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Birmingham Stallions logo The History of the USFL
Legion Field

Team and League History


February 21, 1982
It is reported that a prominent New Orleans businessman, David Dixon, is in the process of starting a new spring football league. The official announcement won't come for another few weeks, but local businessmen A. E. "Pee Wee" Burgess and Bill Kelce have heard that Birmingham would probably be an expansion franchise in the coming years. Burgess and Kelce were backers of the World Football League's Birmingham Americans in 1974 and the Birmingham Vulcans in 1975.

Dixon, the prime pusher to build the New Orleans Superdome, said the new league would play from February until June. The proposed league wouldn't bid for current National Football League players, but will try to sign players not interested in the NFL or those that have been cut by the league. Unofficial word is that the new league will be made up of cities where the NFL already have teams. Each franchise will have territorial rights to players in certain states.

Burgess said he nor Kelce have attended any organizational meetings for the new league. "We're just listening. We're still interested in our city having pro football if it wants it. We're still interested in an NFL franchise. We haven't heard much about that lately. From what I've heard, however, there are some people who have the financing to take the licking, which is likely to happen the first couple of years. I've also heard that big TV is excited about the prospects of a new football league at that time of year. Let me say again, my main interest in this matter, and Bill's too, has been to keep open or establish, lines of communications with professional football people for Birmingham. I just don't want us to get shut out if it looks like it's a good thing for Birmingham."

May 11, 1982
     United States Football League logo
   
A press conference is held in New York announcing the formation of the United States Football League. Peter Spivak, acting chairman of the league, made the announcement, which included Birmingham as one of the inaugural franchises.

The twelve team league is scheduled to begin play in the spring of 1983. The season will run from March through June, with each team playing twenty games. Playoffs will begin in late June with the championship game being played on July 4th.

Marvin Warner, born and reared in Birmingham but currently a resident of Cincinnati, will be the principal owner of the unnamed team. Warner is a one-time U.S. ambassador to Switzerland. He is also a graduate of the University of Alabama. Previously, he has owned 10% of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees and 48% of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The other franchise locations will be Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, San Francisco, San Diego, and Tampa Bay. Each franchise has posted an irrevocable $1.5 million letter of credit. USFL founder Dave Dixon will own the Chicago franchise. Judge Spivak will be a co-owner of the Detroit franchise. John Bassett, Jr., former owner of the World Hockey League's Birmingham Bulls, will own the Tampa Bay franchise.

A permanent league commissioner will be named with a few days. No television contract has been signed, but negotiations are underway with several networks. A player draft is tentatively scheduled for January. The new league will use a system of territorial rights for colleges close to each franchise to ensure local talent is fully utilized.

A search for the local team's head coach has already begun.

A request to use Legion Field for March through July dates from 1983 to 1985 has been made, and it is uncertain if any games will conflict with the Alabama Magic, a new team in the American Football Association that is scheduled to play in May through July of 1983.

In late 1981, USFL founder Dixon wrote an unnamed potential Birmingham franchise investor saying he was sold on Birmingham's market potential. "Birmingham could be a great franchise city, assuming there is no adverse residual effect from WFL days. Frankly, there will be a negative initial impact - for about ten minutes. No fair-minded media person could make a USFL-WFL comparison. There is such a night and day difference. All our owners are heavyweights, we shall be in all the major markets, first rate stadiums everywhere, big name coaches at all locations."

May 12, 1982
On placing the team in Birmingham, Warner said, "Originally, I was thinking of Washington DC, but when "Bear" Bryant didn't discourage me from coming into his territory, I settled on Birmingham."

Warner also said he had tentatively decided on naming the team the Birmingham Knights because, "It's easily symbolized. Or, we might even run a contest to name the team."

May 13, 1982
Rumors are strong that a few months ago the USFL founders had offered NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle a certified check for $5 million for a four year contract as well as the promise of a future expansion franchise if he were to defect to the USFL.

Rozelle declined the offer.

May 26, 1982
The USFL announces that a major television network has committed to televise around twenty games a year for two years. The price was $20 to $24 million, with ABC outbidding NBC. ABC also has a two year option on the USFL's 3rd and 4th seasons. The revenue will be equally shared by all franchises.

June 14, 1982
The USFL names Chester R. Simmons as commissioner. Simmons is currently the CEO of ESPN and is a graduate of the University of Alabama. Simmons previously was president of NBC Sports.

June 16, 1982
     Proposed Birmingham Stallions logo

Proposed Birmingham Stallions logo
  Two early proposals for a team logo
   
Mark Warner, vice president of the Birmingham franchise, announces the team name will be the Birmingham Stallions. The main reason given was because the team's owner breeds and races thoroughbred horses at two farms in Kentucky. Mark Warner also said the Stallions cheerleaders would be known as the Fillies.

When asked about coaching candidates, Stallions general manager Jim Gould named Florida State University's head coach Bobby Bowden, NFL Dallas Cowboys assistant Gene Stallings, Canadian Football League Calgary Stampeders head coach Jack Gotta, and CBS analyst Hank Stram. Gotta was the head coach of the World Football League's Birmingham Americans in 1974 and won the first , and only, World Bowl.

