United States Football League

February 2, 2012 by staff 

United States Football League, The United States Football League (USFL) was an American football league which was in active operation from 1983 to 1987. It played a spring/summer schedule in its first three seasons and a traditional autumn/winter schedule was set to commence before league operations ceased.

The USFL was conceived in 1965 by New Orleans, Louisiana, businessman David Dixon, who saw a market for a football league which would play while the established National Football League was in its off-season. Dixon had been a key player in the expansion of the NFL into New Orleans; the New Orleans Saints began play in 1967.

The USFL had notable successes, including three consecutive Heisman Trophy winners: Georgia running back Herschel Walker and Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie signed with the New Jersey Generals, and Nebraska running back Mike Rozier signed with the Pittsburgh Maulers out of college. Additionally, future Pro Football Hall of Fame members defensive end Reggie White of the University of Tennessee and quarterbacks Jim Kelly of the University of Miami and Steve Young of Brigham Young University, began their professional careers with the USFL’s Memphis Showboats, Houston Gamblers, and Los Angeles Express, respectively. Some veterans, such as quarterbacks Chuck Fusina and Cliff Stoudt, who had extremely limited success in the NFL, had successful careers in the USFL. Former Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Dave Lapham notably signed an unusual personal services contract (rather than a traditional players’ contract) with billionaire New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump.

However, after its inaugural season, the United States Football League was plagued with franchise instability. A number of franchises either relocated or merged with others. However, there were franchises in several cities without NFL teams which would later receive them, such as Jacksonville, Florida.

The Michigan Panthers were the first USFL champions. The Philadelphia Stars won the second USFL championship and, after relocating to Baltimore, Maryland, won the final USFL championship as the Baltimore Stars.

In 1986, the USFL (having recently decided to compete directly with the NFL) filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the National Football League. The NFL was found to have violated anti-monopoly laws. However, in a Pyrrhic victory, the USFL was awarded a judgment of just $1 which, under anti-trust laws, was tripled to $3.

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