
Louisiana Bayou Beasts (Monroe, LA)
Louisiana Rangers (Alexandria, LA)
Mississippi Fire Dogs (Biloxi, MS)
Mobile Seagulls (Mobile, AL)
Ohio Valley Greyhounds (Wheeling, WV)
Rapid City Red Dogs (Rapid City, SD)
River Cities Locomotives (Huntington, WV)
Sioux City Bandits (Sioux City, IA)
Sioux Falls Storm (Sioux Falls, SD)
Southern Oregon Heat (Medford, OR)
Tri City Diesel (Kearney, NE)
Tupelo FireAnts (Tupelo, MS)
Utah Rattlers (Orem, UT)
Wyoming Cavalry (Casper, WY)
Yakima Shockwave (Yakima, WA)
The NIFL played their first game in league history on Wednesday, March 28, 2001 in Medford, Oregon at the Jackson County Expo Center as the visiting Yakima Shockwave defeated the Southern Oregon Heat, 27-21. The league played 16 weeks of regular season football, with eight teams entering post season play.
Pacific Conference playoff berths were earned by the Sioux Falls Storm, Rapid City Red Dogs, Utah Rattlers, and Wyoming Cavalry. In the Atlantic Conference, the Lake Charles LandSharks, Ohio Valley Greyhounds, Johnstown J-Dogs, and Mississippi Fire Dogs rounded out playoff bound teams. After two rounds of playoff action, the 2001 Pacific Conference Championship came down to Sioux Falls and Wyoming, with the Cavalry coming out on top, 37-31. The 2001 Atlantic Conference Championship was a battle between the Ohio Valley Greyhounds and Mississippi Fire Dogs, with the Fire Dogs winning 40-35.
The first league championship, dubbed Indoor Bowl I was captured by the Mississippi Fire Dogs after they defeated the Wyoming Cavalry 55-21 in Biloxi at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum on August 4, 2001.
The NIFL continued expansion and development in 2002. The league jumped from 18 to 21 teams, gaining ten new franchises: Austin Knights (Austin, TX), Bismarck Roughriders (Bismarck, ND) Tennessee ThunderCats (Knoxville, TN), Oklahoma Crude (Enid, OK), Omaha Beef (Omaha, NE), Winston-Salem Energy (Winston-Salem, NC), LaCrosse Night Train (LaCrosse, WI), Houma Bayou Bucks (Houma, LA), Lincoln Capitols (Lincoln, NE), and the River City Renegades (St. Charles, MO).
The NIFL kicked off their second season on March 9, 2002 as the visiting Sioux Falls Storm defeated the Bismarck Roughriders, 48-20. The league enjoyed 18 weeks of football in 2002, with four teams from the Pacific and four more from the Atlantic Conference advancing into the post season.
Pacific Conference playoff berths were earned by the Omaha Beef, Bismarck Roughriders, Billings Outlaws, and Lincoln Capitols. Teams advancing in the Atlantic Conference included the Tennessee ThunderCats, Lake Charles LandSharks, Louisiana Rangers, and Ohio Valley Greyhounds. After two rounds of playoff action, the 2002 Pacific Conference Championship was a close contest with the Billings Outlaws defeating the Bismarck Rough Riders, 59-56. In the Atlantic, the conference championship placed the Tennessee ThunderCats against the Ohio Valley Greyhounds, with the Greyhounds winning on home turf, 45-24.
Indoor Bowl II was a barnburner as the Billings Outlaws took on the Ohio Valley Greyhounds in Wheeling, WV on Saturday, August 3, 2002. The Greyhounds came away with the close win, defeating the Outlaws 55-52 at the Wheeling Civic Center to claim the 2002 NIFL Championship.
In 2003, the NIFL expanded from 21 to 24 teams. There were teams moving to new cities and name changes prior to the start of the season. The Louisiana Rangers relocated to Beaumont, Texas and took on the new moniker of Drillers. Three teams changed their names, as the Austin Knights became the Austin Rockers, the Tennessee ThunderCats became the Tennessee RiverHawks, and the River City Renegades became the Show Me Believers. The league also saw further expansion with five new teams entering the lineup for 2003. These teams included the Utah Warriors (West Valley City, UT), Evansville BlueCats (Evansville, IN), Fort Wayne Freedom (Fort Wayne, IN), Lexington Horsemen (Lexington, KY), and Myrtle Beach Stingrays (Myrtle Beach, SC).
The NIFL opened their third season of play on Friday, March 14, 2003 as visiting Sioux City Bandits lost against the LaCrosse Night Train, 46-21 in Wisconsin. The season spanned 17 weeks of regular season action with eight teams advancing into the playoffs.
In the Pacific Conference, the Bismarck Roughriders, Omaha Beef, Sioux Falls Storm, and Utah Warriors gained playoff berths while in the Atlantic Conference, the Lexington Horsemen, Ohio Valley Greyhounds, Houma Bayou Bucks, and Lake Charles LandSharks advanced. After two rounds, the Utah Warriors claimed the 2003 Pacific Conference Championship, defeating the Omaha Beef, 62-51. The 2003 Atlantic Conference Championship pitted the Lake Charles LandSharks against the Ohio Valley Greyhounds. Ohio Valley won the close game, 43-41, winning the Atlantic Conference, as they went on to defend their title.
Indoor Bowl III took place on Saturday, August 2, 2003 as the Utah Warriors traveled to Wheeling, WV to take on the Ohio Valley Greyhounds. The Greyhounds would go on to win their second consecutive NIFL Championship after defeating the Warriors, 45-37 at the Wheeling Civic Center.
The NIFL will kick off their fourth season of operation in March 2004.
More Historical Information:
NIFL Past Season Standings