Marvin Warner said that Ft. Lauderdale, Cincinnati, and Washington DC were his first choices for placement of his franchise but they were all eliminated for various reasons. 

June 17, 1982
The USFL announces a two year contract with ESPN, who will carry two games a week. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

June 18, 1982
Bobby Bowden, a Birmingham native and head coach at Florida State University, announces he is removing his name from consideration as head coach of the Stallions. "I'd be very interested in the job except for one thing. I'm very happy here at Florida State. I've got a substantial five year contract."

Bowden said he might be interested in coaching professional football later in his career "if I can survive it, physically, and if college football begins to lose its challenge. That hasn't happened yet."

Bowden said he only talked to Gould once last fall and the discussion was very general.

June 19, 1982
Jack Gotta, head coach of the CFL's Calgary Stampeders, says he is very interested in coaching the Stallions but believes the Stallions aren't interested in him. "I've talked with them maybe three times, and here's the way it feels like to me - the guy (Gould) is calling me as a courtesy. He knows I was there and had some success with the World Football League. They have never talked business - numbers. There's no meat and potatoes, and when they don't talk meat and potatoes, I don't feel like they're too serious."

June 21, 1982
Hank Stram said that if he's in the running for the head coach position in Birmingham, no one has told him. "I've heard from different sources that my name's come up there. But I don't know anything about it."

However, he said he has been contacted by three other USFL teams but declined to name them. Stram is currently a sports analyst for CBS. "I don't miss coaching at all. At this stage, I like what I'm doing very much. I'm still in the arena. I just have a little different seat."

June 24, 1982
Gene Stallings, an assistant coach with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, will be in Birmingham soon to meet with Gould. "I've got a good job in Dallas, but if the Stallions are interested in me, I'm interested in them. I'd like to be a head coach again, no question about it. I've said that publicly a number of times."

Stallings was an assistant coach at the University of Alabama under Paul "Bear" Bryant from 1958 through 1964 and was the head coach at Texas A&M University from 1965 to 1971. He has been with the Cowboys for ten years.

"We just want to talk. I won't be offering him a contract," Gould said of the meeting.

June 25, 1982
After meeting with Stallions officials, Stallings said the decision must be made quickly. "There's no real waiting for me. Unless some kind of overture is made soon, I'm not interested. This is not a great time of year for me. I'm worried about leaving the Cowboys in a bind. I have a degree of loyalty to the Cowboys. If this drags on two or three weeks, I won't consider it. Once the season starts, all this is over for me as far as I'm concerned. I wouldn't even think about leaving. But that still doesn't mean I'll come here if I'm offered the job. I'm definitely interested. The number one thing is it would be nice to be a head coach again. And I've always enjoyed being around Alabama people."

June 29, 1982
Gotta announces that he is no longer a candidate for the head coach position with the Stallions. Gotta said a lack of respect, mainly by Stallions general manager Jim Gould, was the main reason he's no longer interested. "I've been called three times by them, and each time they say, 'We'll get back to you tomorrow.' The next day, they never called back. I've never been treated like that before. There are just certain things that are ethical, even in a goofy business like football. I can tell he's the kind of person who would use people. I think maybe I'm too football-oriented for that guy."

Gould responded by saying, "To tell you the truth, Jack and I have some friction. And communication is so important for me. I know a lot of people are high on Jack, but I think Jack hurt himself a little bit with the WFL. And he's in Canada now. I think Gene (Stallings), with ten years with the Dallas Cowboys, gives me a little more security. I didn't have that sense of security with that man (Gotta). We're really looking for a man with NFL ties."

July 1, 1982
     Photograph
  Gene Stallings
   
An announcement is made that the Stallions and Stallings had essentially reached terms that would make him the head coach. Stallings met with Warner last night at the owner's horse farm 20 miles outside of Cincinnati and if an agreement is reached soon, Stallings could be officially announced as early as next week.

"The ingredients of a (financial) package were put together. Under no circumstances has a bargain already been reached. It was not a big, elaborate negotiation. It was more like a five minute discussion. We didn't formally ask, 'Are you interested in coming here for this amount of dollars to coach the Birmingham team?' We asked him, 'What range do you feel is proper? Tell me if you're interested in leaving Dallas and this is what I need,'" Gould said.

Stallings currently makes around $75,000 per year with the Cowboys and reportedly asked the Stallions for a multi-year contract worth $150,000 per year plus an incentive to sign.

July 6, 1982
Stallings turns down the Stallions head coach position. His main reason was that he had previously made a verbal commitment to the Cowboys.

"I've been getting paid the last few months, even though I don't have a contract in writing. I'm sure (Cowboys head coach) Tom Landry and (Cowboys president) Tex Schramm would have let me out of that agreement. It would have been no problem legally at all. But I really got to thinking about it. It boiled down to, 'Do I want to do what I think is right?' or 'Do I want to do what I don't think is right?' I wanted to accept the job. I just didn't think it was right. This might seem old-fashioned, but I've taught my children that a commitment means not waiting until something better comes along. I couldn't teach them one thing and do something different," Stallings said.

