West Virginia Roughriders

The West Virginia Roughriders are a professional indoor football team based in Wheeling, West Virginia. They were founded in 2016 as the Richmond Roughriders and played at the Richmond Coliseum in 2017 and 2018.

West Virginia Roughriders
Established 2016
Play in Wheeling, West Virginia
at the WesBanco Arena
West Virginia Roughriders Logo.png
League/conference affiliations
Team colorsBlack, lime green, silver, white
Owner(s)Gregg Fornario
Mike Kacor
Jim Jones
General managerMarty Medovic
Head coachMook Zimmerman
Team history
  • Richmond Roughriders (2017–2018)
  • West Virginia Roughriders (2019–present)
League championships (2)
  • APF: 2017
  • AAL: 2019
Conference championships (0)
Division championships (1)
  • AAL Northern: 2019
Playoff appearances (3)
  • APF: 2017
  • AAL: 2018, 2019
Home arena(s)

They were members the Arena Pro Football (APF) league in 2017. The Roughriders initially announced they were joining the National Arena League (NAL) for the 2018 season but then later joined the American Arena League (AAL). After the one season in the AAL, the owner announced he was creating his own league, Professional Arena Football, and left the AAL but the new league never gained traction and the team returned to the AAL. Concurrently, the Roughriders also moved to Wheeling due to arena issues in Richmond.[1] They again announced they were not returning to the AAL for the 2020 season and joined the NAL two years after initially backing out. However, the 2020 season was cancelled due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team opted to go dormant for the 2021 season, and then left the NAL prior to the 2022 season.


Richmond Roughriders (2017–2018)Edit

The Roughriders were first formed in October 2016 as members of Arena Pro Football's inaugural season.[2] The team would go undefeated in the 2017 season in the unstable APF. The Roughriders defeated the Florida Tarpons 71–61 to capture the APF's only championship.[3]

At the end of the first season, the APF was announced to have merged with the Can-Am Indoor Football League for the 2018 season to create the American Arena League (AAL). The new league initially announced the Roughriders as members in the league,[4] but ownership claimed they were still exploring their options and never committed to the AAL.[5] On July 20, 2017, the National Arena League announced it had conditionally approved a team from Richmond as members for the 2018 season[6] with the Roughriders confirming that they were finalizing their NAL expansion requirements.[7] However, on September 13, 2017, the team announced that they were instead joining the American Arena League citing that the AAL would be a better fit for them.[8]

In December 2017, rapper Jim Jones became part owner of the team along with the original owners Gregg Fornario and Mike Kacor.[9] Jones immediately made the news by publicly offering the then-currently unemployed and controversial former NFL quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Johnny Manziel a position on the team.[10] On January 26, 2018, the team announced the signing of controversial former NFL defensive lineman Greg Hardy.[11] The signing gained significant media attention,[12] mostly criticizing the move in response the on-going Me Too movement, heightened attention to the treatment of women, and Hardy's 2014 domestic violence charge.[13]

In the 2018 season, the Roughriders continued to have success and went 7–1 for the season and first-place finish, only losing to the Georgia Doom. After the Atlanta Havoc lost their final game of the season, also to the Doom, the Roughriders earned home field advantage for the playoffs. They defeated the Carolina Energy 57–43 in a semifinal game before facing the Havoc. The Roughriders led the game through the first half, but the Havoc came back to win the inaugural AAL championship game 58–50. After the end of the season, the Roughriders home, the Richmond Coliseum, was scheduled for demolition and to be replaced by a new venue. The team claimed any new arena would be priced out of their affordability and the Roughriders could not return to Richmond for a 2019 season. Majority owner and general manager Gregg Fornario stated they were looking into venues in Hershey, Reading, and Wilkes-Barre in Pennsylvania, Norfolk in Virginia, and Atlantic City in New Jersey.[14][15]

West Virginia Roughriders (2019–2021)Edit

On August 15, 2018, Roughriders' owner Gregg Fornario announced his intentions of creating a new league called Northern Arena Football (NAF).[16] His Roughriders team was not initially planning on leaving the AAL with the NAF only having teams north of the Maryland-Pennsylvania border.[17] However, by August 28, Fornario had rebranded the new league as Professional Arena Football (PAF) with multiple divisions, Northern Arena Football and Southern Arena Football,[18] and the Roughriders were announced as part of Professional Arena Football on August 30, leaving the AAL.[19] The league was also announced to have the New England Cavalry and Marion Mambas as members.[20] By November 2018, no new teams had been accepted by the PAF and Fornario decided to not launch the league in 2019.

