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The Complete History Of The USFL Of The 1980’s

The United States Football League (USFL) was a professional American football league that played for three seasons from 1983 through 1985. The league was intended to be a springtime alternative to the National Football League (NFL), with all of its teams playing in the warm-weather months of March through June.

However, the league was plagued by financial problems and ultimately failed in its attempts to compete with the NFL.

The USFL was founded by David Dixon, a New Orleans businessman, who envisioned a league that would be able to compete with the NFL by signing top college players. The league began play in 1983 with 12 teams and quickly established itself as a legitimate rival to the NFL, with many of its teams drawing strong crowds and television ratings.

However, the league’s financial troubles began to mount, as many of its teams were losing money, and the league’s television contract was not as lucrative as it had hoped. In an effort to compete more directly with the NFL, the USFL decided to move its games to the fall, beginning in 1986.

This move proved to be the downfall of the league, as it was unable to secure a television contract, and many of its teams were unable to compete financially with the NFL. The league played its final games in the summer of 1985 and then folded.

Despite the USFL’s failure, it did have a significant impact on the NFL. The league served as a minor league system for the NFL, providing a training ground for future NFL coaches and executives and a number of players who went on to have successful careers in the NFL.

Additionally, the USFL’s antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, which it filed in 1986, resulted in the NFL being forced to pay $1 to the USFL.

Top Players In The USFL

The United States Football League (USFL) had several talented players during its three-year existence from 1983 to 1985. Some of the best players in the league include:

  • Doug Flutie: A quarterback who played for the New Jersey Generals and later went on to have a successful career in the CFL and NFL. He was well known for his strong arm, and his excellent scrambling ability.
  • Herschel Walker: A Heisman trophy winner was a running back who played for the New Jersey Generals and later went on to have a long career in the NFL. He was known for his power and speed and was a dominant player in the USFL.
  • Jim Kelly: A quarterback who played for the Houston Gamblers, Kelly was known for his strong arm and his ability to lead his team to victory. He later went on to have a successful career in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills.
  • Reggie White: A defensive end who played for the Memphis Showboats, White was known for his speed and quickness and was a dominant force on the field. He later went on to have a hall-of-fame career in the NFL.
  • Steve Young: A quarterback who played for the Los Angeles Express, Young was known for his strong arm, mobility, and ability to make big plays. He later went on to have a successful career in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers.
  • Anthony Carter: A wide receiver who played for the Michigan Panthers and Oakland Invaders, he was known for his speed and his playmaking ability. He later went on to have a successful career in the NFL.

These players, along with many others, helped establish the USFL as a legitimate league, and many went on to have successful careers in the NFL.

Top Teams In The USFL

The United States Football League (USFL) had several successful teams during its three-year existence. Some of the top teams in the league include:

  • The Michigan Panthers: The team won the first championship in 1983, led by quarterback Bobby Hebert and wide receiver Anthony Carter. They were known for their high-powered offense and solid defense.
  • The Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars: the team won the championship game in 1984 and 1985, and lost the championship to the Michigan Panthers in 1983. Led by quarterback Chuck Fusina and defensive back Mike Lush, the team was known for its strong defense and ball-control offense. The Stars re-located for the 1985 season as the USFL was attempting to directly compete with the NFL.
  • The Los Angeles Express: Led by quarterback Steve Young and wide receiver Jojo Townsell, the team had a high-powered offense and reached the playoffs in 1984.

These teams, along with many others, helped to establish the USFL as a legitimate league, and their success on the field helped to generate fan interest and media attention.

Famous Coaches In The USFL

The United States Football League (USFL) had several successful coaches during its three-year existence from 1983 to 1985. Some of the top coaches involved in the league include:

  • George Allen: The former head coach of the NFL’s Washington Redskins, Allen coached the Chicago Blitz in 1983 and led them to the playoffs. In 1984 he coached the Arizona Wranglers and lost in the championship game. Allen was known for his innovative strategies and ability to get the most out of his players.
  • Jim Mora: The former head coach of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, Mora coached the Philadelphia Stars in 1984 and the Baltimore Stars in 1985. He lead the Stars to championship seasons in 1984 and 1985. Mora was known for his ability to develop young talent and his innovative strategies.
  • Jack Pardee: The former head coach of the NFL’s Chicago Bears and Houston Oilers, Pardee coached the Houston Gamblers in 1984 and 1985. He led the team to the playoffs in both seasons and was known for his offensive strategies and ability to develop young talent.
  • George Perles: Most well-known as the head coach of the Michigan State Spartans, Perles helped organize the Philadelphia Stars before the 1983 season. Before coaching a game for the Stars, Perles accepted a job to return to Michigan State as the head coach after spending 10 years with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers.

These coaches, along with many others, helped to establish the USFL as a legitimate league, and their success on the field helped to generate fan interest and media attention. Many of them went on to have successful careers in the NFL as coaches or executives.

Donald Trump And The USFL

Donald Trump was the owner of the New Jersey Generals, a team in the United States Football League (USFL), from 1983 to 1985. Trump was a vocal and prominent figure in the league, and his ownership of the Generals was a major factor in the team’s success on the field and in terms of fan interest and media attention.

Trump was known for his aggressive approach to building the Generals, and he made several high-profile signings, including Heisman Trophy-winning running back Herschel Walker and quarterback Doug Flutie. He also made several controversial statements regarding the league’s future, including his desire for the USFL to compete directly with the NFL by moving to a fall schedule and merging with the NFL.