Landry wasn't surprised by Stallings' decision or his reasons. "You have to understand Gene Stallings. He's a great man of principal. If he says he's going to do something, he'll do it, even if it costs him something, like it did in this case."

Stallings even went to Landry for advice. "I gave him an honest appraisal. I'm not going to say what it was," Landry said.

When asked if he had a renewed interest in the head coach position, Gotta said, "There would have to be a whole shake-up in their structure. He (Gould) alienated me after talking to me for only an hour. He was damn rude to me. If it had been a different situation, I might have kicked his..."

Warner has instructed Gould to stop speaking so candidly about the coaching search. "We will not make any more comments until we have a coach signed, sealed, and delivered," Gould said.

"This is no crisis. I don't see any problems. There's no deadline. We'll find a coach as soon as possible," Warner said.

July 17, 1982
It is reported that NFL Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator, Hank Bullough, has talked with Stallions officials about the head coaching job.

Bullough is currently under contract and is not expected to leave his position with the Bengals, however.

It is also reported that Warner is now handling the coaching search personally. "We're very anxious to get a coach, but a good man is worth waiting for."

July 20, 1982
It is announced that Gould has resigned as president and general manager of the Stallions to become the senior vice president for finance and administration with the USFL's Washington DC franchise. "Birmingham should have a guy they'll respond to. This goes back a couple of weeks. I just feel it's a tremendous opportunity career-wise. And Washington was my original choice."

At the same press conference, Warner announces the hiring of Jerry Sklar as the Stallions new president. Sklar is a former president of Loveman's department store.  Warner indicates he will combine the head coach and general manager positions.

July 28, 1982
Former University of Notre Dame head coach Dan Devine meets with Warner and Sklar in Denver to discuss the head coaching position. Devine currently directs fund-raising for Arizona State University's athletic booster club.

Through the years, Devine has been the head coach at Arizona State University, the University of Missouri, and Notre Dame. Devine has also been a head coach for the NFL's Green Bay Packers. "I don't know. I just might be too expensive for them. I'll probably come a little higher than an assistant right out of the pro ranks or an assistant out of college. I am extremely impressed with Mr. Warner and the Birmingham franchise. I think it is going to be very successful. I kind of like Birmingham. I think it's a football-oriented community."

August 3, 1982
It is learned that Joe Galat, the current head coach of the CFL's Montreal Concordes, has interviewed for the Stallions head coach position. "I've talked on the phone a few times in the last week or so with some people who represent the team. I've got a good job here, but I know it would be a great opportunity there in Birmingham. If we're together on it, I'll be really happy about it. If not, I certainly have an adventure here."

However, sources inside the Stallions management indicated that Galat isn't very high on their list. "I don't think Joe Galat is under serious consideration at the moment. I think there's a good likelihood that the coach is going to be a strong assistant from the National Football League," one source said.

Galat's experience has been as an assistant coach at Miami (Ohio) University, Yale University, the University of Kentucky, the WFL's Memphis Southmen, the NFL's New York Giants, the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, and the NFL's Houston Oilers. Galat was hired by George Allen, who has since left to become the head coach of the USFL's Chicago franchise. Since then, the Alouettes have folded and Galat was left behind to build an expansion team.

While in Memphis with the Southmen, Galat became associated with Art Clarkson, current owner and general manager of the Southern League's Birmingham Barons. During his discussions with the Stallions management, Galat recommended Clarkson for the general manager position. Clarkson doesn't want the job but has, however, volunteered his services to the Stallions as an advisor. "I'm not interested. If times and circumstances were different, I might be interested. I'm very flattered, but I plan to stay here. Two things are important: 1) I'm an owner of a baseball team; 2) I believe I have not only a commitment but a loyalty to the people who back me here." Clarkson recommended Galat for the head coach position and said he might even be a better choice than Gotta.
 
August 5, 1982
USFL team owners vote to allow the Los Angeles franchise to move to Phoenix. Under the USFL's original franchise plan, the San Diego team will now relocate to Los Angeles.

August 13, 1982
Rumors are strong that a current assistant with the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers, Rollie Dotsch, will be the team's selection for head coach.

The main problem is Dotsch's binding contract with the Steelers. "Naturally, I hope things can be worked out. I'd love to be able to say I'm coming, but I can't say a thing until my contract situation is resolved."

"We've talked with Dotsch. If he were available, I'm sure we would be able to work out a deal. He's definitely interested in the job. He expressed a genuine interest in becoming the head coach," Sklar said.

The Pittsburgh Steelers president, Dan Rooney, only commented, "We expect people to honor their contracts."