After the loss of the Richmond Coliseum, the Roughriders also settled on a lease to use WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, West Virginia, becoming the West Virginia Roughriders.[21] However, Fornario's plans to launch the new league fell through and the team rejoined the AAL for the 2019 season as part of a new Northern Division.[22] The Northern Division consisted of the Burgh Defenders, Jersey Flight, and New England Bobcats. The Flight nearly folded at the start of the season and delayed their season starting date, the Bobcats folded midseason, and the Defenders lost their arena, leading to the Roughriders playing eight of their ten games at home. The team then went undefeated for a 10–0 record and eight wins against AAL opponents. They defeated the Flight in the divisional playoff championship before facing the West Michigan Ironmen, the Midwest Division champion. The Roughriders then advanced to their third straight league championship game, again at home, and beat the Carolina Energy 55–29 to win their first AAL championship.

Following the season, Fornario again announced he was removing the Roughriders from the AAL due to differences with league operations.[23] On October 24, 2019, the Roughriders were official added to the National Arena League (NAL), two years after Fornario had decided to join the AAL instead of the NAL.[24] The 2020 NAL was then cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and head coach Mook Zimmerman decided to retire in August 2020.[25] At the end of the month, team owner Fornario announced the team was for sale.[26] On October 30, 2020, the NAL announced the Roughriders would be dormant for at least the 2021 season.[27] By December 2020, Fornario signed an agreement to sell the franchise to HMG Sports,[28] the group that attempted to launch the Baltimore Lightning in the NAL for the 2021 season before having their membership terminated three weeks later for not providing a letter of credit and an arena lease.[29][30] The sale apparently never completed.

In October 2021, Fornario stated that he was disputing terms of the team's membership contract with the NAL.[31] The Roughriders then stated they will not return to the NAL and will look into other options.[32] Fornario tweeted that he was in discussions with selling the team to the ownership group that operated the NAL's Albany Empire led by Ron Trideco to keep the team in the NAL,[33] but were eventually removed from the list of 2022 NAL teams[34][35] and were not included in the schedule.[36]


Season-by-season resultsEdit

As of the 2019 season:

League Champions Division Champions Playoff berth League leader
Season League Division Regular season Postseason results
Finish Wins Losses Ties
2017 APF 1st 4 0 0 Won APF Championship (Tarpons) 74–61
2018 AAL 1st 7 1 0 Won Semifinal (Carolina) 57–43
Lost AAL Championship (Atlanta) 50–58
2019 AAL Northern 1st[a] 10 0 0 Won Division final (Jersey) 57–13
Won Semifinal (West Michigan) 45–6
Won AAL Championship (Carolina) 55–29
2020 NAL Season cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic
Totals 21 1 0 All-time regular season record (2017–2019)
5 1 All-time postseason record (2017–2019)
26 2 0 All-time regular season and postseason record (2017–2019)
  1. ^ The AAL counted all games played by member teams, including games against non-league members, and forfeits in the league standings for the 2019 season.

2017 APF seasonEdit

Week Date Opponent Result Record Game site Notes
1 April 8 Alabama Outlawz W 84–4 1–0 Richmond Coliseum
2 April 15 at River City Raiders W 54–39 2–0 Family Arena
3 April 22 Savannah Coastal Outlaws W 94–14 3–0 Richmond Coliseum
4 April 29 Carolina Cowboys (EIF) W 92–0 Richmond Coliseum Non-league game
5 May 6 Florida Tarpons W 55–34 4–0 Richmond Coliseum
6 Bye
7 May 20 Atlanta Furious (EIF) W 82–14 Richmond Coliseum Non-league game
8 May 27 Triangle Torch (SIF) W 69–40 Richmond Coliseum Non-league game
9 June 10 Florida Tarpons W 74–61 5–0 Richmond Coliseum Championship game

