WideRight

USFL Alternative History: 1985 to...

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1 hour ago, Jimmy Lethal said:

oh god the USFL is gonna fold in 2018 isn't it

 

While they had a good run. (Also, I hope Trump was not elected POTUS in this universe).

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Not saying the USFL is going to fold, but this weekend I will reveal the 2015 season, and the 24 teams that play in it are still in shock.  Yup, only 24.  Something big has changed. 

 

As for politics, I have tried to avoid it.  My instinct was to have Gore win in 2000, which changes everything.  I was also tempted to have Trump discovered living under a bridge in Tampa by 2005, but that just felt spiteful, so that is not canonical in this alternative history. 

 

 

 

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NEVER PUT TRUMP IN MY CITY. EVER.

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3 hours ago, WideRight said:

Not saying the USFL is going to fold, but this weekend I will reveal the 2015 season, and the 24 teams that play in it are still in shock.  Yup, only 24.  Something big has changed. 

 

As for politics, I have tried to avoid it.  My instinct was to have Gore win in 2000, which changes everything.  I was also tempted to have Trump discovered living under a bridge in Tampa by 2005, but that just felt spiteful, so that is not canonical in this alternative history. 

 

 

 

 

24 teams, eh?

 

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This ought to be good 

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5 hours ago, WideRight said:

As for politics, I have tried to avoid it.  My instinct was to have Gore win in 2000, which changes everything.  I was also tempted to have Trump discovered living under a bridge in Tampa by 2005, but that just felt spiteful, so that is not canonical in this alternative history. 

 

Wow, the man that won the 2000 election actually becomes President? Whoda thunk? also you could at least have trump's businesses fall apart to some degree

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Donald-Trump-Making-Funny-Face-Photo.jpg

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When Trump owned the Generals in this universe, did they have any endorsement deals with Diet Coke, KFC or McDonald's? Just curious.

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2015 USFL SEASON: Offseason 

The 2014-2015 Off-Season was the culmination of three years of disastrous upheaval for the league.  After losing many of their top stars to the newly aggressive NFL, the USFL found itself losing attendance, dropping in television ratings and struggling to offset the impression that it was a league that had lost its swagger.  The ongoing investigations into illegal labor practices, back-room financial shenanigans and under the table contracts were expanding and opening significant rifts between the league and the players union, and even between players themselves.  Those accused of receiving additional compensation beyond the league’s salary cap structure were attacked by teammates and opposing players who felt they were being played as fools.  Owners who insisted their franchises were clean turned on those that seemed to be colluding with the league offices, and even more shocking, some owners quickly realized that there had been deals cut for players on their own rosters without their knowledge.  Questions of collusion, abuse of power and outright fraud were being asked from all quarters.

 

And then the bomb fell.  Investigators from the Federal Department of Labor revealed their findings and issued indictments in October of 2014, naming the league’s central office, the commissioner and a cadre of 10 owners as complicit to a variety of charges.  Soon lists of players who had received illegal deals were released by Labor Dept. officials, calls for ownership to step down became commonplace and the CBA between the league and the USFLPA was all but abandoned.   The USFLPA called for a complete work stoppage in early November, threatening the ability of the league to hold its annual draft and its free agency period. 

 

Emergency measures were taken, the majority of owners, who were not under indictment, demanded and got immediate concessions, including the dismissal of ¾ of the league office’s key officers.  A new commissioner was named, former  NBC Sports Chairman, Dick Ebersol, who quickly brought in a team of respected legal, labor and football minds, not the least of which were former USFL coach Jim Mora Sr., former player and coach Steve Spurrier and former GM of the Panthers Jim Spavital, along with NFL expertise in the form of former GM Bobby Beatherd and Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells.

 

By January the indictments had led to ownership groups splintering, and with new leadership in the league office, some teams were urged to disband or merge.  The fallout was quick and transformative for the league.  Mark Cuban, at the center of much of the scandal, stepped down and sold his controlling interest in the Dallas Aztecs.  The remaining owners quickly agreed to a merger with the Houston Gamblers.   A similar practice happened in St. Louis where the team ownership immediately took the offer of the Chicago Machine and merged themselves out of existence. 

 

Other franchises simply packed up shop, releasing their players and resources to the league.   All 4 were teams implicated by the pay-for-play scandal: California, Portland, Charlotte and Utah.   The mad shuffle saw the league drop from 30 franchises down to 24 in a matter of only 6 weeks and many feared the bloodshed was not over.  The massive downsizing also kicked in several unfavorable clauses in the league’s television contracts, with terms that greatly reduced the league’s television revenue.  They would need to renegotiate contracts, but first they would need to guarantee that a product would hit the field in 2015.