Dotsch was a teammate of the USFL's New Jersey Generals head coach Chuck Fairbanks at Michigan State University. He was a junior on the 1952 Spartans squad that won the national championship. In 1958, Dotsch took his first college coaching job as an assistant at Northern Michigan College. In 1961, he left to become the defensive backs coach at Colorado. The next year, he went to the University of Missouri as the offensive line coach. His first head coaching position was in 1966 when he went to Northern Michigan College. In 1971, Dotsch left college coaching and became the offensive line coach for the NFL's Green Bay Packers. In 1975, he joined Fairbanks as linebacker coach of the NFL's New England Patriots. In 1977, Dotsch worked for the NFL's Detroit Lions before moving to the Steelers, where he coached the offensive line during their back-to-back Super Bowl wins in 1978 and 1979.

It was also learned that Jim Stanley, an assistant with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons and former Oklahoma State University head coach is under consideration as well.

September 2, 1982
     Photograph
  Head coach Rollie Dotsch
   
The Stallions officially announce the hiring of Rollie Dotsch as their head coach. Dotsch will remain with the Steelers until September 19th, the Steelers second regular season game, and will report to the Stallions the next day. "I know how difficult this has been for the Steelers and Coach (Chuck) Noll. But this demonstrates the type of people they are to give me my release under difficult circumstances."

To make matters worse, the Steelers had just lost their defensive coordinator, George Perles, when the USFL's Philadelphia franchise hired him as their head coach.

When questioned about his staff, Dotsch said he is in no hurry to hire any assistant coaches and may even wait until December or January. "I believe a football team reflects its coach and his staff. I'm looking for good teachers, fundamental coaches, not the glamorous name guys. The same is true with players. It isn't always the name players that get the job done. It's the solid type of player, guys you can win with, not the problem child. If there's anything I want my football team to be, it's aggressive. I expect my backs and receivers to block. I even expect my kicker to be aggressive. I'm a solid coach fundamentally, but I don't mind taking calculated risks. Sometimes, I'm on the verge of being reckless. I'll do some things totally unexpected. We'll put the ball up, too. We'll have a pro-style, wide-open game. But we'll be certain that we're able to run the football. I'll be a firm coach, but I want to have fun with this football team. We'll take time to laugh."

September 16, 1982
The USFL announces the adoption of a scholarship incentive program, which is designed to encourage league players to return to school to earn their degrees. The program is the first of its kind in professional football history.

October 12, 1982
The Stallions announce they have signed a five year agreement to lease Legion Field. The per game rental fee will be $5,000 or 10% of the gate, whichever is greater.

November 22, 1982
The Stallions announce their intent to build an 8,000-square foot football operations facility at Legion Field. The facility will cost around $350,000 and will be built under the north end zone stands.

February 23, 1983
University of Georgia officials announce running back Herschel Walker has been declared ineligible to play his senior season due to his signing a contract with the USFL's New Jersey Generals. Walker is the first football player to sign a contract before his senior season in college. Terms of the contract are reportedly $16.5 million for three years.

According to reports, Walker signed a contract last Saturday and then exercised a clause in the contract that allowed him a 24-hour grace period to void the contract. However, according the NCAA, Walker is now considered a professional football player. "He made a mistake and admits that. He's had an early education in the hard reality of the business profession. Now it's time for him to look ahead," said Georgia head coach Vince Dooley.

This is expected to have major implications on professional football for years to come. The NFL has had a policy stating no underclassmen can be signed and most believed the USFL would follow suit.

March ??, 1983
The league allows the owners of the Chicago Blitz and the Arizona Wranglers to swap team management and personnel.
 
1983
United States Football League
Pacific
Division
Central
Division
Atlantic
Division
  Arizona Wranglers    Birmingham Stallions     Boston Breakers
  Denver Gold   Chicago Blitz    New Jersey Generals 
  Los Angeles Express     Michigan Panthers   Philadelphia Stars 
  Oakland Invaders   Tampa Bay Bandits    Washington Federals  
  xxx   xxx   xxx   xxx  
                 
Arizona Wranglers logo   Birmingham Stallions logo   Boston Breakers logo   Chicago Blitz logo Denver Gold logo
Arizona Wranglers   Birmingham Stallions   Boston Breakers   Chicago Blitz   Denver Gold
                  
Los Angeles Express logo   Michigan Panthers logo   New Jersey Generals logo   Oakland Invaders logo   Philadelphia Stars logo
Los Angeles Express   Michigan Panthers   New Jersey Generals   Oakland Invaders   Philadelphia Stars
                  
Tampa Bay Bandits logo   Washington Federals logo            
Tampa Bay Bandits   Washington Federals            
                 
July 2, 1983
     Photograph
  Buffalo Bills running back Joe Cribbs
   
Sklar announces the Stallions have signed running back Joe Cribbs to a contract. Cribbs currently plays for the NFL's Buffalo Bills but has been unhappy with the terms the Bills have offered on his expired contract. Cribbs becomes the first high-profile NFL player to sign with the USFL. Reportedly, his five one-year contracts total between $2.4 and $4 million.

Cribbs was represented by Jerry Argovitz, who was recently awarded the expansion franchise in Houston. Argovitz had been saying he would like to build his new team around Cribbs and other players he represents. However, Cribbs is a former player at Auburn University, which is one of the Stallions territorial schools. Sklar informed Argovitz that if Cribbs played in the USFL, he would do so only in Birmingham.

