Tampa's football franchise, the Buccaneers, competes in the National Football Conference South division. The club joined the NFL in 1976 as an expansion team and they are the first post-merger expansion team to win a division championship, a playoff game, and to host and play in a conference championship game, all in 1979.
The Tampa Bay expansion was awarded to Hugh Culverhouse, a wealthy tax attorney from Jacksonville after he accused the NFL of conspiracy for preventing his purchase of the Rams. He had originally made a handshake deal for the purchase of the Rams from the estate of Dan Reeves, but Robert Isray ended up with the team and traded them to Carroll Rosenbloom in exchange for the Baltimore Colts. After this, Culverhouse filed antitrust lawsuits and was given priority in the NFL expansion as part of a settlement with the league.
The Buccaneers got their name through a name-the-team contest. The winning name is a reference to the mythical Florida pirate, José Gaspar, who is the inspiration for Tampa's Gasparilla Pirate Festival. Both the uniforms and "Bucco Bruce" winking pirate logo were designed by Lamar Sparkman, a Tampa Tribune artist who drew inspiration from the four major college teams of the time: orange from the universities of Miami and Florida and red from Florida State and the University of Tampa. They were one of the few teams to wear white home uniforms, forcing opponents to wear their warmer dark uniforms in Tampa's afternoon heat.
The Buccaneers were off to a rough start and didn't win a game until their second season. However, by 1979 things were looking up for Tampa. With a power-house team consisting of Doug Williams, Jimmie Giles, Ricky Bell and Lee Roy Selmon they won their first five games and landed the cover of Sports Illustrated. Although they didn't make it to the playoffs they had the first winning season in franchise history with a 10-6 record.
Led by the league's top defense, the 2002 campaign was the Buccaneers' most successful season to date. Linebacker Derrick Brooks was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. They won the NFC South title with the team's best-ever record, 12–4, and scored more points in two playoff wins over the 49ers and Eagles than in Bucs playoff history combined. The Bucs then went on to rout Gruden's former team, the Raiders, who had the league's number one offense, by a score of 48–21 in Super Bowl XXXVII, nicknamed 'The Pirate Bowl'.
Cover image by arctic_whirlwind on Flickr is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.