The "Racine Bowl" is just around the corner.
The MidStates Football League announced Tuesday that the Racine Raiders will be among two teams it is accepting for the 2010 season.
Which means not only will a much-anticipated matchup between the Raiders and the defending MSFL champion Racine Threat become a reality this season, it could be the start of a long-standing annual rivalry.
Because of budget concerns stemming from a sharp decline in attendance last season, the Raiders were forced to leave the North American Football League. Membership in that league requires several cost-prohibitive road trips each season, which the Raiders were finding increasingly difficult to cover as average attendance dipped to less than 1,000 last season.
Had the Raiders defeated the St. Paul Pioneers in a quarterfinal game Oct. 24, they would have had to scramble to finance a trip to Washington for the semifinals and to Florida, if they would have advanced to the NAFL championship game. Raiders general manager Bob Marcado said neither trip would have been possible without significant outside donations and team members helping defray the expense.
Joining the MSFL, which increases to 16 teams with the addition of the Raiders and Roscoe (Ill.) Rush, will help solve this issue since most teams in the league are based in Illinois.
"We just can't afford to be in the league we were in," said 71-year-old Bob Milkie, who succeeded Joe Mooney as Raiders president last Wednesday. "You can't make a commitment at the end of the year to go to Florida and play in the championship when the money isn't there.
"What you're doing is jeopardizing the Racine Raiders to become non-existent, just like other teams that have put themselves in that position and folded."
The Raiders now find themselves in a position to start a
rivalry with Threat. Erik Olson, a team owner, is looking forward to the challenge.
"Are that beatable?" Olson said. "Well, of course. We were always overshadowed by them because they were this high marquee team and we were just starting out. Over the years, the demographic of the game and the teams and the players changed that."