"This is coming home, and that's something neither Buffalo nor Houston could offer. Sulligent (his home town) is only an hour and a half away, and my family will have a chance to see me play. This is a great day for me," said Cribbs.

October 18, 1983
The USFL's eighteen team owners unanimously approved the Boston franchise's request to move to New Orleans. The team's owners have been unhappy with their home stadium, Boston University's 20,535-seat Nickerson Field. They hope to secure the right to play in the Louisiana Superdome, which seats over 70,000.

January 12, 1984
The Stallions announce that Cliff Stoudt has signed with the team. Stoudt is a former backup quarterback for the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers.

The terms of the contract are for three years at $1.2 million.

"I've always sensed that Cliff is a quarterback with a lot of ability who just needed some confidence and playing time. Now he'll have both. He's our number one quarterback," Dotsch said.

The Stallions also announce they have traded last year's starting quarterback, Reggie Collier, to the Washington Federals. In the trade, the Stallions received the rights to center Joel Hilgenberg and the Federals' first round draft choice in 1985.

February 23, 1984
U.S. District Judge John Elfvin rules in Buffalo that the right-of-first-refusal clause in Cribbs' Bills contract was unenforceable, which means the Bills have no legal right to match Cribbs contract with Birmingham and retain his services. The clause was added to his contract in 1982, before the USFL existed.

"I'm happy about the decision. This is where I want to play. It's fantastic. Fantastic," Cribbs said.
 
1984
United States Football League
Western
Conference
Eastern
Conference
Pacific
Division
Central
Division
Southern
Division
Atlantic
Division
  Arizona Wranglers    Chicago Blitz    Birmingham Stallions       New Jersey Generals
  Denver Gold   Houston Gamblers    Jacksonville Bulls   Philadelphia Stars  
  Los Angeles Express      Michigan Panthers    Memphis Showboats   Pittsburgh Maulers
  Oakland Invaders   Oklahoma Outlaws    New Orleans Breakers      Washington Federals  
    San Antonio Gunslingers       Tampa Bay Bandits  
  xxx   xxx   xxx   xxx  
                 
Arizona Wranglers logo     Birmingham Stallions logo    Chicago Blitz logo    Denver Gold logo   Houston Gamblers logo
Arizona Wranglers   Birmingham Stallions   Chicago Blitz   Denver Gold   Houston Gamblers
                    
Jacksonville Bulls logo    Los Angeles Express logo    Memphis Showboats logo    Michigan Panthers logo   New Jersey Generals logo
Jacksonville Bulls   Los Angeles Express   Memphis Showboats   Michigan Panthers   New Jersey Generals
                  
New Orleans Breakers logo   Oakland Invaders logo   Oklahoma Outlaws logo   Philadelphia Stars logo   Pittsburgh Maulers logo
New Orleans Breakers   Oakland Invaders   Oklahoma Outlaws   Philadelphia Stars   Pittsburgh Maulers
                  
San Antonio Gunslingers logo   Tampa Bay Bandits logo   Washington Federals logo        
San Antonio Gunslingers   Tampa Bay Bandits   Washington Federals        
                 
April 14, 1984
It is reported that the USFL has decided to become a fall league beginning with the 1987 season. "There is virtually no chance that it's not going to happen," said an unidentified league executive. With the move is an increased hope for a merger with the NFL.

The unapproved plan is to play two more seasons in the spring and then wait over twelve months to begin the first fall season in 1987. New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump is believed to be the most outspoken in favor of the shift in schedule. "I'm just one of the instigators. If I thought this league would not have gone to a fall schedule, I wouldn't have come into the league."

Other team owners, such as Tampa Bay Bandits owner John Bassett, blasted Trump for saying the league will change the schedule before anything has been agreed on.

May 8, 1984
The Stallions file a $20 million suit against running back Joe Cribbs, currently the league's leading rusher, for failing to report to practice for two days.

Cribbs has been demanding the Stallions more than double his current salary, a five year $2,350,000 contract he signed over ten months ago.

In presenting the suit on Cribbs, the Stallions claim he has "irreparably harmed" the team's ability to compete in the USFL and has driven fans away. According to team president, Jerry Sklar, Cribbs originally demanded the renegotiations only three weeks into the 1984 season.  Cribbs claims through his new agent that his contract should be renegotiated due to his former agent, Jerry Argovitz, having a conflict of interest during the previous negotiations that brought him to the Stallions. Argovitz is currently one of the owners of the USFL's Houston Gamblers. 

May 9, 1984
Cribbs breaks his self-imposed month-long media ban to state that he was shocked the Stallions organization had sued him. "The real issue is we have been negotiating since the second week of the season and nobody knew about it. Both sides appeared willing to work something out. I said, 'That's fine, I'll play.' And I played as hard as I could play. After the Philadelphia game, Jerry Sklar said there would be no more negotiating, that they have a valid contract. It was obvious they were stringing me along. Then, I made an emotional decision, not a rational one. I was confused and upset and drove to Sulligent to talk things over with my mother. I was not walking away from the team. I had made no threats not to practice or play at anytime during the negotiations. It was like I was led on all that time."

