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Copyright 2017 News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)


The expansion franchise in the year-old National Arena League was introduced at a news conference this afternoon. Terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

GREENSBORO - Do you like irony?

Billy Back is the new coach of the expansion Carolina Cobras. That's the National Arena League football franchise introduced Monday afternoon at a news conference on the arena floor of its new home, the Greensboro Coliseum.

And the Cobras coach hates snakes.

"Yeah," Back said uneasily, "anything that doesn't have arms and legs and crawls around? I'm terrified of snakes. I'm good with spiders. But snakes? Snakes just, just aren't human. To me, (a cobra) is a fierce reptile. I wouldn't mess with that. No way."

Back and his Cobras are part of a four-team expansion of the National Arena League, which played its first season last spring.

Terms of the deal involving the Greensboro Coliseum Complex and the National Arena League or the franchise were not disclosed.

An eight-team league in its inaugural season, the NAL shed four members in July and is adding expansion teams in Greensboro, Portland (Maine), Trenton (N.J.) and Worcester (Mass.).

Returning franchises include the defending champion Jacksonville (Fla.) Sharks, Columbus (Ga.) Lions and the Lehigh Valley (Bethlehem, Pa.) Steelhawks.

A fourth team, the Monterrey (Mexico) Steel could return, but that's uncertain, said Jeff Bouchy, the owner of the Jacksonville Sharks and the league's expansion chairman.

"Right now we have seven teams," Bouchy said. "Mexico has not said if they're in or out. They have until this week, basically. If we can get them, we'd love to have them. But there's definitely a Plan B."

Bouchy didn't elaborate on the backup plan. But Greensboro's team is scheduled to begin its first season in April.

The team has signed a handful of players, Back said, including quarterback Charles McCullum, the Indoor Football League's 2016 MVP, and all-league wide receiver Jordan Jolly.

The Cobras nickname is a throwback to the Carolina Cobras team that played in the Arena Football League in Raleigh from 2000 through 2003 and in Charlotte in 2004. That team folded when the NBA awarded Charlotte the Bobcats.

This is the Greensboro Coliseum's third try at football indoors. The Greensboro Prowlers went 20-44 in four seasons in the Arenafootball2 league from 2000 through 2003. The Greensboro Revolution folded after going 12-12 in the National Indoor Football League in 2006 and '07.

What makes this league different?

"The first year, we inherited some stuff we didn't like," Bouchy said. "We had to play, get through it and fix everything this year. We've fixed it. We got rid of any dead weight. ... I've been doing this 15 years, and we knew the direction we had to go. We just have to play this year, then everyone will see what we're doing."

Back played arena football in the defunct NIFL. He became a coach in 2009 and has gone 82-27 in four cities in three leagues since then, winning four championships.

"I've been around a bunch of alphabet leagues," Back said. "But this league is the National Arena League, and it's about professionalism. This expansion process has been very professional. They've got clear goals for the future.

"It's not a one-year wonder. They have a criteria for ownership, and they're transparent about it. They don't want credit-card millionaires. They want guys who can fund a team and be successful, instead of going someplace for a year or two and then folding."

Other indoor football leagues have courted Greensboro, coliseum managing director Matt Brown said, but have been spurned.

"We have some stability requirements," Brown said. "What's the bonding capability? What are you prepared to do? You ask those questions, and a lot of people are like deer in headlights. They want to take advantage of our venue but (offer) no stability."

The Cobras will be owned by National Sports Ventures, a group led by Atlanta businessman Richard Maslia.

The team will fill a void at the coliseum. Its seven home games come during a quiet stretch for the building, after NCAA basketball has ended.

"The recipe is there," Brown said. "They have a very engaged ownership. They have a formula for selling tickets. ... And the coach, that guy is a proven winner.

"I think our community has to be convinced. If you win and you score a lot of points, I think people will come. It may be the right timing to catch on."

Contact Jeff Mills at (336) 373-7024, and follow @JeffMillsNR on Twitter.

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What: Expansion football team in the National Arena League

Where: Home games played in the Greensboro Coliseum's main arena

When: Inaugural season ran from March through June; 2018 schedule to be released later this month


Season tickets: Packages from $99 to $480, online or call 336-455-7232

December 5, 2017


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