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USFL Alternative History: 1985 to...

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I realize I voted for both NFL cities.  So let me change that to Minnesota and California

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My votes are for Minnesota and Louisville.

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Blue OX  and Condors   I love the other 2 teams as well this was tough !!!

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***************

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Blue Ox and Bees!!

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2008 USFL Update

At their September Owners' Meeting the USFL announces the leagues two newest expansion franchises and the league alignment to begin in the 2010 season.  The two franchises selected to join the league in the Spring of 2010 are the Minnesota Blue Ox and the Louisville Bees.  Both franchises will hire coaches during the 2009 season and will begin stocking players through an expansion draft in October of 2009, with Territorial and Rookie Draft to follow.  Minnesota has been assigned the following three territorial draft schools: Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, while Louisville will have territorial rights to the U. of Louisville, the U. of Cincinnati and the U. of Kentucky.   Kentucky's rights had been held by the Washington Federals.  They will now have the rights to Indiana University and SUNY-Buffalo in place of Kentucky. 

 

The Expansion will lead to a realignment of several franchises.  In light of this the USFL opted to realign conferences as well, creating an Eastern Conference and a Western Conference, each with 3 divisions of 5 teams.  The Eastern Conference will be divided into Northeast, Southeast and Gulf Coast divisions, while the Western Conference will house the Great Lakes, Southwest and Pacific Divisions.  The league reaffirmed its playoff model of a 12 franchise playoff despite the expansion to 30 teams, however, they did opt for a modification of the wildcard rules, locking in 2 wild card positions for each conference, but allowing the final 2 wildcard slots to be granted regardless of conference to the two remaining teams with the best overall records (with tiebreakers as applicable.).  

 

Here is the 2010 USFL alignment.

 

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2009 USFL Season

Just months after the announcement of the league expansion decision, and only weeks into the 2008 season, the bottom fell out of the league.  The economic collapse of 2008 struck everyone in the country hard, but it seemed to particularly damage the entrepreneurial spirit of the USFL and its ownership groups.  Several franchises suddenly found themselves undercapitalized and as the value of property, including league-owned properties, plummeted, so too did the expense of refurbishing or building stadiums.  This, combined with the reluctance of municipalities and states to spend on anything which might be perceived as frivolous, and the overreliance of some ownership groups on the personal wealth of a few key owners, led to a significant shake up in the league.  By the arrival of the Fall owners meetings in Tampa, it was well known that several franchises were in dire straits.  No fewer than 4 franchises were in serious risk of folding even before the start of the 2009 season.  An emergency meeting of the league’s finance and governance committees led to a league-wide bailout plan which would sponsor the four failing franchises, Boston, Orlando, San Antonio and Las Vegas.  Each had their own unique issues, but all suffered from an overall loss of value, a retrenchment or withdrawal of minority owners and significant stadium issues.  The league would support the franchises through the 2009 season, but each would need to either provide a structured plan for solvency in 2010 or a strategy to refinance, sell or merge the franchises.

 

In Boston, low revenue from the lease with Boston College’s Alumni Stadium, combined with a tough market competing against the Celtics, Bruins and Red Sox for spring media attention had already weakened the franchise, but the financial collapse hit the Beacons particularly hard as several of their prominent backers were tied up with Wall Street investment firms and were under the gun.  While the league bailout helped the Beacons play the 2009 season out in Boston, a decision was made in secret to merge the team with the Baltimore Blitz, ending the franchise’s run in Boston after the season.  This was kept largely under wraps until near the end of the 2009 season, when the Boston press were able to confirm several of the legal necessities had been completed to merge the franchises and made it known to Bostonians that the Beacons were playing their final games in Boston.

 

A similar situation took place in Orlando, which did not have the stadium issues that plagued Boston, but which was even more devastated by the collapse of housing and property values in Florida.  Orlando’s ownership group found themselves in dire straits, and would have been unable to make payroll for the Renegade’s squad without league assistance.  By season’s end, they too would announce a merger, with the Renegade roster blending with the more stable and opportunistic Tampa Bay Bandits.  By 2010, Florida would be back to 2 franchises, with the Bandits now stocked with talent from what had been two very competitive teams to begin with.

 

The third franchise to face merger possibilities were the San Antonio Outlaws.  For a while it appeared that the Outlaws would try to merge with the Dallas Aztecs, and some attention was also paid to them by the Breakers, but in the end what emerged in San Antonio was a community effort to retain the team, an effort which attracted significant investment from both local business leaders and the deep pockets of Mexican multi-billionaire Carlos Slim, often cited as one of the wealthiest men in the world.  The Outlaws would remain in San Antonio, saved by a new ownership group, and the Alamo Dome would remain occupied, something which kept city officials happy, despite losing some ground on concessions and parking revenue in the deal.