Sklar said Cribbs' new agent, Louis Burrell, had told the Stallions that Cribbs would leave if negotiations didn't continue.

May 23, 1984
Cribbs reports back to practice but would not comment on why he returned. "We came to a mutual understanding and I'm basically back to play football. I hope to rectify the situation as far as the fans are concerned. Hopefully, there's no hard feelings. The situation is resolved, and I'm ready to play."

Sklar said that all the misunderstandings between the parties have been resolved and that "Joe is returning to the Stallions under the terms of his contract and will fulfill all of the terms of his contract. Joe met today with myself, coach Rollie Dotsch, the coaching staff, and the players for the purpose of making amends with them."

Sklar also admitted that contract renegotiations had resumed five days ago.

August 22, 1984
At an owner's meeting in Chicago, a unanimous vote was taken to move to a fall schedule beginning with the 1986 season. Chicago Blitz owner Eddie Einhorn said a fall season "is where the football money is. You either cut back, or you go after the football pot that's out there in the fall."

USFL commissioner Chet Simmons said, "the USFL is ready, willing, and able to compete for the attention of (stadium) fans... and television viewers. We are prepared to compete aggressively for the best available college and pro talent."

Trump said, "The real big play is for 1987. That's when the network contracts with the NFL end. The NFL will be asking billions, and we will be in that bidding with better players and a more exciting brand of football."

However, not everyone agrees a move is the best idea for the new league. Houston Gamblers quarterback Jim Kelly called the schedule switch 100% wrong. "It's the worst thing they could have done."

In anticipation of the schedule change, the Philadelphia Stars franchise will move before the 1985 season to Baltimore. If they had stayed in Philadelphia, the Stars would have had to compete against the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles and Major League Baseball's Philadelphia Phillies for use of Veterans Stadium.

Also, the Oakland Invaders and the Oklahoma Outlaws franchises were given league approval to merge and play in Oakland as the Invaders.

October 17, 1984
The USFL files a $440 million antitrust suit against the NFL in federal court. The suit contends the NFL is involved in "a conspiracy" to destroy the USFL through their monopoly on players, stadium leases, and television contracts.

Named as defendants in the suit are all 28 NFL franchises and their commissioner, Pete Rozelle, who called the suit "totally baseless".

Under antitrust law, the award would be tripled to $1.32 billion if the USFL receives a favorable ruling.

Last spring Rozelle said, "You will know when they are on their last legs. They will bring a lawsuit against us. This will be how they try to keep the owners from jumping ship."

November 19, 1984
At a press conference in New York, Simmons announces a number of changes for the 1985 season.

The Pittsburgh Maulers merged with the Philadelphia Stars and the new franchise will play in Maryland as the Baltimore Stars.

The Oklahoma Outlaws merged with the Arizona Wranglers and the new franchise will play in Arizona as the Arizona Outlaws.

The Michigan Panthers merged with the Oakland Invaders and the new franchise will play in California as the Oakland Invaders.

The New Orleans Breakers will move to Oregon and become the Portland Breakers. Breakers owner Joe Canizaro had wrestled with the notion of merging with the Birmingham Stallions. "Marvin (Warner) is a good friend and I would have enjoyed being partners with him. Before I visited Portland, the chances were better that I'd approach Marvin than move. But once I got to Portland and saw the enthusiasm, I was sold on it."

The Washington Federals will move to Florida and become the Orlando Renegades.

The Chicago Blitz has suspended operations for the 1985 season and plans to resume play in 1986.

January 14, 1985
USFL commissioner Chet Simmons resigns under pressure from team owners.

Many of them have been unhappy with Simmons' failure to negotiate a new, larger television contract.

Indications are that Harry Usher, a Los Angeles attorney, is the leading candidate to replace Simmons. Usher was executive vice president and general manager of the Los Angeles Olympic Committee, where he worked for LAOC president Peter Ueberroth, who is now the commissioner of Major League Baseball.

January 15, 1985
Harry Usher is officially named the new commissioner of the USFL. Usher received a unanimous approval vote from the team owners.

January 25, 1985
Donald Trump signs the latest Heisman Trophy winner, Boston College's Doug Flutie, to play for his New Jersey Generals. Flutie is the third consecutive Heisman Trophy winner to sign with the USFL and is the second for the Generals. Terms are rumored to be $8.6 million for six years.

