USFL Alternative History: 1985 to...

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1992 USFL Season

While off the field, the USFL was stable to the point of being boring, the on-the-field product was exciting and capturing the national attention.  Competitive seasons, exciting playoff games and close, competitive championship games have caused the USFL to retain its status as the more exciting, more open and more freewheeling of the two big football leagues.   There were some minor bumps in the road, such as the ongoing issues between the St. Louis Lightning and Busch Stadium regarding scheduling and upkeep, but in most cities the football was good and the owners were happy.


The league was doing so well, in fact, that several owners from the struggling Canadian Football League approached the USFL to see if there was a way for the two leagues to work In concert.  It was clear that the USFL-NFL competition for players was leaving the CFL with few top quality prospects, and the league was suffering at the ticket office.  There were rumors flying around that a couple of the longstanding league’s teams were even floating the possibility of departing the CFL for the USFL, most notably franchises in Toronto and Vancouver.  But, little came of these rumors and in the end the USFL and CFL agreed only to a pact in which neither would sign or “poach” players from the other during key months of the year when one or the other league was in training camp.   Over the next decade, the CFL continued to have difficulties, losing franchises in Ottawa and Winnipeg before a revival in Canadian football allowed the league to repopulate those franchises in the early 2000’s.  


As for the USFL, the flow of player retirements, NFL signings and NFL players jumping to the USFL continued.  Most notable in 1992 was the retirement of San Antonio QB Doug Williams, Washington QB Reggie Collier, and after yet another knee injury in training camp, New Orleans Breaker RB Marcus Dupree.  Coaches also departed, most notably Tampa Bay’s only coach since 1983, Steve Spurrier, who was lured away by Washington of the NFL.   He would be replaced by a young hotshot OC from the Atlanta Falcons, June Jones.


Efforts to replace lost players were mixed.  San Antonio reached into the CFL and signed their Eastern Division’s top QB, Damon Allen.  Washington went for a local name, snapping up embattled Buffalo Bills QB Frank Reich, a former star at the U. of Maryland.  The loss of Marcus Dupree, who had always battled injuries, was not a total surprise, as the Breakers had been committed to having a solid reserve behind him.  First it had been battering ram Buford Jordan, but in recent years it was Nebraska’s Lydell Carr who had backed up DuPree, and he would now have a chance to shine as the full-time starter.


The most significant rule change in the league prior to the 1992 season was the expansion of playoff slots from 8 to 10. This allowed the top 50% of the league to qualify, keeping more franchises in the playoff hunt well into the summer. It proved awkward for the 5-division league, leading to 5 division champions and 1 wildcard to get byes as the 4 remaining wildcards played their way into the second round, but the change seemed to benefit several franchises who saw late season ticket sales remain steady when in past years they had tailed off.  No franchise took more advantage of this than the Breakers, who squeaked into the playoffs, won their wildcard round and then, as the #10 seed, knocked off the #1 seed on the arm of Brett Favre.  They would fall the next week as a late Favre interception kept them from scoring a second major upset, but excitement in New Orleans, which had yet to see much success in 30 years of NFL football, was at a fever pitch thanks to the young gunslinger.


The Championship game saw the #2 seed Oakland Invaders take on the resurgent Philadelphia Stars.  In another tight game, Oakland prevailed to grab their first title, scoring a late Bono to Brent Jones TD to pull out the 1-point victory.



1992 Final Standings





* PHIL        12-6

* NJG         10-8

WSH           7-11

BALT           6-12




* TBY         10-7-1

*BIRM       10-8

JAX            8-10

MEM          7-11



*MICH      13-5

CHI            9-9

COL           9-9

STL           4-14



*HOU        11-7

* DEN        10-8

*NOR        10-8

SAN           6-12




* OAK     12-5-1

* LA        11-7

POR        10-8

ARI          5-13



1992 Playoffs


                New Orleans(10) d. Denver(7)                   New Jersey(8) d. Birmingham(9)


                New Orleans(10) d. Michigan(1)                Oakland(2) d. New Jersey(8)

                Philadelphia(3) d. Los Angeles(6)              Houston(4) d. Tampa Bay(5)


                Oakland(2) d. New Orleans(10)                 Philadelphia(3) d. Houston(4)


1992 Championship    Oakland  31   Philadelphia 30


1992 Leaders

USFL MVP: Anthony Carter, WR, Michigan

USFL Coach of the Year:  Dick Vermiel, Philadelphia

USFL Rookie of the Year: LB Gerald Dixon, Columbus


Relocation, Expansion or Uniform/Logo Redesign

1.       New Jersey made minor logo & uniform changes, adding their dark royal blue to the logo and some gold from the logo into the uniforms.

