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The History of the USFL 1982-86


The USFL (United States Football League) existed from 1982 to 1985 for three full seasons. Founded by David Dixon, from New Orleans, Louisiana, the USFL announced its formation on May 11, 1982, at the 21 Club in New York City. Judge Peter Spivak, part owner of one of twelve teams, was announced as the president of the league, until full-time commissioner could be found.

During 1982-1985, the USFL fought a bitter war with the established National Football League (the NFL) for players, fans, and media attention. In July of 1986, with a month before the league was to begin its first fall campaign, the USFL won its suit against the NFL, but was awarded just one dollar in damages. Before possible merger could of been made with the NFL due to NFL not wanting competition in it's NFL cites, with hundreds of million dollars in debt, the league had no choice but to fold before beginning its first fall campaign.

The USFL (United States Football League) existed from 1982 to 1985 for three full seasons. Founded by David Dixon, from New Orleans, Louisiana, the USFL announced its formation on May 11, 1982, at the 21 Club in New York City. Judge Peter Spivak, part owner of one of twelve teams, was announced as the president of the league, until full-time commissioner could be found. During 1982-1985, the USFL fought a bitter war with the established National Football League (the NFL) for players, fans, and media attention. In July of 1986, with a month before the league was to begin its first fall campaign, the USFL won its suit against the NFL, but was awarded just one dollar in damages. Before possible merger could of been made with the NFL due to NFL not wanting competition in it's NFL cites, with hundreds of million dollars in debt, the league had no choice but to fold before beginning its first fall campaign.

The USFL hooked up with ESPN and ABC Sports to broadcast games national once a week. Philadelphia Stars owned ratings with highest ratings among teams televised in 1983. The league had to make some kind of splash. The New Jersey Generals went out bought some talent, ignoring the salary cap. Heisman Trophy winner Hershel Walker left college year earlier to sign huge money contract. The Generals had a lot holes and couldn't make the playoffs. Denver Gold led the league in attendance while Boston was at bottom. The league averaged 25,031 fans a game for total of 2.073 million fans league wide. The Stars had leagues best record with 15-3 and Panthers were next best with 12-6 record, tied with Chicago. Despite 11-6 record better than whole Pacific Division the Tampa Bay Bandits failed to make playoffs due to highly competitive Central Division. With only division winners making the playoffs and one wild card team the Chicago Blitz. It was only natural that the leagues two best teams would make the Championship game. The Panthers squeezed past Stars by two, 24-22 in front of 50,906 fans in Denver, CO.

The 1984, the leagues' second would be all about expansion, player signings, and more debt. The league tried to expand on its first season with success it had. The league expanded with Houston Gamblers, Jacksonville Bulls, Memphis Showboats, Oklahoma Outlaws, Pittsburgh Maulers, and San Antonio Gunslingers. League needed capital and easiest way for league to get it was expansion. Boston Breakers made their first move and it was to New Orleans. Teams signed players like Reggie White, Steve Young, Mike Rozier, and Jim Kelly from hands of NFL teams. Expansion Jacksonville Bulls lead the league in attendance with 46,730 and league had new king at bottom of attendance with Chicago Blitz. The major problem in Chicago was that in 1983, the owners of Arizona and Chicago traded places and franchises. Players from Arizona Wrangles and Chicago Blitz switched franchises. The fans in Chicago were getting used to players before teams switched places. Chicago lost its good team and got below .500 team in 1984. The fans in Chicago already had Bears who were one of best in NFL; it made no real point for fans to see terrible team when they could just wait until fall to watch the Bears. Arizona got one of leagues best franchises the Blitz. Once again, the Stars owned USFL record of 16 wins and 2 loses. New Jersey, Houston, Birmingham, and Tampa Bay all wins in range of 12-14. Pittsburgh and Washington shared the leagues worst record 3-15. With even more teams making the playoffs, besides the division winners, the league had 4 wild card teams make the playoffs too. Total of eight teams would make the playoffs. USFL fans would witness the longest and greatest game in professional football history with LA Express beating Michigan Panthers 27-21 in three overtimes. The Philadelphia Stars captured the crown again with thrashing of Arizona Wranglers 23-3, in front of huge crowd in Tampa, FL. After the season was completed the USFL named Harry Usher the new commissioner of league.

The 1985 season brought some outrageous news. The USFL announced next season it would begin play in normal football season the fall. The season switched was not the only big news; the USFL filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. The news of switching to fall changed the league once again. Many cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Washington, and New Orleans already had someone playing in its stadiums in fall season. All those teams would have to face direct NFL competition for fans and media attention. The Stars left Philadelphia for the recently vacated Baltimore since Colts moved west to Indianapolis. Washington moved to Orlando to become Orlando Renegades. Originally Washington was to move to Miami. Two mergers accord Michigan Panthers merged with the Oakland Invaders and Arizona Wranglers and Oklahoma Outlaws merged to become the Arizona Outlaws. Pittsburgh and Chicago wouldn't continue to play anymore, waving the white flag. Donald Trump signed Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie, and traded Brian Sipe to Jacksonville, to ensure Flutie would start. Tampa Bay was king of attendance with 45,220 fans crossing the gate. The league also had new king at bottom attendance with LA Express just averaging 8,415. The Merger paid off for Oakland Invaders who now owned the league's best record with 13-4-1 records. The league's first tie accord when Oakland and Baltimore tied. The Stars defeated Invaders in front of decent sized crowd in Meadowlands, New Jersey, 28-24. Fans didn't know at the time that was last USFL game ever played. Stars were the leagues only two-time champion.

Its loyal fans are still remembering the USFL. The USFL was the "outlaw" league. The USFL broke it's own salary cap structure to lured top college players like Doug Flutie, Steve Young, Jim Kelly, and Herschel Walker. Four Heisman Trophy winners played in USFL. It was the league that brought professional football to future NFL cities like Jacksonville, Memphis, and Oakland.

The USFL had future NFL and CFL players begin their career in this "outlaw" league. Doug Flutie, Herschel Walker, and Mike Rozier were former Heisman Trophy winners. Future Super Bowl winners like Steve Young and Reggie White started their professional careers in USFL. The USFL was also breeding ground for future coaches like Marv Levy and Steve Spurrier. USFL had their loyal fan bases in Jacksonville, Birmingham, Memphis, and Denver. USFL did have major attendance problems in Los Angeles where they finished there 1985 season at high school stadium, and in San Antonio, Chicago, and Washington.


Remember the USFL