San Jose SaberCats

San Jose SaberCats
Current season
Established 1995
Folded 2015
Played in SAP Center
in San Jose, California
League/conference affiliations

Arena Football League (19952015)

  • American Conference (1995–2008)
  • National Conference (2011–2015)
Team colors

Saber Gold, Coral Green, Platinum, Black, and Navjo White

Owner(s) John Fry
William Randy Fry
David Fry
Kathryn J. Kolder
Darren Arbet
General manager Darren Arbet
Head coach Darren Arbet
Team history
  • San Jose SaberCats (1995present)
Team nicknames

League championships (4)

Conference championships (3)
2007, 2008, 2015

Prior to 2005, the AFL did not have conference championship games

Division championships (10)

Playoff appearances (16)
1995, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Home arena(s)

The San Jose SaberCats were a professional arena football team based in San Jose, California. The SaberCats had been members of the Arena Football League (AFL) since 1995 (the year in which the team was founded); and until 2015, they belonged to the AFL's National Conference. Over nineteen seasons of play, the SaberCats emerged as one of the Arena Football League's most successful franchises; at the conclusion of the 2015 season, the SaberCats boasted a lifetime regular season record of 198–98. Moreover, the SaberCats had won a total of four AFL Championships (2002, 2004, 2007, and 2015). Their lifetime postseason record stood at 19–12.

In the club's first four seasons (1995–1998), the team played just above mediocre, but still qualified for the playoffs 3 out of the four years, losing in the opening round each time under the guidance of Todd Shell. In 1999, the SaberCats appointed eventual owner-general manager Darren Arbet to the position of head coach. Under Arbet's guidance, the team's fortunes improved dramatically. In 2000, the SaberCats won a post-season game.

The SaberCats' run of success intensified in the 2000s; during that time, they won seven division titles and played in three American Conference championship games. In 2002, the team captured its first ArenaBowl championship by defeating the Arizona Rattlers in ArenaBowl XVI. In 2004, the SaberCats won a second championship by defeating the Rattlers in ArenaBowl XVIII. In 2007, they defeated the Columbus Destroyers in ArenaBowl XVIII to capture a third championship. In 2008, the SaberCats returned to the ArenaBowl, only to fall to the Philadelphia Soul. In 2015, the SaberCats returned to the ArenaBowl, defeating the Jacksonville Sharks.

The 2009 demise of the AFL caused the SaberCats to take a two-year hiatus. They returned to the re-formed Arena Football League in 2011 (along with several other franchises). The SaberCats posted a disappointing record of 7–11 in the season of their return. The losing season was the organization's first since 1999; it also, as of 2015, remains the worst in franchise history. While the SaberCats' regular season performance improved greatly over the following three seasons (between 2012 and 2014, they went 38–16), their postseason performance did not; over that span, they went 1–3 (with all three losses coming at the hands of the Arizona Rattlers, who subsequently won the ArenaBowl in each season). In 2015, the SaberCats finished the regular season with a franchise-best record of 17–1. After dispatching the Portland Thunder easily in the first round of the playoffs, they again faced the Rattlers; this time, however, San Jose emerged victorious. For a list of all seasons, see List of San Jose SaberCats seasons

On November 12, 2015 the league announced the SaberCats would be ceasing operations due to "reasons unrelated to League operations." A statement from the league indicated that the AFL is working to secure new, long-term owners for the franchise.[1]


Original AFL (1995–2008)

The SaberCats came into existence in December 1994,[2] when the Arena Football League awarded an expansion team to businesswoman Ramune Ambrozaitis, Lafayette attorney David Frey and John Fry of Fry's Electronics.[3] The group of three owners got a bargain when they were awarded the franchise, paying only US$750,000 of the $1.25 million the AFL typically requested of an expansion team.[2] The team played at the San Jose Arena in San Jose, California, which is also home to the San Jose Sharks franchise of the National Hockey League.[3] The SaberCats named Todd Shell, a former San Francisco 49ers linebacker, as the team's first head coach.[4] The SaberCats competed in the Western Division of the American Conference. The SaberCats are one of Arena's premier organizations,[5] having never drawn below 10,000 fans at any of their home games. The SaberCats were ArenaBowl champions in 2002, 2004, and 2007, beating the Arizona Rattlers for their first two titles and the Columbus Destroyers for the third. The San Jose SaberCats did play in a fourth ArenaBowl, ArenaBowl XXII, but lost to the Philadelphia Soul. ArenaBowl XXII would be the last game played in the originally incarnation of the AFL.