2.       Jacksonville removed the “running bull” sleeve design to match sleeve to pant stripe design.



1992 NJ Generals.png

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Perhaps a STL Lightning relocation is in the works.....Really like the gold acccents worked into the Generals' uniform only a minor gripe, the home uniform numbers the gold is not as visible, like the road uni., Maybe the gold outline outside of the blue?>


like the cleaned up Bulls look too.

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So I take it that the Bulls retired the burgundy pants pretty early on?


And I also take it that the Lightning aren't drawing very many folks in STL? Maybe, just maybe they can swap the Lightning for an NFL club once the Trans World Dome is ready?

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I'm already bracing myself for Tom Brady being drafted by the Michigan Panthers. 

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Those new Gens uniforms are fire. Just wanna throw this out there, are you gonna keep using this template the whole way through? I really like it.

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Wait, Oakland won? Really?

Party on East 14th Street, y'all!

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As a Packer fan, I happen to know way too much about Brett Favre. So, my question, what's stopping his boozing in New Orleans (that was a significant issue IRL with Atlanta). Green Bay was perfect for him because of their lack of anything remotely close to a party scene.

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10 minutes ago, Dan O'Mac said:

As a Packer fan, I happen to know way too much about Brett Favre. So, my question, what's stopping his boozing in New Orleans (that was a significant issue IRL with Atlanta). Green Bay was perfect for him because of their lack of anything remotely close to a party scene.

That's a really good question.  I wonder if that will come into play later on.  Perhaps he doesn't play in 4,000 straight games (some huge number here) or maybe he doesn't last in New Orleans eventhough he is successful on the field.  Who's to know.  Or maybe the Breakers were smart and they keep his parents in town too to watch him.   Who knows?  Something might just happen.

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14 hours ago, Jimmy Lethal said:

Those new Gens uniforms are fire. Just wanna throw this out there, are you gonna keep using this template the whole way through? I really like it.

The jersey/pants template I will keep.  The helmet template will eventually get updated to a newer style helmet (I am not going to do every possible phase of helmets, but at least one shift sometime in the 2000's if I get that far.)


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1993 Season

The 1982 season ended with a celebration of 10 seasons for the once underdog spring league.  The league named an “All Decade” squad and celebrated their successes over the first ten seasons.  Citing greater stability than anyone anticipated and a growing fan base who did not see fandom of one league as a rejection of the other.  It was not uncommon for Panthers fans to be Lion fans as well, Breaker fans to swap out their blue jerseys for black Saints gear each fall, or to even see a resourceful fan who had created a half-Bronco, half-Gold jersey.  In some markets the USFL was the only game in town, in others it was competing quite well with spring and summer MLB competition.  The league’s only real concerns for franchise stability were St. Louis, where the Lightning just could not make headway in the baseball city’s fandom, and Baltimore, where three straight years of poor on-the-field results were beginning to wear on the fans who celebrated the return of football to their franchises.  Despite these issues, ownership in both cities stated that they had plans for the long haul and worked to improve their on-the-field performance in 1993.

Before moving on to the 1992-1993 Off-Season activities of the league and its teams, here is the All Decade Team of the USFL, representing the best the league had to offer from 1983 through 1992.




