Day Continues To Be One of the Most Unbelievable in NFL History

Published on October 2nd, 2021 12:34 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

The fascinating story of the Colts franchise moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis overnight. Imagine, in this day and age, a NFL team literally packing up and moving in the middle of the night.

Imagine, in this day and age, a state threatening to seize a NFL team via "eminent domain".

Imagine, in this day and age, a NFL team needing to send their moving trucks along different routes because they were worried about getting stopped by police on their way out of the state.

On March 29th, 1984, all of this happened with the Baltimore Colts franchise, and more.


The genesis of the Baltimore Colts' 1984 move to Indianapolis was a familiar story - the team and the city/state that they were playing in couldn't come to an agreement on a deal to build a new stadium.

The Baltimore Colts and their owner, Robert Irsay, argued that the stadium that they were playing in, Memorial Field, was horribly antiquated.

The stadium offered poor sightlines for many of the seats, sub-standard bathroom facilities and more. Even more damning, however, was the lack of revenues that were able to be generated from the stadium.

Robert Irsay wanted something better and opened negotiations with the city of Baltimore.

After years of negotiations, Maryland's legislature ultimately decided that the state would not be funding a new stadium.

All the while, Irsay and his group had been secretly negotiating with a number of different cities, including New York, Phoenix and Indianapolis, to name a few.

Indianapolis had been particularly aggressive about attracting a NFL team, as they began construction of the Hoosier Dome in 1982.


In March of 1984, NFL owners gave Irsay permission to move his team to wherever he wanted. Irsay, in addition to negotiating with Indianapolis and Phoenix, was also talking to cities such as Jacksonville and Memphis.

There had been talk of expansion in 1984, and Indianapolis had been one of the leading prospects to land a new team. In January of 1984, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle announced that expansion plans had been put on hold. Immediately negotiations between various Indianapolis factions and Robert Irsay opened up, and Irsay would visit the Hoosier Dome in February of 1984.

The Maryland General Assembly wasn't going to lose their team quietly.

On March 27th, 1984, the Maryland Senate passed legislation giving Baltimore the right to seize the Colts via "eminent domain".

Could a state government really seize and own a NFL team?


Robert Irsay wasn't going to wait around to find out the answer to this question.

On March 28th, 1984, Irsay and the City of Indianapolis sealed the deal - Irsay would receive a $12.5 million loan, a $4 million training complex and the use of the new Hoosier Dome if he agreed to move the team to Indianapolis. Irsay agreed, and the deal was done.

Irsay, in his conversations with Indianapolis Mayor Hudnut, expressed his worries that Maryland would seize the team.

Mayor Hudnut happened to know the CEO of Mayflower Transit, who sent 15 moving trucks to the Colts' training facility on the evening of March 29th, 1984.

Maryland's legislature was expected to formerly giving the city of Baltimore the right to seize the team by the following morning, so the movers had to work fast.

Within eight hours, the team was packed up and gone.

The 15 moving trucks took different routes from Baltimore to Indianapolis, as there was a real worry that Maryland would dispatch their police to stop the trucks.

When the moving trucks arrived within Indianapolis' state borders, patrol cars were dispatched to escore the team to the Hoosier Dome.

The next day, Indianapolis' mayor formally welcomed the Colts to the city, and he also called it one of the best days in the history of Indianapolis.


Baltimore's fans were shocked and livid by what had transpired.

Blame was mainly focused on Robert Irsay, though over the passage of the time, a great deal of the blame was also assigned to Maryland's legislators.

Baltimore would ultimately welcome a CFL team to their city before officially getting a NFL franchise back in the mid '90s.

Baltimore's overnight move to Indianapolis continues to be one of the most bizarre and fascinating stories in the history of the NFL.

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