On June 5, 2004, the SaberCats were fined $20,000 for violations during their quarterfinal round playoff game against the Tampa Bay Storm. They were first fined $10,000 for distributing cow bells, without advance approval, to fans entering the building, which was cited as a violation by the AFL as an intentional competitive advantage generated by the creation of artificial noise. Also, during the game itself, the SaberCats refused to apply microphones to certain players and coaches during the NBC broadcast, which led to an additional $10,000 fine.

The cowbells went on to become a mainstay of many perennial season ticket holders, even though the SaberCats never again distributed cowbells to fans after the incident in 2004.

San Jose was 9–7 in 2005, earning the fourth seed in the American Conference playoffs. They lost to #1 seed Colorado Crush 56–48 in the first round, after failing to score on six goal line opportunities in the final minute of play.

The SaberCats went 10–6 in 2006 and won a division title in the process, along with the AC's #2 seed. They got a bye week from the Wild Card Round and then beat the Arizona Rattlers in the Divisional Round, 62–48. Because the Colorado Crush (the AC's #1 seed) lost in the Divisional Round to the Chicago Rush, they hosted the American Conference Championship game; however, they lost the game, 59–56.

SaberCats in a 2007 game
SaberCats in the 2007 American Conference Championship.

In 2007, they got revenge against the Rush in the American Conference championship and advanced to ArenaBowl XXI, where they beat the Columbus Destroyers in front of a sellout crowd in New Orleans Arena and claimed their third Arena Bowl title in six seasons.

AFL collapse and revival (2009–2010)

On August 4, 2009, the Arena Football League announced that it was "suspending operations indefinitely" but likely to fold. The SaberCats announced shortly afterward that they intend to field a team for 2010, even if it means moving to a new indoor football league.[6]

When the formation of a new arena football league, Arena Football 1 (renamed the new Arena Football League), was announced in 2009, the SaberCats were not one of the initial 16 teams announced.[7] Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings owner Dan Newman mentioned that the SaberCats were one of at least two former AFL franchises with which negotiations were in progress, the other being the Tampa Bay Storm. However, when AF1 announced its schedule in January 2010, the SaberCats were not among the 15 teams listed. At the time, it was unclear whether they would join another league, or join the new AFL later.

They would be replaced by the smaller and lesser-known San Jose Wolves of the AIFA as they contemplate their future. The Wolves do not play at HP Pavilion as the SaberCats have, rather at the Cow Palace in Daly City.

On June 16, it was officially announced that the SaberCats would be returning in 2011 as a member of the Arena Football League. The ownership once again consists of major executives from national electronics chain Fry's Electronics (John Fry, William Randy Fry, David Fry, and Kathryn J. Kolder), and in addition maintained former SaberCats coach Darren Arbet.[8][9]

2011 season

The SaberCats opened their 2011 season with a 76–48 victory over the Spokane Shock. They went on to win against the Kansas City Command 60–57. The SaberCats lost the next two games, 54–41 against the Chicago Rush, and 76–69 against the Iowa Barnstormers. It looked like the 'Cats were going on a winning streak after they won the next three games (75–55 against the Utah Blaze, 42–33 against the Tulsa Talons, and 68–61 against the Philadelphia Soul), but after a bye week they went on a devastating seven game losing streak (65–43 against the Arizona Rattlers, 54–48 against the Pittsburgh Power, 76–68 against the Utah Blaze, 55–49 against the Georgia Force, 70–57 against the Dallas Vigilantes, 64–57 against the Arizona Rattlers, and 82–21 against the Cleveland Gladiators). This losing streak ended against the Jacksonville Sharks when they won 83–70. The SaberCats ended the season with a 7–11 record.

2012 season

Unlike their disappointing 2011 campaign, the SaberCats were able to clinch a playoff spot as the #3 seed, finishing the regular season with a 12–6 record. However, they were defeated 48–51 by the Arizona Rattlers in the first round of the playoffs.

2013 season

The SaberCats finished the regular season with a 13–5 record, earning the #4 seed in the National Conference. They lost the National Conference Semifinals to the Arizona Rattlers by a score of 59–49.

2014 season

The SaberCats finished the regular season with a record of 13–5 for the second consecutive year, winning the Pacific Division and earning the #2 seed in the National Conference. They won the National Conference Semifinals against the Spokane Shock in a 55–28 contest but lost the Conference Championship to the Arizona Rattlers by a 72–56 score.