Trump’s involvement with the league significantly impacted its financial and strategic decisions. He pushed for the league to move from a spring schedule to a fall schedule to compete head-to-head with NFL and for the league to expand its teams, which many argue led to the league’s financial downfall.

In addition to his involvement with the Generals, Trump was also one of the driving forces behind the USFL’s antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, which was filed in 1986. The lawsuit, which claimed that the NFL had violated antitrust laws by monopolizing the market for professional football, ultimately resulted in the NFL being forced to pay a large settlement, but it was not enough to save the USFL, which folded shortly after the lawsuit was filed.

Despite the USFL’s failure, Trump’s involvement with the league helped to establish him as a major figure in the world of professional sports, and his experience as an owner would later serve as a stepping stone to his other business ventures and ultimately to his presidency.

USFL vs NFL Lawsuit

The United States Football League (USFL) filed an antitrust lawsuit against the National Football League (NFL) in 1986, claiming that the NFL had violated antitrust laws by monopolizing the market for professional football. The lawsuit was a result of the USFL’s failed attempts to compete with the NFL and was seen as a last-ditch effort to save the struggling league.

The USFL claimed that the NFL had an illegal monopoly on professional football in the United States and that the league had used its dominant position to prevent the USFL from gaining a foothold in the market. The USFL also claimed that the NFL had used its control over television contracts and other forms of media coverage to limit the exposure of the USFL and its teams.

The trial lasted five months and was highly publicized, with both sides presenting evidence and calling witnesses to support their claims. At the end of the trial, the jury found that the NFL had indeed violated antitrust laws but awarded the USFL only $1 in damages, which was trebled to $3. This award was seen as a symbolic victory for the USFL and was not enough to keep the league alive.

The USFL folded shortly after the lawsuit was filed, and the NFL emerged victorious.

Overall, the USFL’s antitrust lawsuit against the NFL was seen as a David and Goliath type of story, where a small league tried to challenge a much larger and established league but ultimately failed.

The USFL’s legacy is that of a league that was ahead of its time in its attempt to challenge the NFL but was ultimately undone by financial and strategic missteps.

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Mark is the founder and editor of USFL News Hub. The site was started in February of 2022. He is an expert on all things spring football related. Contact him directly by emailing mark.perry@usflnewshub.com

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Ken Granito

    January 16, 2023 at 12:57 am

    Hi Mark, I love the spirit you have when reporting. You take the facts you know and write a story as best you can from without trying to knock or hurt anyone. The spirit of the article is about right from what we can tell. I was in the middle of this league everyday and believe it or not the newspapers actually used to follow the USFL everyday. Imagine actual press releases and real newspaper articles. I think we need to get there to really legitimize the league. So I think your article is really good and sound. Whoever provided the information about the players coaches and teams provided you with very poor information. I would actually strick it from the article if I were you. If at any time you want to reach to me to fact find for you I would be more than happy to help. There is really too much wrong to list, but let me do my best to show only a few inconsistencies so you will see just how unreliable this information was. Chuck Fairbanks was the head coach of the Generals in 83 only and they were 6-12. Former Jets Head Coach was the headcoach of the Generals in 84-85. where the Generals were in the playoffs losing to the Stars in both seasons, so it was no surprise they lost again in in 2022. Doug Flute did not have a good rookie season with the Generals not even competing 50% of his passes, but he did show a lot of heart. That along with his strong arm and scrambling ability made him a star in the CFL and a tough minded quarterback in the NFL for a good number of years. John Elway and Vance Johnson never played for the Gold so I am hoping that was a joke. He wounted wven play for the Colts. The Stars played in Philadelphia in 1983 and 984 and moved to Baltimore to compete against the NFL. They lost in 83 to the Panthers, but the George Allen’s Wranglers in 84 and beat the Invaders merged Panthers and Invaders squad. This team had HOF Sam Mills, Chuck Fusina and Kelvin Bryant. Ray Jauch coached the Washington Federals and won like 7 games over two seasons losing around 29. George Perles was not the head coach for the Michigan Panthers for two seasons. Whoever provided this information to you should be asked to re-check his work. You are far too good a writer and care too much for this information to come out in this manner. Feel free to delete my comment only after you have deleted the extraneous information. I really don’t want peopke thinking any of this is true and i would really hate for anyone to lose a bet on it. .,

  2. Ken Granito

    January 16, 2023 at 1:09 am

    In re-reading this, I made many mistyping, mostly fat-fingering I guess. Mostly I think you can figure them out, but in 1984 I left out the word “beat”. The Stars beat George Allen’s Wranglers making them the best team in the league.

  3. Ken Granito

    January 17, 2023 at 9:05 am

    Excellent and the George Perles story was exactly how I remembered it. I don’t where you found the full story, but kudos to you, because I do feel that is a very interesting story that affected not only his future, but if he didn’t take that job, probably Jim Mora never gets the Saints job, the Stars might not be the Stars and Sam Mills one of the very best players/hitters in the game would not be a HOF. Sam Mills was rushing record setter Hershel Walker’s kryptonite. Thanks for the updates.

  4. Kevin P Gleason

    April 15, 2023 at 4:48 pm

    Trump like is other businesses, bankrupted this league and destroyed it.

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