 

The strangest case of the four was that of the Las Vegas Vipers.  The franchise had several negatives in its ledger, the first being a total of 9 wins in its first 3 seasons, leading local fans to lose their initial enthusiasm for the idea of a hometown team.  The second issue, one which had been a concern for USFL owners prior to the awarding of the franchise, turned out to be legitimate, the lack of a true hometown fan base to begin with.  Las Vegas was a transient city, and over their first 3 seasons the Vipers had a difficult time selling season tickets and attracting local sponsors.  Those weeks when the stadium seemed full could often be attributed to strong visiting team crowds, coming in from places like LA, Phoenix or Denver.  The biggest crowd for the Vipers was a week in their second season when the NJ Generals played in Las Vegas over Memorial Day weekend and the stands were noticeably red & blue instead of green & copper.  And, of course, the third issue was Sam Boyd stadium, which simply had not been developed or upgraded to the needs of a successful USFL franchise.   These three factors put Las Vegas in a bad position even prior to the financial collapse, but with a real estate market that absolutely bottomed out in 2008-2009, a local community that saw wages and employment also drop dramatically, and a noticeable decline in permanent residents, there was little choice for the Vipers but to seek offers from external groups.   As fate would have it, one such group was eager to take on the franchise.  The ownership group which had pitched and failed in their attempt to bring the USFL to Sacramento as an expansion team leapt at the chance to bring a team to their city through relocation.   By mid-August of 2009, the Vipers were sold and the moving vans were ready to go, but the name and logo would remain in Las Vegas.  The Sacramento ownership group brought back the original moniker used in their bid to  garner an expansion franchise.  2010 would bring the California Condors to life.

 

And so, the 2010 USFL would look significantly distinct from the original alignment plan.  The divisions would remain the same, but now there would be no growth from 28 to 30 franchises, the Northeast and the Gulf Coast Divisions would be at 4 teams each due to the loss of the Renegades and Beacons through merger. 

 

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2009 USFL Season Part 2

 

All of the franchise shifting and economic turmoil made the 2009 season one where far more news was focusing on off-the-field and front office drama than on-the-field action.  Sure, there were a few intriguing stories, such as the rise of the New Jersey Generals after the firing of coach Steve Spurrier, and no one would soon forget how Boston Beacons wideout Plaxico Burress somehow managed to shoot himself in the thigh at a club in Cambridge.  But, with so much happening in the board rooms of the league, the issues between players or the drama of the season just seemed muted in comparison.

 

The 2008 offseason, leading to the 2009 spring season, did have some significant stories.  For one, the NFL had once again raided the league in search of quality signal callers.   Michigan lost its star, Matt Hasselbeck to the NY Giants, Denver’s Matt Schaub ended up in Atlanta and Orlando’s short-lived Jeff Garcia experiment ended abruptly when Garcia signed once again with the NFL, this time in Cincinnati.  The USFL was less successful in raiding NFL coffers, though Denver did find a replacement for Schaub in former Ram QB Marc Bulger.  The only other notable signings were the Atlanta Spartans snagging RB Jurious Norwood from their local rivals the Falcons, Houston signing former Saint RB Reggie Bush and Cleveland signing veteran wideout Derrick Mason.

 

In the Rookie Draft Michigan attempted to replace Matt Hasselbeck by trading with the Express for the rights to USC signal caller Mark Sanchez.  When Dallas selected Kansas State QB Josh Freeman, they let Jessie Palmer go to Denver, but retained the rights to the still-banned Michael Vick, continuing to lobby for his reinstatement.  The draft was deeper on both the offensive and defensive lines, with the biggest breakout star being former Tennessee Volunteer Robert Ayers, who helped remind the Memphis Showboat faithful of their glory years of Simeon Rice and Reggie White.   Ayers would come in second in the Rookie of the Year vote, a tough win for a defensive player, but a fair position.  The eventual winner would be RB Chris “Beanie” Wells, taken by Cleveland in the Territorial Draft.  Wells quickly became the bellcow for the Invaders, and paired with a knockout defense the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust style of Wells helped propel the Invaders to the best record in the league.

 

Unlike 2008, which saw both an undefeated and a winless franchise, 2009 saw greater parity and a tougher slog for most teams to reach the playoffs.  In the end, most of the playoff participants were holdovers from 2008, with the one exception being the upstart New Jersey Generals, who combined an imaginative short passing game under Chad Pennington’s leadership with tough defensive football to surprise the Eastern Division.  In the playoffs, both New Jersey’s pluck and Cleveland’s bravado soon fell flat, as both were upset in the divisional round.  In fact, upsets were the cornerstone of the 2009 playoffs as both #1 seeds failed to reach the Championship.  In their stead were the Birmingham Stallions, a solid #2 seed from the Liberty Conference and the cinderella Washington Federals, the 6th seed from the Independence Conference, a team which only qualified because Chicago and Pittsburgh played to a 10-10 tie in a downpour game with 3 separate rain delays in the season’s final week, a tie which knocked Pittsburgh out and letting the Federals slip in.

