Ten years ago today, the Oilers were wrapping up their first season away from Houston, playing at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. And thanks to the Steelers, NFL fans in Nashville got their team a year early.
The TENNESSEAN explains how Pittsburgh fans helped convince Oilers owner Bud Adams to relocate to the Music City sooner than expected. The 1997 season saw small crowds turn out in Memphis for pro football - even though (or maybe because) the stop was only temporary.
Attendance averaged less than 30,000 per game - reaching a low of just over 17,000 for a battle against the Bengals. However, in the final home game of the season, the Liberty Bowl was tolling with over 50,000 fans. Unfortunately, most were wearing black & gold.
Former safety Marcus Robertson recalls, “As soon as we walked out for warm-ups, you would have thought it was a home game for Pittsburgh. That’s all I remember, there were a bunch of Pittsburgh jerseys out there. That was just very disappointing.”
The spectacle was enough for Adams, who moved the team to Nashville the following year - even without his brand-new stadium finished. The Oilers spent 1998 at Vanderbilt Stadium, before changing their address to Adelphia Coliseum, and changing their names to the Titans.
We’re sure the folks of Houston felt real sorry for poor ol’ Bud.