Arena Football : Ray Willsey Will Coach L.A.’s Cobras

Times Staff Writer

The new Los Angeles team in the Arena Football League got a coach and a nickname Wednesday.

Ray Willsey, former Raider assistant, was named head coach and director of football operations of the team that was dubbed the Cobras at a Sports Arena press conference.

The league is putting new teams in Detroit, Providence, R.I., and New York, as well as Los Angeles as it expands from four to six teams. Chicago and Pittsburgh are holdover teams from last season. Denver and Washington have dropped out.


The Cobras will play six home games at the Sports Arena, opening there April 30 against the New York Knights.

Willsey, 57, had been a Raider assistant for 10 years but his contract was not renewed after last season. Willsey was coach at the University of California from 1964 through 1971, and he also was an assistant with the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Redskins.

“Hopefully, this will be my last coaching position,” said Willsey, who last season was the Raiders’ special teams coach.

“The game is a little different but it is well thought out. I did not know much about the league a couple of months ago but after looking into it, I concluded, ‘Why shouldn’t I be interested?’ ”

The league does not have a national player draft but it has a regional territorial format and the Cobras have exclusive territorial rights to eligible Southern California college players.

The Cobras will hold a free-agent tryout camp at El Camino College March 29, registration beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the North Athletic Field.

Arena Football, which has a five-year television contract with ESPN, is played indoors on a field 50 yards by 85 feet. It has eight players playing both offense and defense, instead of offensive and defensive specialists. Quarterbacks and kickers are exceptions.

Each team is allowed to keep 18 players on a roster with a three-man taxi squad.