QB-Jim Kelly, Houston (’84-’92)

QB-Steve Young, Los Angeles (’84-’92)

RB-Herschel Walker, New Jersey (’83-’92)

RB-Marcus DuPree, New Orleans (’84-’91)

RB-Thurman Thomas, Houston (’88-’92)

WR-Anthony Carter, Michigan (’83-’92)

WR-Cris Collinsworth, Tampa Bay (’86-’92)

WR-Gary Clark, JAX (’84-’89), CHI (’90-’92)

WR-Ricky Sanders, Houston (’84-’92)

TE-Dan Ross, BOS (’83), NOR (’84-’92)

TE-Brent Jones, Oakland (’87-’92)

T-Irv Eatman, PHI (’83-’87), POR (’88-’92)

T-Gary Zimmerman, Los Angeles (’84-’92)

T-John Elliott, Michigan (’88-’92)

G-Nate Newton, Tampa Bay (’84-’92)

G-Tom Thayer, CHI (’83), ARI (’84-’89), STL (’90-’92)

G-Steve Wisniewski, San Antonio (’89-’92)

C-Bart Oates, Philadelphia (’83-’92)

C- Kent Hull, New Jersey (’83-’92)

K- Novo Bojovic, Michigan (’83-’91)



DE-Reggie White, Memphis (’84-’87)

DE-Leonard Marshall, Birmingham (’86-’92)

DE-Clyde Simmons, Memphis (’86-’92)

DT-Dan Saleamua, Arizona (’87-’92)

DT-Mike Golic, Baltimore (’88-’92)

DT-William Fuller, PHI (’83-’87), STL (’88-’90)

LB- Sam Mills, Phlladelphia (’83-’92)

LB-Gary Plummer, Oakland (’83-’92)

LB-Pat Swilling, Birmingham (’89-’92)

LB-Kurt Gouveia, New Jersey (’86-’92)

CB-Solomon Wilcots, Washington (’87-’91)

CB-Frank Minnifield, CHI(’83), ARI (’84-’92)

CB-James Hasty, Portland (’88-’92)

S-Joey Browner, New Orleans (’87-’91)

S-Mike Prior, DEN (’87-’89) CHI (’90-’92)

S-David Greenwood, Michigan (’83-’90)

P-Sean Landeta, PHI (’83-’87), CBS (’88-’92)

KR-Mel Gray, Los Angeles (’84-’92)

PR-Henry “Gizmo” Williams, Memphis (’84-’89)

HC-Jack Pardee, Houston (’84-’92)


There was some controversy with the list, which was voted on by a select committee of owners, coaches and players.  Many fans were shocked that the committee picked Thurman Thomas over former Star RB Kelvin Bryant, or that Reggie White, despite playing only 4 years in the league was the top vote-getter among DE’s.  But the biggest surprise, particularly for Star fans, was the selection of Jack Pardee over Jim Mora as the All Decade head coach.  It was clear that the committee was downplaying those players and coaches who defected to the NFL and to promote players and coaches who were still active in the USFL.  That controversy aside, it is an amazing team, representing 10 years of exciting football.


Looking ahead to 1993, the league would celebrate the opening of the new PG&E Stadium in Los Angeles, by having the Express host the opening game of the year and the 1993 Championship game.  In player acquisition and transfer news, the USFL and NFL continued to swap players.  Houston lost WR Clarence Verdin to the Cincinnati Bengals, QB Mike Tomczak left Columbus to play for the NFL’s Chiefs and RB Dalton Hilliard left the Denver Gold to play for the NFL’s Seahawks.  1993 also saw the retirement of two of the league’s biggest stars as Herschel Walker decided to hang up the cleats in NJ and defensive standout William Fuller retired after a decade with the Stars.


The USFL snagged a few NFL names as well as New Jersey tried to beef up its ground attack by bringing in another bruising back in former Oiler Lorenzo White.  Columbus looked to add some firepower in the form of WR Brett Perriman from the Lions.  Washington went for defensive muscle by signing former Cowboy Jim Jeffcoat.  But the biggest fight for players in 1993 was in the Draft & Sign battles between the two leagues over the rookie class.