 

The new commissioner and league office staff began immediate negotiations with the USFLPA to build a temporary CBA to allow for more time to flesh out a more lasting agreement.  This took time and while an contract was eventually developed, it pushed the start of the 2015 USFL season into May and shortened the season to only 10 games.  This, combined with the inability to conduct normal offseason activities put a further strain on the league.   A draft of players from the 4 dissolved franchises, as well as a dispersal draft from the Dallas and St. Louis franchises helped to retool several teams, again hit hard by NFL defections.  The USFL rookie draft was a hurried affair and few of the top prospects of the Draft opted to sign with the beleaguered spring league. 

 

There were some notable exceptions to the rookie washout however.  Alabama’s Amari Cooper signed with Birmingham and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon with Minnesota.  The Bees signed Indiana’s Tevin Coleman and Tampa Bay signed RB Duke Johnson from the Miami Hurricanes, but the most surprising successful signing was that of the Seattle Orcas, who, with the departure of the Portland Grizzlies, swooped in to claim Oregon as a territorial school and quickly signed former duck QB Marcus Mariota to a 4 year deal.

 

And so, with talent from around the league reshuffled, and working on a shortened schedule with a temporary CBA in place, the USFL hobbled through the 10 week schedule.  Rosters were not as star-studded as in past years, and play was noticeably sloppy for the season’s first few weeks, but by mid-summer, the games were being played at a high level and the league seemed to have gained some good will and traction as fans began to remember why they had loved the spring league, forgiving some of the malfeasance of its leadership. 

 

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2015 USFL Season: On the field

With only 10 weeks to the season, it was more about inertia than talent by season’s end.  Teams like Washington, Tampa and Arizona gelled early and were able string together wins throughout the year, while other teams, such as New Jersey, struggled early but came on late to sneak into the playoffs.  The league had not opted to reduce the playoff field, so 12 of 24 USFL squads made the postseason.  But, despite strong seasons from Tampa, Arizona, Denver and Cleveland, the odds makers simply did not know who to favor in most games, still trying to sort out the new rosters of each squad.

 

In the playoffs it became clear that some teams were pretenders, as New Jersey, Chicago and Baltimore folded easily, and by the Semifinal round the cream had risen to the top, with both #1 seeds as well as the defending champions, Washington, and a hard-nosed Arizona team.  Tampa Bay, using a unique wildcat set that allowed both Tim Tebow and former 49er Collin Kaepernick to be on the field at the same time, tore through the Federals defense with a combination of read-option plays and playaction passing on their way to a 44-21 drubbing of the defending champs.  Meanwhile in Cleveland, the Invaders soon found they had all they could handle with the upstart Wranglers.  Arizona’s combination of mistake free quarterbacking from Luke McCown and pound-it-out running kept the ball away from the Cleveland offense.  But despite this, the Wranglers trailed by 3 with 8:22 to play, when an errant handoff was scooped up by Wrangler LB Ryan Shazier and run back 37 yards for a TD.  This gave the Wranglers the 4 point lead that would eventually win them the game and a trip back to the Championship for the first time since 1988.

 

The Championship game was a cat and mouse battle between the Tampa Bay offense and the Arizona defense.  Tied at 14 at the half, it appeared that Tampa was wearing down the Wranglers with their run-pass option plays, but at the same time, Arizona kept matching scores with the Bandits.  The game went back and forth until Tampa took a 31-30 lead with only 52 seconds left on a Kaepernick scramble that went 27 yards to paydirt.  The Wranglers, who had been methodical but not flashy all game looked to be out of the running after a muffed kickoff left them at their own 7 yard line with 44 seconds to play.  It got even worse when McCown was tripped by his own lineman and took a sack on the first play of the drive, pushing them back to the 3.  But, on 2nd and 14, McCown hit unheralded wideout Taylor Gabriel on a slant-and-go that fooled the Tampa secondary, gaining 33 yards and getting out of bounds with 33 seconds left on the clock.  After an incompletion, McCown then hit his RB, Joique Bell, on a swing route that took the ball up to the Tampa 40.  One quick completion later brought them to the 33, where the drive stalled, and, using their last time out, the Wranglers brought out their kicker, Blair Walsh, to attempt the 50 yarder for the win. Walsh clipped the left upright but the ball slid through and the Arizona Wranglers won their first USFL championship.  A fitting end for a tough season as a founding team found themselves champions for the first time in their 33 history. 

 

 

2015 USFL Final Standings

Eastern Conference

Western Conference

Northeast

Southeast

Gulf Coast

MidWest

West

Pacific

 

*PHI   7-3

*NJ     6-4

NE     4-5-1

PIT    2-8

 

*WSH  6-3-1

*BLT    6-4

ATL     5-5

JAX     4-6

 

*TBY     8-1-1

*MEM    6-4

BIR        4-6

NO        3-6-1

 

*CLE    8-2

*CHI     6-4

*MIC    6-4

LOU     3-7

 

*DEN   7-2-1

*SAN   6-4

HOU    4-6

MINN   3-7

 

*ARZ    8-2

SEA     5-4-1

LA       4-6

SJ       3-7

 

2015 USFL Playoffs

Wildcard Round                      Washington(3) d. New Jersey(6)          Denver(3) d. Michigan(6)