2018 AAL seasonEdit

Week Date Opponent Result Record Game site Notes
1 March 17 at High Country Grizzlies W 34–19 1–0 George M. Holmes Convocation Center
2 Bye
3 March 31 Carolina Energy W 52–38 2–0 Richmond Coliseum
4 April 7 Cape Fear Heroes W 76–32 3–0 Richmond Coliseum
5 April 14 at Florida Tarpons W 58–20 4–0 RP Funding Center
6 April 20 at Jersey Flight W 56–50 5–0 CURE Insurance Arena
7 April 28 New England Cavalry W 61–14 [a] Richmond Coliseum Non-league game
8 May 5 Peach State Cats W 82–22 [a] Richmond Coliseum Non-league game
9 May 12 at Georgia Doom L 44–56 5–1 Macon Coliseum
10 May 19 East Carolina Torch W 68–33 6–1 Richmond Coliseum
11 May 26 Jersey Flight W 74–65 [a] Richmond Coliseum Non-league game
12 June 2 High Country Grizzlies W 70–62 7–1 Richmond Coliseum
13 Bye
June 16 Carolina Energy W 57–43 Richmond Coliseum Semifinal
June 30 Atlanta Havoc L 50–58 Richmond Coliseum Championship game
  1. ^ a b c As only eight league games can count for league standings, at the beginning of the season, AAL team owners chose which games they play against in-league opponents in excess of the eight games that do not count towards their overall league record.

2019 AAL seasonEdit

Week Date Opponent Result Record[a] Game site Notes
1 March 23 Burgh Defenders W 95–18 1–0 WesBanco Arena
2 Bye
3 April 6 at Cape Fear Heroes W 54–15 2–0 Crown Coliseum
4 April 15 High Point Wildcats (EIF) W 51–30 3–0 WesBanco Arena Non-league game
5 April 19 at West Michigan Ironmen W 33–28 4–0 L.C. Walker Arena
6 April 26 New England Bobcats W 41–22 5–0 WesBanco Arena
7 May 4 Burgh Defenders W 74–0 6–0 WesBanco Arena[b]
8 May 11 at New England Bobcats Forfeit win 7–0 Driscoll Arena [c]
9 May 18 Jersey Flight W 53–16 8–0 WesBanco Arena
10 May 27 Capital City Reapers (MAIFL) WesBanco Arena Non-league game[d]
10 May 27 New England Cavalry (NEAL) W 28–24 9–0 WesBanco Arena Non-league game
11 May 31 Carolina Cowboyz W 54–0 10–0 WesBanco Arena
June 8 Jersey Flight W 57–13 WesBanco Arena Division playoff game
June 15 West Michigan Ironmen W 45–6 WesBanco Arena Semifinal playoff game
June 29 Carolina Energy W 55–29 WesBanco Arena Championship game
  1. ^ The AAL counted all games played by member teams, including games against non-league members, in the league standings for the 2019 season.
  2. ^ Originally scheduled as a Defenders home game.
  3. ^ Bobcats folded May 7.
  4. ^ Reapers folded.