The USFL won a few battles, as Tampa was able to sign OT Willie Roaf from Louisiana Tech and the Gold snagged territorial pick CB Deon Figures.  New Jersey added Syracuse wideout Qadry Ismail and Chicago found a gem in late round defender LB Jesse Armstead. But the biggest fight was one the league eventually lost.  The Bandits, unhappy with their QB play despite winning the Southeast Division in 1992 fought to steal away the anticipated top pick in the NFL Draft, Washington State QB Drew Bledsoe.  Despite all their efforts to sign him before the NFL Draft in April, Bledsoe opted to sign with the NFL.  It was a moneymaking move for Bledsoe, when the Buffalo Bills, still stinging from the loss of Jim Kelly almost 10 years earlier, traded away several picks to move to #1 and then paid one of the richest contracts in football history to sign Bledsoe.  He would end up winning two Super Bowls with the Bills in the late 1990’s, and Tampa actually would find its QB as well, despite their failed attempts at Bledsoe, when mid-round pick, and cross-state rival of Bledsoe, Mark Brunell emerged as the starter for the Bandits in 1994, after a year on the bench behind the inconsistent Rodney Peete.


The season was an up & down one for many teams.  Injuries played a part as both Steve Young and Jim Harbaugh missed significant chunks of the season.  Improved defenses in Portland and Columbus saw both teams qualify for the playoffs, Young’s injury tanking the season for the Express after only 4 weeks.  Despite some intriguing off-the-field rumors and accusations, Breakers QB Brett Favre was able to lead New Orleans to the USFL Championship, thanks in part to the addition of former NFL TE Shannon Sharpe, signed away from the Broncos, who gave Favre a true weapon in the middle of the field.  The game, held in the sold-out PG&E Stadium in LA was a close one in the first half before the Breakers pulled away and won comfortably.  The ratings for the New Orleans-Washington matchup were the best the league had ever seen, easily topping that fall’s World Series, and scoring within 3 points of the Super Bowl the following January between Dallas and Kansas City.


1993 Final Standings




*WSH    11-7

*PHIL    10-8
NJG       7-11

BALT     4-14




* JAX      12-6

TBY          9-9

MEM         9-9

BIRM        7-11




*CHI         12-6

*MICH      10-8

*CBS        10-8

STL           3-15



* NOR      14-4

* HOU      10-8

DEN         9-9

SAN         7-11




* POR    12-6

*OAK       9-9

ARI          8-10

LA           7-11



1993 USFL Playoffs

Wildcard:             Philadelphia d. Oakland        Houston d. Columbus


Divisional:            New Orleans d. Houston       Philadelphia d. Portland

                            Jacksonville d. Michigan       Washington d. Chicago


Semifinals:          New Orleans d. Philadelphia       Washington d. Jacksonville


1993 USFL Championship             New Orleans 41    Washington 21


1993 USFL Awards

USFL MVP:          Brett Favre, QB, New Orleans

USFL Coach of the Year: Norv Turner, Portland

USFL Rookie of the Year: Garrison Hearst, RB, Jacksonville


1993 Relocation, Expansion or Uniform/Logo News:

1. The Memphis Showboats, having not made the playoffs since 1987 and finishing in the basement for several years decided a facelift was in order.  They hired NIKE to update their logos and their uniforms and NIKE produced something totally new to the USFL, a style that was controversial at the time, but would go on to inspire the next decade of football fashion.


2. St. Louis also clung to the hope that a change of uniform would bring about a change of fortune.  Their alterations, also by NIKE, while not as radical as Memphis’s, would see the STL-Bolt logo downplayed in favor of freestanding lightning, which many claimed was far too similar to the San Diego Chargers.  It would not help as St. Louis again suffered through a poor season on the field and at the ticket office.   


(NOTE: The helmet-head logo used for the STL main log was based heavily on a clipart logo found on Google.  I tried to find the original source but it was from a Pinterest file and I could not identify the source.  Kudos to the original designer.)

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Here, first, are the new look St. Louis Lightning.  



1993 STL Lightning.png

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And the reimagined Memphis Showboats.  NIKE started a trend with the "swoop stripes" for sure.  The USFL, always a groundbreaking league, was first to see this new aesthetic, though the NFL would start to see similar styles emerge in the decade as well. 




1993 Showboats.png

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That S logo for the Showboats is absolutely gorgeous. Loving the St. Louis update, too.

