Anaheim’s Arena Football franchise began building its front office and coaching staff Tuesday, naming former Ram Rich Saul as vice president of football operations and retaining Babe Parilli as head coach.
Orange County landed its first Arena franchise last week when the league’s board of directors approved the sale of the Las Vegas Sting to a 10-member county investment group. The group paid more than $1 million for the Sting, one of 13 franchises in the 9-year-old league.
The team, which will unveil its logo and nickname in November, will play seven regular-season and two exhibition home games at The Pond of Anaheim, beginning in May.
The Anaheim group, which includes former Irvine Mayor David Baker and sports promoter Roy Englebrecht, interviewed Parilli for the job last week.
Parilli, a former backup to quarterback Joe Namath on the New York Jets’ 1969 Super Bowl championship team, will start his eighth season as an Arena coach.
Saul, an All-Pro center with the Rams, hopes to build a local following for the team, which, he said, the Rams failed to do in Orange County.
“I’m excited about this,” Saul said. “Jack Youngblood is involved with the Arena team in Orlando, and he called and said he’s having a ball with it down there.”
Saul said the team will hold several tryouts and hopes to attract local talent.
One of the top candidates: quarterback Danny O’Neil, who led Oregon to the Rose Bowl last year. Anaheim already has contacted O’Neil, a former Mater Dei High standout who bypassed the NFL to become a youth pastor at Calvary Chapel.
Saul was among several former Rams who submitted suggestions for coaches and other personnel for Anaheim.
Among the suggestions: former Ram center Doug Smith, Bud Carson and, in a case of twisted humor, Ram President John Shaw.
The Las Vegas franchise went on sale after losing $1 million in each of the last two seasons.
The Sting played its inaugural season at the MGM Gardens and second year at the Thomas & Mack Center. It finished 6-6 last season but was last in attendance, averaging 5,223 a game.
Anaheim is the second Arena team to take a stab at the Southland market. The Los Angeles Cobras played the 1988 season in the Sports Arena, but folded after one season.
Arena Football is played on a 50-yard field, mainly in basketball and hockey arenas, and is known for its high-scoring games. The eight-player teams are given four downs to score, and punting is illegal.