  1. ^ "'It was a total honor': Richmond Roughriders find new home in West Virginia". WRIC-TV. September 24, 2018.
  2. ^ "Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report". OurSports Central. October 31, 2016.
  3. ^ "Roughriders Clinch Arena Pro Football Title on Last Play". Richmond Roughriders. June 21, 2017.
  4. ^ Stephen Ur (June 20, 2017). "American Arena League Announces First 10 Teams". InsideTheArena.org.
  5. ^ "Richmond Roughriders mulling over next move after perfect first year". Developmental Football USA. June 20, 2017.
  6. ^ "NAL Announces Teams for 2018 Play - Northeast Bolstered by Expansion". NAL. July 20, 2017.
  7. ^ Brandon Russell (July 21, 2017). "Richmond Roughriders officially announce NAL Expansion". Last Word On Sports.
  8. ^ "American Arena League Adds Third Championship Team". American Arena League. September 13, 2017.
  9. ^ "Jim Jones Now Part Owner of AAL's Richmond Roughriders". American Arena League. December 7, 2017.
  10. ^ "Rapper Jim Jones to Kaepernick, Manziel: Join my arena football team". New York Post. December 7, 2017.
  11. ^ "Richmond Roughriders Announce the Signing of Former Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl Defensive Lineman Greg Hardy". American Arena League. January 26, 2018.
  12. ^ "Richmond Roughriders sign former NFL Pro Bowler Greg Hardy". WTVR-TV. January 26, 2018.
  13. ^ "WOODY: Roughriders decision to sign Greg Hardy completely inappropriate". Richmond Times-Dispatch. January 29, 2018.
  14. ^ "Roughriders likely to leave Richmond; 'Our arena got taken away from us'". Richmond Times-Dispatch. July 19, 2018.
  15. ^ Mark Davis (July 18, 2018). "Roughriders plan to leave Richmond". NBC12.com.
  16. ^ "Northern Arena Football, a new league coming in 2019". ArenaFootballTalk.com. August 15, 2018.
  17. ^ "Roughriders owner looking at Winston-Salem, will open new indoor football league". Richmond Times-Dispatch. August 9, 2018.
  18. ^ "What to Watch For in 2019 Arena Football Season". InsideTheArena.com. August 29, 2018. Archived from the original on August 30, 2018.
  19. ^ "Roughriders Join Professional Arena Football". Facebook.com. August 30, 2018.
  20. ^ "Professional Arena Football website". ProfessionalArenaFootball.com. Archived from the original on September 30, 2018. Retrieved September 30, 2018.
  21. ^ "Richmond Roughriders relocate to West Virginia". WWBT. September 24, 2018.
  22. ^ "Roughriders Return to the American Arena League for 2019". West Virginia Roughriders. December 10, 2018.
  23. ^ "West Virginia Roughriders Not to Return to AAL in 2020". Inside the Arena. August 2, 2019.
  24. ^ "NAL Expands North, West Virginia to Join League in 2020". OurSports Central. October 24, 2019.
  25. ^ "West Virginia Roughriders coach walks away on top". Herald-Star. August 4, 2020.
  26. ^ "W.Va. Roughriders Officially Up For Sale". The Intelligencer and Wheeling News Register. August 27, 2020.
  27. ^ "Tampa and Louisville Memberships Terminated". National Arena League. October 30, 2020. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  28. ^ "Roughriders Move Closer to Being Sold". The Intelligencer and Wheeling News Register. December 2, 2020.
  29. ^ "Expansion Alert: The Baltimore Lightning Joins The NAL". National Arena League. August 1, 2020. Archived from the original on August 6, 2020.
  30. ^ "Baltimore Lightning Update on 2021 Season". NAL. August 19, 2020.
  31. ^ "Update: We can't seem to get on the same page with the NAL on our league contract. Also do not agree with their new rules and salary cap. We will be looking into other options as well as investor opportunities. We will be making our final decision on November 1st. Thankyou #Ridermafia". West Virginia Roughriders Facebook. October 12, 2021.
  32. ^ "Are you playing in the NAL??? Well here is the truth........... Roughriders paid 25k league fee and signed a 3 yr contract '20, '21, '22 . So this season would be yr 1 or yr 3 matter how you look at it. But as you know Covid took away both '20, & '21 season but because the league decided to play last yr and we (smartly) chose not to due low capacity guide lines for state covid rules in Wesbanco Arena the league forfeited our 25k smh and told us if we want to play we owe another (25k) unreal.... Whos gonna do that??? Shady right? Well i learned all Arena leagues are just that some hide it better and arent exposed. But in this case thats robbery smh So i know time is ticking but we offically [sic] will not be playing in the NAL and will look at other options that make sense. At this time its not gaurenteed [sic] we will be playing at all but are on the phones trying to make something happen. And will be looking for not just Professionalism, but territory, travel etc. Look to make a final decision by mid November. Thanks for your patience, WVR #Ridermafia". West Virginia Roughriders Facebook. October 24, 2021.
  33. ^ @WVRoughriders (October 27, 2021). "Update; We are in talks with TX4 group for purchase of team. TX4 group also has ownership of Albany Empire & Orlando Predators. Ownership would keep team in Wheeling and play in NAL. Will keep fans posted as we move into further Negotiations. #Ridermafia" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  34. ^ "About the NAL". NAL. Retrieved December 21, 2021.
  35. ^ "About the NAL". NAL. Archived from the original on December 2, 2021.
  36. ^ "NAL ANNOUNCES IT'S 2022 SCHEDULE". NAL. December 21, 2021.

External linksEdit