WideRight

USFL Alternative History: 1985 to...

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Hello all.  I am working on an “Alternative History” of the USFL, beginning in 1984 and we will see where it takes us.  It is all based on the premise that a single historical change can lead to an entirely different outcome.  My premise is that John Bassett, owner of the Tampa Bay Bandits and chief opposition to the move to a Fall schedule does not become ill.   How could that have changed the USFL’s destiny?   I will be going year by year and as teams merge, move, are added or simply change uniforms, I will post any new logos or uniforms, because that is what this board is about, but I will also try to weave in other events, particularly related to the NFL, which might also have altered history.  Should be an interesting challenge to the imagination.  I may get some facts wrong here and there, and I may go in some directions you don’t think are likely, but it is just a fictional story, so feel free to comment if you think things would have gone differently.

 

1985:   With John Bassett at full strength, there is a strong counterpoint to Donald Trump and the argument that the USFL move to the Fall.  Trump loses the vote.  The antitrust lawsuit vs. the NFL will go ahead, but the league decides to continue with a Spring schedule.  As a result the following changes occurred within the league:

 

  1. Both ABC and ESPN provided the league with new TV Contracts and an influx of nearly $225 million dollars with the proviso that teams remain in both Chicago and Los Angeles.
  2. The league agreed to the TV network’s terms and worked to enhance ownership groups in both cities while managing the two franchises’ day to day operations.
  3. The league also agrees to develop a more stringent salary cap to help cut down on financial losses, but through a combination of the league’s regional draft, which privileges certain teams with a pipeline to 2-3 local universities, and an exemption policy which allows 2 players per team not to count against the cap, the pace of “big name” signings slows but does not completely end.
  4. Without the shift to Fall, ownership groups in Michigan, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Washington did not opt to relocate their franchises for 1985.
  5. Due to economic struggles, and ownership interest in larger markets, it was decided that the league would contract by 2 franchises. The Oklahoma Outlaws merged with the undercapitalized San Antonio Gunslingers, to become the San Antonio Outlaws and the Pittsburgh Maulers merged with the struggling Washington Federals, bringing significant football talent to a team which had struggled to win games In its first two seasons.
  6. The 1985 Season is played with stronger attendance and ratings than anticipated, perhaps due to the continuity of the ongoing Spring season.  Some franchises still struggle for attendance, particularly in Chicago and L.A., who also have weak seasons on the field, but the league is propping up both franchises and TV ratings help to make the case to potential owners for both.

 

SEASON STANDINGS

EAST

*New Jersey      11-7

*Philadelphia     10-7-1

Jacksonville        8-10 

Washington        7-11

 

SOUTH

*Birmingham    12-6

*Memphis         11-7

*Tampa Bay      10-8

New Orleans     6-12

 

CENTRAL

*Michigan          11-6-1

*Houston           10-8

San Antonio       9-9

Chicago             6-12

 

WEST

*Denver             10-8

Oakland             8-10

Arizona              8-10

Los Angeles      6-12

 

 

PLAYOFFS:

        Birmingham d. Houston               Michigan d. Tampa Bay 

        Philadelphia d. New Jersey          Memphis d. Denver

 

        Philadelphia d. Birmingham         Michigan d. Memphis

 

CHAMPIONSHIP:      Philadelphia 28  Michigan 24

 

MVP: Herschell Walker (NJ)

Coach of the year:  Rollie Dotsch (BIR)

 

New Team Uniforms or Identities:  San Antonio Outlaws

 

 

 

1986 SA Outlaws.png

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Looks great! I'd actually go after both those Outlaws jerseys if they were real.

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I like the way it's starting...but this belongs in the "Sports Fan Fiction" subboard, right?

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Outlaws look great.

 

Any shot for Fox and USA Network to take over the TV contract down the road?

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On 10/22/2017 at 11:14 AM, Danny the Sheeb said:

Looks pretty good.  It looks a lot like the Falcons, though...

The Outlaws were first with this look, the Falcons were red helmet, red/white jerseys grey pants in the 80's.......

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Sorry, Photobucket has never done that to me before.  I am going to upload it directly when I get home.  I am also working on what happens in 1986. 

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On 10/22/2017 at 1:28 PM, neo_prankster said:

Outlaws look great.

 

Any shot for Fox and USA Network to take over the TV contract down the road?

Fox might just opt to take on the USFL earlier than it started pursuing the NFL.  So could other networks and cable outlets.  Wait and see, I suppose.  

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1 hour ago, mkg74 said:

The Outlaws were first with this look, the Falcons were red helmet, red/white jerseys grey pants in the 80's.......

Yes.  1990s Falcons.

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1986 Season

 

The 1985-86 offseason and the 1986 season itself was a period of consolidation for the USFL.  At the annual owners meeting a decision was made to remain at 16 franchises, with no relocations, despite the continuing concerns regarding the Chicago franchise.  Los Angeles had seen an uptick in attendance in ’85 with their improved play, and the league was closing in on an ownership group that was promising to keep the team moving forward.   The most notable team news was a cosmetic one, as the Washington Federals, now merged with the Pittsburgh Maulers, opted to update their look and team colors, perhaps noting that a green & black scheme did not go over well in a community used to hating the green, silver and black of the Philadelphia Eagles.  Their modest shift, ditching black and combining green with what appeared to be a Dallas Cowboys-inspired blue did not solve the issue, and remained a topic of debate for years to come.