February 1985
 
1985
United States Football League
Western
Conference
Eastern
Conference
  Arizona Outlaws    Baltimore Stars 
  Denver Gold   Birmingham Stallions  
  Houston Gamblers    Jacksonville Bulls 
  Los Angeles Express     Memphis Showboats
  Oakland Invaders   New Jersey Generals
  Portland Breakers   Orlando Renegades
  San Antonio Gunslingers     Tampa Bay Bandits 
  xxx   xxx   xxx   xxx  
                 
Arizona Outlaws logo    Baltimore Stars logo    Birmingham Stallions logo    Denver Gold logo   Houston Gamblers logo
Arizona Outlaws   Baltimore Stars   Birmingham Stallions   Denver Gold   Houston Gamblers
                    
Jacksonville Bulls logo   Los Angeles Express logo   Memphis Showboats logo   Oakland Invaders logo   New Jersey Generals logo
Jacksonville Bulls   Los Angeles Express   Memphis Showboats   Oakland Invaders   New Jersey Generals
                    
Orlando Renegades logo    Portland Breakers logo    San Antonio Gunslingers logo    Tampa Bay Bandits logo    
Orlando Renegades   Portland Breakers   San Antonio Gunslingers   Tampa Bay Bandits    
                 
March 10, 1985
Joan Ryan, a female sports reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, claims she was publicly humiliated in the Stallions locker room following their game with the Renegades at Orlando Stadium last Saturday night.

Ryan claims that several Stallions players, most of them undressed, closed in on her as soon as she walked through the door. She claims they yelled insults at her and made dirty remarks to each other. She claims she then felt something on her leg and it was a player stroking her calf with the plastic handle of a razor. Saying she was angry, shaken, and humiliated, she walked out and ran into Stallions president Jerry Sklar, who laughingly told her that "you are entering on your own initiative and therefore are subject to what goes on in there. It is not a proper place for a female to be."

Naturally, Sklar didn't remember the episode quite the same way and claimed that he never spoke to Ryan.

March 20, 1985
Rumors are swirling that the franchise my be in financial trouble due to the national Savings and Loan scandal.

Warner, who owns several Savings and Loans throughout the country, has been forced to close some of his financial institutions, most notably the Home Savings Bank in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Warner reportedly has lost well over $100 million in an investment with ESM Government Securities, Inc. Home Savings was a heavy borrower from ESM. When Home State borrowed money, it put up government securities as collateral - securities which it could not get back due to ESM's collapse. Home State depositors quickly withdrew their money, forcing the bank to close the weekend of the 9th. Home State, along with 69 other banks in Ohio, is insured by a private insurance fund and not by the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation.  Depositors at the other banks then worried that the fund couldn't cover their deposits and started pulling their money out also, forcing Ohio Governor Richard Celeste to close all Ohio savings banks insured by the private fund. All except Home State are open again.

Currently, Warner faces lawsuits from the conservator of Home State and Home State depositors as well as investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Securities Exchange Commission, and at least one congressional committee.

Sklar's official response is, "I have been told by the owner that the Stallions will operate in the future just as they have in the past. Mr. Warner's other activities are personal and private and do not affect me or the Stallions."

March 28, 1985
     Photograph
  ABC announcer Keith Jackson interviews
Stallions owner Marvin Warner
   
It is announced that majority owner Marvin Warner has officially ceased his support of the Stallions.

According to Sklar, Warner has "transferred his interest" in the Stallions directly to the franchise itself. "Marvin Warner's share has become a part of the franchise."

In a written statement issued by Warner, he said he "feels it's in his best interest and the team's interests not to continue his association with the team."

Sklar and the minority owners hope to keep the Stallions in Birmingham. "We have already put in interim financing. It is our intention to arrange for permanent financing."

The Stallions have paid all of their bills so far, but do not have enough money to last through the end of the season. Sklar lauded Warner for his role in bringing the Stallions to Birmingham. "Now it is the responsibility of the local investors to see that it stays here."

Charlotte developer George Shinn first contacted the Stallions in October of last year about buying the team and moving it to Charlotte. When Warner's financial problems struck in early March, Shinn once again approached the Stallions but was turned down. 

Ron Blanding also contacted the Stallions earlier this month. The former owner of the USFL's Denver Gold, Blanding said he is no longer interested in buying the club. "We thought it was a well-operated team. We wouldn't have changed anything," including keeping the team in Birmingham.

One of the minority owners, local businessman Harold Ripps, said that Warner "got nothing" for his share of the franchise. "He lost what he put in. I think he's doing all that he can to help the team and city out."

March 31, 1985
Birmingham mayor Richard Arrington approached the City Council to get their approval for the city of Birmingham to invest $1 million in the Stallions.

His idea is for the city to buy $1 million in limited partnerships with the Stallions franchise. That would be a better investment than loaning the club $1 million, which the city probably couldn't even do, legally.

"That way, if for any reason it was sold or a general partner came in we might stand a pretty good chance of recouping our $1 million or at least a portion of it. If the thing folds, I guess everybody would lose," Arrington said.

April 2, 1985
Donald Trump asks the other team owners to help him pay Doug Flutie's salary. Trump contends the other owners encouraged him to sign Flutie at all costs.

April 17, 1985
Tampa Bay Bandits owner John Bassett claims he has been looking for an investor for the Stallions. "I've been devoting a lot of time to the Birmingham situation, and I can tell you it's very close to being resolved. I can't absolutely guarantee it, but I think there will be an owner announced in a few days. He will be an outstanding citizen in the community. I have found an owner, and he is committed under certain circumstances."