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Another good RB left out was Joe Cribbs....

STL looks awesome, dont care if ChaRGERS too-much

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1994 Season


The 1993 Fall Owner’s meetings focused on stadium construction and discussion of expansion.  Several owners, particularly those in non-NFL cities such as Birmingham, Memphis and Oakland were concerned that local municipalities were not fully funding stadium renovation and were not inclined to support new stadium construction. Things were very different in several cities which shared both NFL and USFL teams, as owners from both leagues, following the lead of Al Davis, were more open to discussing dual-use stadiums.  Both in Tampa Bay and Washington the prospects for new stadia were looking good, while in New Jersey and Denver renovations were on the table.


Perhaps the most interesting example of this partnership was in St Louis, where the Lightning were in conversations with the local government, and, in secret, with the L.A. Rams, to develop a domed stadium downtown.  The Rams were seeking a new potential home as they had fallen to 3rd in popularity in LA and were having trouble drawing fans to Anaheim.  They approached the Lightning about possible partnership with St. Louis and a relocation, a plan secretly endorsed by the NFL, who saw the Raiders as their foothold in LA and were hoping to strengthen their presence in the heartland, but not revealed to the public in fear that the Rams would suffer disastrous attendance if news of a possible relocation were to come out.


While discussion of strategies to strengthen existing franchises were a primary concern, the league again begins to explore an expansion plan, opting to hold 2 rounds of expansion which will bring the league to 22 franchises in 1996 and 24 in 1997.  Interested ownership groups in several cities, both new markets and NFL cities, begin to line up.  Early frontrunners appear to be Atlanta, Boston, Sacramento, San Jose, Charlotte, Las Vegas, San Diego and perennial also-ran, Orlando.  Bids would be formalized and decisions on 1996 would be announced following the 1994 season.


In player and coach news, the two leagues continued to see players jump back and forth.  The regularity of this had become expected among both franchises and their fans.  The salary cap exemption had allowed most teams to retain their top players, but beneath that the rosters of both USFL and NFL teams tended to alter significantly.  The same was true of coaching staffs.  The 1993-94 off-season was a particularly volatile one as no fewer than 7 teams made a change in coaching. 


St. Louis, after yet another basement finished, gave up on the wild, but ineffective ways of Jerry Glanville, opting for the more conservative defensive mind of former Bronco Defensive Coordinator, Wade Phillips. Memphis, after poor results with former Alabama coach Bill Curry, also opted to bring in an NFL Coordinator, tabbing Cowboy DC Dave Wannstadt to lead the Showboats.  Arizona also jumped on this bandwagon, snagging former Packer HC Lindy Infante to add some dynamism to their offense. 


Others promoted from within, as New Jersey opted to promote their OC, Jim Fassel to the head position.  Baltimore, looked to the success of the Breakers for their next coach, signing Breaker OC Dennis Green to revitalize the failing Blitz offense.  In a surprise move, San Antonio signed former Maulers head coach and longtime coordinator Hank Bullough.


The biggest shift of all may have been Birmingham.  Despite 4 playoff appearances in 5 years, the sense that the Stallions had stagnated and that their 7-11 season in 1993 was indicative in a loss of faith, Coach Wayne Fontes was let go and replaced by former NFL coordinator and coach of Boston College, Tom Coughlin.  Coughlin, thought to be a disciplinarian, promised that his teams would be about preparation and effort each and every week, a significant change from the often sloppy play of recent Fontes-led teams.