2015 season

The SaberCats finished the regular season with a franchise best 17–1 record (their only loss was against the L.A. Kiss), winning the Pacific Division and earning the #1 seed in the National Conference with homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. They won the National Conference Semifinals against the Portland Thunder by a score of 55–28 and then won the Conference Championship against the Arizona Rattlers in a 70–67 contest. They won ArenaBowl XXVIII against the Jacksonville Sharks, finishing the 2015 season with a combined 20–1 record and becoming the first team in league history to win twenty combined regular season and postseason games.[10] Surprisingly, after the 2015 season, the AFL announced that the SaberCats were ceasing operations for non-football related reasons.[11]

Controversy surrounded the closing of the franchise in 2015. The SaberCats' franchise never returned the Foster Trophy to the league, the award handed out to each Arena Bowl champion throughout the league's history. Also, the players of the Arena Bowl XXVIII never received championship rings, becoming the first team in league history to never receive rings for the accomplishment.[12]



The SaberCats have won a total of four ArenaBowls. They have won all their ArenaBowls under Darren Arbet.

ArenaBowl Championships
Season Location Opponent Score ArenaBowl
2002 San Jose, California Arizona Rattlers 52–14 XVI
2004 Phoenix, Arizona Arizona Rattlers 69–62 XVIII
2007 New Orleans Columbus Destroyers 55–33 XXI
2015 Stockton, California Jacksonville Sharks 68–47 XXVIII


The San Jose SaberCats have three primary rivals: Their divisional rival Spokane Shock, and their former division rival, the Arizona Rattlers. They also have rivalries with other teams that arose from playoff battles in the past, most notably with the Chicago Rush. The Los Angeles Avengers had an old rivalry with San Jose as well, but the rivalry became irrelevant when the Avengers became defunct in 2009.

Arizona Rattlers

The Rattlers and SaberCats were divisional rivals from 1995 to 2013, but the division alignment for 2014 put San Jose in the Pacific division and Arizona in the west. The SaberCats had a 7-game winning streak against the Rattlers from 2006–2008, lasted until May 7, 2011 when the Rattlers defeated the SaberCats 43–65. While the SaberCats still hold the advantage in the all-time series 25–19, the Rattlers amassed 9 wins in 12 games, from the 1995 season before the arrival of SaberCats head coach Darren Arbet, through the 2000 season. On Saturday May 5, 2012 the SaberCats beat the Rattlers 77–70 (at US Airways Center), giving the SaberCats the most points scored in a home game against the Rattler's in the teams history. The SaberCats' first ever ArenaBowl appearance (in the 2002 season) was a victory over the Rattlers.

Spokane Shock

The Shock and the SaberCats have been divisional rivals since the SaberCats re-joined the AFL in 2011. San Jose lost a Saturday June 23, 2012 game (63–90), and this game remains the highest ever point total scored against the SaberCats in franchise history.[13] In 2011, the Shock won 63–61 on a last second Hail Mary from Kyle Rowley to Adron Tennell, clinching a playoff spot for the Shock and eliminating the SaberCats from playoff contention. San Jose led the overall series 5–4 when the Shock departed the AFL.


The SaberCats game had been broadcast on KNBR-AM 1050 out of San Mateo. However, on May 15, 2015, the SaberCats announced that they would have their games broadcast live on KDOW AM 1220 radio in San Francisco. This was the first broadcast of sports of any kind for that station.[14][15]

Notable players

Final roster

San Jose SaberCats roster


  • Currently vacant

Wide receivers

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen


Defensive backs


  • Currently vacant
Injured reserve
  • Currently vacant

Refuse to report

  • Currently vacant

League suspension

  • Currently vacant

Other league exempt

Inactive reserve

  • Currently vacant

Recallable reassignment

  • Currently vacant

Rookies in italics
Roster updated November 5, 2015
29 Active, 4 Inactive

More rosters

Retired numbers

San Jose SaberCats retired numbers
No. Player Position Seasons Ref.
2 Barry Wagner WR/DB 2000–2006 [16]
16 Mark Grieb QB 1999–2012 [17]
55 Sam Hernandez OL/DL 1998–2005 [16]

Arena Football Hall of Famers

San Jose SaberCats Hall of Famers
No. Name Year Inducted Position(s) Years w/ SaberCats
Darren Arbet[18] 2011 Head Coach 1999–2008, 2011–2015
5 Ben Bennett[18] 2000 QB 1996
55 Sam Hernandez[18] 2011 OL/DL 1998–2005
44 Bob McMillen[18] 2013 FB/LB 2001–2002
14 Omarr Smith[18] 2014 DB 2000–2002, 2004–2008
8 Clevan Thomas[18] 2012 DB 2002–2008, 2013–2015
2 Barry Wagner[18] 2011 WR/DB 2000–2006

Individual awards

AFL Offensive Player of the Year
Season Player Position
2002Mark GriebQB

AFL Defensive Player of the Year
Season Player Position
2002Clevan ThomasDB
2003Clevan ThomasDB
2012Joe SykesDL
2013Clevan ThomasDB
2014Jason StewartDL

