Bucs and Seahawks joined NFL in '76

Tampa and Seattle awarded NFL's 27th and 28th franchises in 1974

The popularity of professional football rose significantly throughout the 1960s and 1970s.  So much so, that early in the 1970s, the National Football League announced plans to expand from 26 to 28 teams.  Several cities announced their interest in joining the expanding NFL.  Commissioner Pete Rozelle explained that the list would first be narrowed based on such criteria as "stadium, weather, sports interest, and growth potential."

By the spring of 1974, the list of expansion hopefuls that once had also included cities such as Indianapolis and Jacksonville was narrowed to five cities – Honolulu, Memphis, Phoenix, Seattle, and Tampa. 

That group was thinned to four on April 24, 1974 when the NFL owners awarded Tampa, Florida the 27th franchise.  Less than two months later, on June 4, the owners welcomed Seattle into the league.  The search for ownership for the two new franchises ended six months later on December 4 when Hugh Culverhouse (Tampa) and Lloyd W. Nordstrom (Seattle) signed franchise agreements that formally granted them the new teams.   Each paid a then-record $16 million entry fee (Related Story: History of NFL expansion fees).  The expansion plan called for the two new entries to begin play in 1976.  Nordstrom died on January 20, 1976, while on vacation, and never saw his team take the field.

An expansion draft was held on March 30-31, 1976 with both teams selecting 39 players from each of the existing NFL teams.  (Related Story: 1976 Expansion Draft ).  On April 8, the new franchises continued their player stockpiling, choosing alternately either first or second in each round of the annual college draft.  Tampa Bay and Seattle also received additional choices at the end of the second, third, fourth, and fifth rounds. 

Lee Roy Selmon The Bucs shunned several trade offers for an experienced quarterback in exchange for the first pick overall.  Instead, the Buccaneers used the first pick on future Hall of Fame defensive end Lee Roy Selmon (left) from Oklahoma.  In the second round, they added running back Jimmy Dubose and Selmon's brother Dewey, a linebacker.

Seattle, under the direction of coach Jack Patera, went the defensive route.  After selecting several veteran defensive players in the expansion draft, the Seahawks used their first pick on Notre Dame defensive end Steve Niehaus. 

Steve LargentPerhaps the most significant addition to the Seahawks roster, however, came via a trade in late August with the Houston Oilers.  That trade landed future Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent   (right) in exchange for an 8th round pick in the 1977 NFL Draft.

The first on-field meeting between the two new teams, dubbed the "Expansion Bowl" came on October 17, 1976 when the Seahawks eked out a 13-10 win over the Buccaneers in Tampa.  The loss for Tampa Bay was just one of an NFL-record string of 26 straight defeats that the team suffered during their first two seasons. Meanwhile, the Seahawks steadily improved from their 2-12 record in 1976 to a 9-7 in 1979. By that year, the Buccaneers had been steered in the right direction as they claimed the NFC Central Division title with a 10-6 record and advanced all the way to the NFC championship game.

 Photo Galleries: 1976 Buccaneers | 1976 Seahawks

 Seattle Seahawks Team History

 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team History