                                                Memphis(4) d. Baltimore(5)                  San Antonio(5) d. Chicago(4)

 

Division Round                  Tampa Bay(1) d. Memphis(4)                     Cleveland(1) d. San Antonio(5)

                                          Washington(3) d. Philadelphia(2)                Arizona(2) d. Denver(3)

 

Semifinal Round               Tampa Bay(1) d. Washington(3)                 Arizona(2) d. Cleveland(1)

 

 

2015 USFL Championship             Arizona 33  Tampa Bay 31

 

2015 USFL Awards

                USFL Most Valuable Player:  Colin Kaepernick, QB, Tampa Bay

                USFL Coach of the Year:  Hue Jackson, Arizona

                USFL Rookie of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Seattle

 

 

2015 USFL Relocation, Expansion, Uniform & Logo News

1.       The Dallas Aztecs merged with the Houston Gamblers, retaining the Gamblers identity.

2.       The St. Louis Lighting merged with the Chicago Machine, retaining the Machine identity.

3.       The Utah Stags, Charlotte Hounds, California Condors and Portland Grizzlies ceased operations.

4.       While the USFL came to terms with Nike to produce uniforms for the 2015-2020 seasons, the short time span for turnaround and the uncertainty of the season delayed any franchise updates to uniform design, with Nike retaining the features from the past year’s Under Armor designs.

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While a tremendously interesting twist in terms of narrative, it strikes me as a downgrade aesthetically. In my opinion, the Dallas Aztecs, Charlotte Hounds, and California Condors sported some of the USFL's best looks. I'm truly disappointed to see them go.

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Tebow and Kaepernick on the same team? I'm surprised they don't have a plethora of media coverage based on that alone.

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30 minutes ago, ChicagoOakland said:

Tebow and Kaepernick on the same team? I'm surprised they don't have a plethora of media coverage based on that alone.

 

Give it another season.

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Utah stags no more wow !!  

 

Well i guess we got a meaner leaner league. Here's hoping it lasts!

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Interesting turn of events! Sad to see the league downsized, but I think the talent not being so spread out will help attract fans. I'm curious how Tampa will be next season. I can see them giving defenses a headache. 

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Since it'll be another year or two before the Vicis Zero1 comes out in this universe, what is the most popular helmet model at the present moment?

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2015-2016 OFFSEASON UPDATE

September 17, 2015—New York.   At a press conference at Madison Square Garden a gathering of businessmen, investors and executives from FoxSports announced the formation of a new spring football league to be called the XFL.  The cadre of millionaires included several former USFL owners, including controversial former owner of the Dallas Aztecs, Mark Cuban, former California Condors owner David Sun, Portland Grizzlies minority owner Bill Bowerman and teams of owners of the now defunct Utah Stags and Charlotte Hounds.  Joining them were several ownership groups from failed USFL expansion bids, including Mike Wilpon (NY Guardians), G. Burrell (KC Scouts), John Henry of the Orlando Blast bid, Mickey Arlson of the Miami Tropics bid and members of the Cook family who had bid to expand to Indianapolis years earlier.   These disgruntled, ousted or rejected USFL owners declared that the USFL had failed them and failed the American football public. 

 

These owners announced an agreement to form a 12 team league to compete directly with the USFL in the Spring, backed by FoxSports with a multiyear contract, and led by WWE owner and President Vince McMahon, who would turn his WWE empire over to his wife as he stepped into the role of XFL Commissioner.  The new league had ambitious plans to begin play in March 2016, only 6 months away.   The 12 franchises would form 3 divisions with the East comprised of New York (Wilpon), Boston (Henry), Charlotte and Miami (Arlson).  The Central would have Dallas (Cuban), Kansas City (Burrell), Chicago and Indianapolis (Cook Family).  The West would have a team in Oakland (Sun), Salt Lake City, Portland (Bowerman) and Los Angeles.

 

This news rocked the USFL as the new XFL clearly had the financial wherewithal to provide a serious threat to the league, but the damage was not yet finished.  By December the owners of both the Minnesota Blue Ox and the Louisville Bees declared their intention to defect from the USFL and join the new XFL, citing ongoing concerns about the stability of the older league and dissatisfaction with the USFL’s new leadership and financial constraints.  They would forego the 2016 USFL season and join the XFL for 2017. 

 

And so, in less than 3 years the USFL had shrunk from 30 teams down to only 22 and now they were facing the very real challenge of a rival league with deep pockets.  The league held emergency meetings in January, where it was decided that their long term strategy would be to contract further, down to 20 franchises, with mergers to help some of the weaker franchises to fortify through consolidation with a stronger locale.  The final two teams which would be contracted were not yet decided, but many speculated that the new franchises in Boston and Seattle, or possibly some of the league's  weaker-performing franchises might be prime targets.

 

In our next post, we will see how this further upheaval impacted the 2016 USFL season and provide a peak into the 2016 XFL season. 

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