ArenaBowl MVP Winners
ArenaBowl Player Position
XVIJohn DuttonQB
XXIMark GriebQB

AFL Rookie of the Year
Season Player Position
2002Clevan ThomasDB
2006Ben NelsonOS

Defensive back of the Year
Season Player Position
2003Clevan ThomasDB

Kicker Player of the Year
Season Player Position
2008A. J. HaglundK
2014Nich PertuitK

Defensive lineman of the Year
Season Player Position
2012Joe SykesDL

Lineman of the Year
Season Player Position
2000Sam HernandezOLDL

Don't Blink! Player of the Year
Season Player Position
1998Steve PapinWRDB
1999Steve PapinWRDB

Wide Receiver of the Year
Season Player Position
2015Reggie GrayWR

Offensive lineman of the Year
Season Player Position
2014Rich RanglinOL

Al Lucas Hero Award
Season Player Position
2015David HylandDB

All-Arena players

The following SaberCats players were named to All-Arena Teams:

All-Ironman players

The following SaberCats players were named to All-Ironman Teams:

All-Rookie players

The following SaberCats players were named to All-Rookie Teams:

Notable coaches

Head coaches

Note: Statistics are correct through end of the 2015 Arena Football League season.

Name Term Regular Season Playoffs Awards Reference
W L T Win% W L
Todd Shell 19951998 29 25 0 .537 0 3 [19]
Darren Arbet 19992015 174 72 0 .707 19 8 Coach of the Year (2000, 2002 & 2015) [20]


San Jose SaberCats staff
Front Office  

Head Coach

Offensive Coaches

Defensive Coaches

Special Teams Coaches


  1. AFL Issues Statement on San Jose SaberCats,, November 12, 2015
  2. 1 2 "Sports Shorts". Associated Press. December 8, 1994. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
  3. 1 2 John Crumpacker (April 30, 1995). "Are you ready for some indoor football action?". The Hearst Corporation. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
  4. Michael Itagaki (February 25, 1995). "Arena Football Team Will Scout Talent in Orange County". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
  5. Andrew F. Hamm (August 11, 2002). "SaberCats' winning ways point way for arena football league". American City Business Journals. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
  6. "AFL suspends operations indefinitely". San Jose SaberCats. Retrieved August 4, 2009.
  7. "Arena Football 1 to launch in 2010". ESPN Internet Ventures. December 10, 2009. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
  8. Mark Emmons (June 16, 2010). "San Jose SaberCats are back in business". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
  9. The Record (September 15, 2010). "Edison grad back with SaberCats". Local Media Group, Inc. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
  10. Markowitz, Adam (August 29, 2015). "ArenaBowl XXVIII Records and Factoids". Archived from the original on August 30, 2015. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
  11. Bay Area News Group (November 13, 2015). "AFL announces ArenaBowl champ San Jose SaberCats folding". East Bay Times. Retrieved August 26, 2016.
  12. "Ex-SaberCats look to get rings with Rattlers". August 23, 2016. Retrieved October 26, 2016.
  13. Justin Libaste (June 23, 2012). "Cats embarrassed at home after 90–63 loss against Spokane". Sports Radio Service. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
  14. SaberCats Announce Radio Partnership with KDOW 1220 AM, Arena Football League website, May 15, 2015
  15. San Jose SaberCats Announce Radio Broadcast with 1220AM KDOW, Matthew Dziak, San Jose SaberCats website, May 15, 2015
  16. 1 2 Ray Hacke (July 13, 2012). "San Jose SaberCats preview capsule for Saturday's game vs. Iowa Barnstormers". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  17. Rick Eymer (May 5, 2013). "San Jose SaberCats roll over Cleveland Gladiators". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Arena Football League Hall of Fame". Arena Football League. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  19. "ArenaFan Online: AFL Coaches: Todd Shell". Retrieved 2008-10-24.
  20. "ArenaFan Online: AFL Coaches: Darren Arbet". Retrieved 2008-10-24.
Preceded by
Grand Rapids Rampage
Arena Bowl Champions
San Jose SaberCats

Succeeded by
Tampa Bay Storm
Preceded by
Tampa Bay Storm
Arena Bowl Champions
San Jose SaberCats

Succeeded by
Colorado Crush
Preceded by
Chicago Rush
Arena Bowl Champions
San Jose SaberCats

Succeeded by
Philadelphia Soul
Preceded by
Arizona Rattlers
Arena Bowl Champions
San Jose SaberCats

Succeeded by
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