 

Washington took full advantage of the “Monsoon Miracle” as it grew to be known.  Knocking off Denver in Denver, then shocking the world with a smashmouth 13-10 victory over the heavily favored Cleveland Invaders, and capping it off with a convincing 31-17 victory over their nemesis, the Philadelphia Stars.  Many pundits looked at the Birmingham-Washington matchup and expected Drew Brees and the Federals to be just happy to be there.  But on a hot night in the Meadowlands, the Federals, bolstered by a significant contingent of green-clad DC’ers, kept Birmingham and their All-league back Cadillac Williams at bay for most of the game.  They built a 23-14 lead with 4 minutes left to play, but a quick Stallions score on a beautifully thrown sideline pass from Manning to Craphonso Thorpe gave the Stallions hope.  They attempted the onside kick with 1:33 left in the game, but Federals wideout Marques Colston fell on the bounding ball and the Federals were able to end the game with 2 Willis McGahee runs and a kneel down to take the first Championship in the 26 year history of the club.

 

2009 USFL Final Standings

INDEPENDENCE CONFERENCE

LIBERTY CONFERENCE

EAST

 

*NJ      10-4

*PHI      9-5

*WSH    8-6

BOS      6-8

 

CENTRAL

 

*CLE    11-3

PIT       7-6-1

MICH    7-7

CHI       5-8-1

STL       5-9

       

WEST

 

*DEN     8-6

*HOU    8-6

DAL      7-7

UTAH    6-8

SAN      3-11

 

EAST

 

*JAX    8-6      ATL      7-7

CHA     6-8

BAL     2-12

CENTRAL

 

*BIRM  10-4

*MEM    8-6

NOR      7-7

ORL      7-7

TBY      5-9

 

WEST

 

*SJO   10-4

*LA      9-5

*POR   8-6  

ARZ     5-9

LV        3-11

 

           

 

 2009 USFL Playoffs

Wildcard Round                       Washington(6) d. Denver(3)           Jacksonville(3) d. Portland(6)

                                                Philadelphia(4) d. Houston(5)         Los Angeles(4) d. Memphis(5)

 

Divisional Round               Washington(6) d. Cleveland(1)               San Jose(1) d. Los Angeles(4)

                                          Philadelphia(4) d. New Jersey(2)           Birmingham(2) d. Jacksonville(3)

 

Semifinal Round               Washington(6) d. Philadelphia(4)           Birmingham(2) d. San Jose(1)

 

2009 USFL Championship             Washington 23  Birmingham 21

 

2009 USFL Award Winners

2009 Most Valuable Player: Marshawn Lynch, RB, San Jose

2009 Coach of the Year: Jim Zorn, New Jersey

2009 Rookie of the Year:  Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB, Cleveland

 

2009 USFL Expansion, Relocation & Uniform/Logo Redesign

1.       USFL Announced the 2010 expansion franchises would be the Minnesota Blue Ox and the Louisville Bees. 

          Full logo and uniform reveals were scheduled for the day preceding the 2010 USFL Draft.

2.       Week 10: News breaks that the Boston Beacons would merge after the season with the Baltimore Blitz, folding into the Baltimore franchise.

3.       Week 13: The owners of the Orlando Renegades announce that their franchise would merge with the Tampa Bay Bandits, folding into that franchise.

4.       August 2009:  The Las Vegas Vipers are sold to an ownership group representing Sacramento California.  

          The California Condors will replace the Vipers in 2010.  Logo and Uniforms to be revealed at the 2010 USFL Draft.

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Thanks, Bush! Happy the Generals are back on the rise, though.

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Too bad for the Beacons, I'm going to miss that amazing identity.

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2009 USFL Update

 

On the eve of the 2010 USFL draft, at a press conference held at the Metrodome, the Minnesota Blue Ox revealed their team identity and uniforms for the 2010 season.  Team gear and merchandise would be available at the team's draft party, to be held at the Target Center, and featuring performances by Morris Day and the Time and guest hosts Minnesota Football legends Ahmad Rashaad and Cris Carter.

 

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2009 USFL UPDATE:

 

On Draft day 2010, the USFL's new Louisvile Bees franchise held their draft party at the KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville.  At the draft party the Bees unveiled their inaugural uniforms.  They also announced the signing, via trade of former Louisville Cardinal QB Brian Brohm, who appeared in uniform at the event alongside former UK and Baltimore Blitz player TE Jacob Tamme, another Bee's signing.  The Bees uniform, which combines Honey gold with black and lavender, includes a subtle honeycomb pattern on the shoulder and pant stripes and the Bee's secondary logo (3 Bees in flight).  

 

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Both look great. Too bad the beacons and vipers have to go. Same with Orlando. 

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