 

The decision to remain in the spring seemed to boost confidence, not only among owners, but with sponsors as well.   The only owner who did not seem pleased by the past year’s trajectory was General’s owner Donald Trump, who, now convinced that the option to move to Fall and merge with the NFL was becoming less and less likely, began to look for options to sell his franchise.  However, still hoping that the anti-trust suit against the NFL would prove fruitful, Trump retained the Generals throughout the 1986 season.

 

The new salary cap and exemption system meant that there  were fewer “big name” players brought into the league in 1986.  The most notable NFL defectors were St. Louis Cardinals QB Neil Lomax, who the league brought to Chicago in hopes of revitalizing the Blitz franchise,  Bengals WR Chris Collinsworth, who headed to the Bandits, Giants LB Leonard Marshall, signed by Birmingham, and Jets RB Freeman McNeil, who returned to his old college stomping grounds in LA.   The USFL Draft also seemed to avoid players highly regarded by the NFL, and leaned towards top players from smaller schools.  Despite this strategy, there were some breakout players from the first year class, including San Diego State WR Webster Slaughter, who helped revitalize the Wranglers’ offense,  Navy RB Napoeon McCallum, who gained the spotlight in Washington when former Mauler Mike Rozier suffered a midseason injury,  little-known DE Clyde Simmons from Western Carolina who paired with Reggie White in Memphis to form a devastating pass rush, and the lone “big school” signee, LSU’s Dalton Hilliard, drafted in the territorial  draft by New Orleans but traded to Denver, where he led the Gold in rushing.

 

The biggest loss from the USFL was not a player, but Stars Head Coach Jim Mora, who was lured to New Orleans of the NFL with a lucrative contract offer.  This led to a deline in the fortunes of the Stars, despite a talented roster, as new Head Coach and former D. Coordinator Vince Tobin simply could not generate the same results as his predecessor and the Stars barely missed the playoffs only one year after winning their 2nd title.

 

The 1986 season, from start to finish, was the story of the Houston Gamblers and its Run & Shoot offense.  QB Jim Kelly shattered records and 3 Houston WR’s gained over 1,000 yards as the Gamblers ran away with the league.  The season also saw the Federals make their first playoff appearance and a shift of power in the seemingly weak Western Division as Arizona and Los Angeles rose up while Oakland and Denver fell flat.   But in the end it was all about Houston, as they ran roughshod through the playoffs and won the 4th USFL Championship convincingly.

 

1986 Season Standings

EAST

*New Jersey      12-6

*Washington       9-9

Philadelphia        9-9

Jacksonville       6-12

 

SOUTH

*Memphis         12-6

*Tampa Bay      10-8

*Birmingham      9-9

New Orleans      7-9

 

CENTRAL

*Houston           14-4

*Michigan          10-8

San Antonio       9-9

Chicago             6-12

 

WEST

*Arizona             9-9

Los Angeles       9-9

Denver               7-11

Oakland             6-12

 

 

1986 Playoffs:       Houston d. Birmingham                Memphis d. Washington

                              New Jersey d. Tampa Bay            Michigan d. Arizona

 

                             Houston d. Michigan                      New Jersey d. Memphis

 

1986 Championship:       Houston 45  New Jersey 24

 

MVP: Jim Kelly, QB, Houston

Coach of the Year:  Jack Pardee, Houston

Rookie of the Year: Clyde Simmons, DE Memphis

 

New Franchises, Relocations or Redesigns:   Washington Federals Redesign & Recolor of Uniform

 

 

 

 

1987 Federals.png

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4 hours ago, WideRight said:

Bengals WR Chris Collinsworth, who headed to the Bandits

 

now here's a guy who defected from the NFL

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One man Trump can sell to would be Robert F.X. Sillerman, the gentleman who owned the NY/NJ Knights of the World League in the early 90's. If he doesn't woo the USFL owners, then maybe the owners of Madison Square Garden can buy the team.

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Nice! look for the Feds.....

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1987 Season

 

The 1986 offseason, leading into the 5th season of the USFL in March of 1987 was a shocking one.  As rumors of a future NFL player strike led to some player defections to the USFL and further enhanced the USFL as an alternative.  As the USFL met to discuss future growth.  Rumors that Bill Bidwell was looking to move his St. Louis Cardinals to Arizona led the USFL to begin courting potential ownership groups for a St. Louis franchise, considered a strong location to help boost Midwest interest with a possible Chicago rivalry.  Other bids were now beginning to come in, with owner groups from Baltimore (without the NFL Colts for 4 years already), Portland, Orlando and Columbus, Ohio also in the mix.  The league opted to move slowly, looking at 1988 as the next expansion year. 