And so, going into 1994, here are the USFL Heach Coaches for each franchise (* = Newly hired):


Arizona—Lindy Infante*

Baltimore—Dennis Green*

Birmingham—Tom Coughlin*

Chicago—Buddy Ryan

Columbus--Darryl Rogers

Denver—Rich Kotite

Houston—Jack Pardee

Jacksonville—Joe Bugel

Los Angeles—George Seifert

Memphis—Dave Wannstadt*


Michigan—Mike Holmgren

New Jersey—Jim Fassel*

New Orleans—Ted Marchibroda

Oakland—Chuck Knox

Philadelphia—Dick Vermiel

Portland—Norv Turner

St. Louis—Wade Phillips*

San Antonio—Hank Bullough*

Tampa Bay—June Jones

Washington—Bud Carson



When the season began in March 1994, most pundits were looking for the Breakers, Gamblers or Express to fight for the championship, and for most of the season it looked for certain that these teams, along with the Jim Harbaugh-led Panthers and the Bandits, with sophomore phenom Mark Brunell, looked like the class of the league.  But, after starting the season 7-6, the unheralded Philadelphia Stars, relying on a hard-hitting defense and the wiles of veterans like QB Dave Krieg and RB Kevin Mack, won 5 straight to take the Northeast Title.  They would continue their unexpected run all the way through the playoffs and into the 1994 USFL Championship, where the formula of slow, mistake free drives on offense and tenacious defense provided the league with a great show.  The Stars, despite giving up a safety on their first drive, scratched out a 10-9 halftime lead.  Both teams traded field goals in the 3rd quarter before a Krieg to Collier 10 yard out turned into a 44 yard TD early in the 4th to give Philly the 20-12 lead.  New Orleans was forced to punt on its next possession and Philadelphia killed 6 minutes on a drive that ended with a missed FG with 2:17 left on the clock.  The Breakers would have plenty of time to score, but needed a TD and a 2pt conversion to tie.  Brett Favre led the team down the field, hitting veteran WR Nolan Franz for a 13 yard TD with only 11 seconds left in regulation.   So it all came down to the 2pt play.  When Star safety Gene Atkins got between Dan Ross and the ball to cause the incompletion New Orleans players collapsed on the turf as Dick Vermeil and the Philly faithful celebrated the team’s first championship since 1985. 


1994 Final Standings:



*PHL        12-6

*WSH        9-9
NJG           8-10

BALT         6-12




*TBY          13-5

*MEM         11-7

JAX             7-11

BIRM           6-12




*MICH      13-5

*CBS        10-8

STL            7-11

CHI            4-14



* NOR       14-4

* HOU       11-5

SAN           8-10

DEN           2-16




* LA       15-3

* POR    10-8

ARI         8-10

OAK       6-12



1994 Playoffs:


Wildcard Round:    Memphis d. Washington      Columbus d. Portland


Divisional Round:    Los Angeles d. Columbus     New Orleans d. Memphis

                                Houston d. Tampa Bay          Philadelphia d. Michigan


Semifinals:    New Orleans d. Houston     Philadelphia d. Los Angeles


1994 USFL Championship:  Philadelphia 20   New Orleans 18


1994 USFL Awards:

1994 USFL MVP:  Brett Favre, QB, New Orleans

1994 Coach of the Year: Dick Vermeil, Philadelphia

1994 USFL Rookie of the Year: CB Jason Seahorn, Los Angeles



1994 Relocation, Expansion or Uniform/Logo News:

1.       New Orleans Breakers—Seeing the success of the new Memphis look from NIKE, the Breakers worked with Champion to tweak the team logo and wordmark and to add more dynamism to the Breaker uniform through the use of wave patterns to replace standard stripes.


2.       San Antonio Outlaws—The Outlaws also looked to revamp their look, which was so similar to the Gamblers as to create confusion with fans of both clubs.  By adding a third color and modifying their jerseys the Outlaws were able to create a look which stood out from their cross-state rivals.

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New Orleans tweaks their look by adding some "wave" to their striping.

1994 Breakers.png

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And San Antonio opts to go with a metallic orange (don't call it copper or you will anger the Arizona Wranglers) as a way to distinguish themselves from their more successful rivals, the Houston Gamblers. 




1994 SA Outlaws.png

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1 hour ago, WideRight said:

And San Antonio opts to go with a metallic orange (don't call it copper or you will anger the Arizona Wranglers) as a way to distinguish themselves from their more successful rivals, the Houston Gamblers. 




1994 SA Outlaws.png


Pretty cool. How are the Outlaws doing in attendance at the Alamodome?


Also, will the Gamblers push the Oilers out, or will they be able to co-exist together?

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