 

In October, frustrated by the lack of respect he was getting from his fellow USFL owners, and still hoping to work his way into the NFL, Donald Trump sold the New Jersey Generals to an investor group that included former NY Jet Joe Namath and several money men from New York investment circles and began working with a group looking to bring a 3rd NFL Team to the NY market.  The timing on this move could not have been worse, as only 3 weeks after the sale was finalized and announced, the anti-trust lawsuit, which had been dragging in courts for months, suddenly came to an unexpected conclusion, with the jury finding in favor of the USFL to the tune of 112 million dollars, which due to anti-trust laws at the time, was trebled for a total windfall of over 330 million dollars, a serious blow to the NFL and the concept of the USFL as a league of also-rans and has beens. 

 

The victory brought with it cache, and investment.  New investors shored up the finances of franchises in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Denver and Jacksonville, as it now appeared the USFL was here to stay.  The league opted not to spend extravagantly by enhancing their salary cap, making modest increases in player compensation, but expanded their reach by restructuring their ESPN contract to include two weekly hour-long USFL shows in addition to the coverage of games.  But perhaps the shrewdest move of the USFL was to work with both ESPN and ABC to rework the terms of their contracts in the event that improvements to the standing of the Chicago Blitz did not come to fruition.  Both networks now agreed to retain their contracts with the USFL even should Chicago lose their franchise, with the proviso that the USFL would expand by 2 franchises in 1988 and that, were the Blitz to fold or relocate, a Chicago franchise would be in place no later than 1990.  This would prove a prescient decision by both the league and the networks.

 

The 1987 season would be highlighted by  a more balanced league, as teams began to figure out the Run & Shoot and as some of the league’s traditional cupcakes began to enhance their rosters with both drafted talent and NFL players discontent with the NFL’s wage structure.  The top names that came into the league were frustrated Steeler QB Mark Malone, who quickly took the reins in Oakland,  former Saint and Redskin George Rogers, who worked his way into the Jacksonville backfield and defensive standout Joey Browner, who left Minnesota’s defensive backfield to shore up the pass defense of the New Orleans Breakers.   Among the rookie sensations were Golden Domer, QB Steve Beurlein in Arizona, DT Dan Saleamua who stayed home in Tempe with the Wranglers as well, and WR Marc Carrier from Nicholls State, for the Showboats.  But no rookie made an impact quite like unheralded RB from Asuza Pacific Christian Okoye.  Okoye rushed for over 1,200 yards in his rookie season, flattening defenders as he unseated Freeman McNeil in Los Angeles and gave the Express a powerful 1-2 punch to balance the scrambling and accurate passing of Steve Young.  This combination led the Express all the way to the CFFL Championship, where the wheels fell off the bus, or more correctly, where Reggie White and Clyde Simmons ripped the wheels off, sacking Young 5 times and leading a defense which limited the Express to only 173 yards of total offense.

With no team relocations or expansion in 1987, the only new designs were teams updating their looks with new uniform providers.  Philadelphia and Denver opted to sign with Champion and new designs updated their uniforms, Denver’s more dramatically than the Stars.

 

1987 Final Standings

 

EAST

*Philadelphia     10-8

*Washington      10-8

New Jersey         8-10

Jacksonville        7-9

 

SOUTH

*Memphis         10-7-1

Tampa Bay         9-9

New Orleans     8-9-1

Birmingham       8-10

 

CENTRAL

*Houston           11-7

*Michigan          10-8

San Antonio       9-9

Chicago             5-13

 

WEST

*Los Angeles     11-7

*Arizona             10-8

*Oakland            10-8

Denver                8-10

 

 

1987 Playoffs         Los Angeles d. Oakland             Michigan d. Houston

                              Memphis d. Arizona                   Philadelphia d. Washington

 

                             Los Angeles d. Michigan             Memphis d. Philadelphia

 

1987 Championship         Memphis 23   Los Angeles 16

 

League MVP: Reggie White, DE, Memphis

Coach of the Year;  John Hadl, Los Angeles

Rookie of the Year: Christian Okoye, Los Angeles

 

Relocations, New Franchises & Uniform Updates: 

Denver Logo & Uniform Redesign.

Philadelphia Uniform Redesign.-- Will be up soon. 

 

 

 

1987 Gold.png

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And here, if it works, are the Stars. Not entirely sure why it seems blurry compared to the others, and the Star design is not clear at all.  I may come back to this one, but for now you get the general idea. 

 

 

 

 

1987 Stars.png

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That really does make me wish the real USFL made it to 1987 to be a true alternative for NFL players during the strike.

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And had the USFL been around in 1987 the NFL would have had an even harder time securing replacement players, so they likely would have had to cancel games.  Not to mention the stronger bargaining power the players would have had because of the USFL option.  It likely would have caused the 1987 strike to be longer and perhaps lead to an even more favorable contract for players.  Though in my scenario the USFL is not overpaying for a lot of players as much as in the first few years so the leap in salaries that the USFL caused in the 80's might not have been as pronounced. 

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