He said he could not identify the person because negotiations are still not complete. The individual is thought to be Birmingham real estate developer Wally Nall, Jr. Nall said the announcement of his investing in the Stallions is "very premature" and that "John called me last week and I met with him in Florida. He has a program to revamp the USFL. If he can do what he says, then yes, I am very interested." Nall declined to discuss any details of Bassett's plan. "I know Jerry (Sklar) and his group are working hard to save the Stallions, and I'm all for them. I don't want to do anything to sabotage their efforts."

Sklar said he knew nothing of Bassett's negotiations. "I have not talked with him. I am not aware of anybody, or any group, saying they will step forward (with financing), but if it's true, we'd certainly like to hear from them."

April 18, 1985
Charlie Graddick, the state of Alabama's attorney general, said the city of Birmingham could legally invest in the Stallions.

The Stallions must have $1 million by next week and another $750,000 later to finish the season.

"The attorney general gave a favorable legal opinion, and we're excited about it. We're pursuing the matter with the city. Provided the mayor and his advisors deem it appropriate, we'd certainly except it," Sklar said.

April 21, 1985
Birmingham city attorneys issued a memo to the mayor stating the city should loan the money to the Stallions instead of investing directly in the Stallions by purchasing limited partnerships. The city would have to loan the money to the Alabama State Fair Authority, who would then loan the money or invest in the Stallions. They also recommend loaning the money to the team in stages and only as matching funds to other sources the Stallions may find.

April 22, 1985
The City Council approves a $1 million bail-out package.

The proposal was actually voted on twice, with it being voted down the first time. After some intense back-room discussions, two council members changed their votes. Councilman Russell Yarbrough voted against the proposal and said, "It's awful easy to let our heartstrings rule our pocketbooks. We're dealing with taxpayer's money here. I think if we invest any money at all in the Stallions, we're going to lose it."

The were additional stipulations attached, however. The first payment wouldn't be made until next week, the day after a league meeting of team owners that would decide the fate of the USFL. If the league votes to continue, the city would then loan $900,000 to the team over the next few weeks, matching other funds that the Stallions raise. The loan carries a 10% interest rate. The final $100,000 would be used to purchase limited partnerships in the franchise.

April 29, 1985
At a league meeting in New Jersey, team owners reaffirm their earlier commitment to move to a fall schedule in 1986 by a 12-2 vote. The dissenting votes came from Tampa Bay's John Bassett and Denver's Doug Spedding.

USFL commissioner Harry Usher said, "The spring versus fall issue has been ballyhooed around in the papers and by the electronic media, and we needed to put a stop to the speculation. So, we have reaffirmed our desire to go to the fall. One franchise, Tampa Bay, has agreed to withdraw from the league at the end of this season and John Bassett will attempt to put together another summer league."

Usher said all assets of the Tampa Bay Bandits will belong to the league once the season is over, "all the assets are league assets... players, logos, name."

Bassett says he has ten or eleven cities lined up for his new league, which would include entertainment activities in addition to a sporting event. Each team would have a professional golfer and entertainment personality involved. The league would be a giant football, golf, tennis, and soccer league.

USFL team owners also voted to continue financing the Los Angeles Express, which is still without an owner. "The lights will come on in Chicago in 1986. Now we have teams in the New York area, Chicago, and Los Angeles," Usher said.

The league announced that they have hired a New York law firm to begin taking depositions in the USFL's $1.32 billion anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL.

May 17, 1985
The USFL files a $7 million breach-of-contract lawsuit against the ABC television network. The lawsuit is in retaliation for ABC's announcement that they would be withholding the final $5 million from their $14 million contract with the USFL due to the USFL leaving certain cities designated in their original contract, which included Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Boston.

May 18, 1985
The USFL announces it is dropping its lawsuit against ABC in favor of arbitration.

June 13, 1985
Usher announces that the Tampa Bay Bandits and the Denver Gold will remain in the USFL.

Gold owner Doug Spedding will look into relocating the team while Bassett says he will sell the Bandits. Bassett, who is now battling cancer in the form of inoperable brain tumors, has also put his new alternative summer league on hold.

July 11, 1985
It is learned that Jefferson County tax officials are asking the Stallions for an audit of the club's recent sales receipts to determine just how much county sales tax is owed.

J. N. Hoadley, head of the county revenue office, said the Stallions were three months past due in making their payments.

Birmingham License and Tax administrator Frank Lopez said the Stallions were also three months behind in paying their city taxes before doing so today.

In addition, a check of records for the Stallions under several corporation names indicated that no personal property owned by the Stallions has been assessed for taxes. Therefore, the team has not paid any personal property tax during their three years of existence. An inventory is planned by the Jefferson County Tax Assessor's office. 

July 14, 1985
     Photograph
  Stallions president Jerry Sklar
   
Sklar admits that the Stallions have been separately approached by two current USFL franchises wanting to discuss merging.

Portland Breakers owner John Cannizaro and Denver Gold owner Doug Spedding have both contacted Stallions ownership during the owner's meeting in New Jersey this week.

Sklar emphasizes that if a merger takes place, the new team would be based in Birmingham. "We are not actively seeking a merger, but if a substantial owner is willing to come to Birmingham, we are willing to listen."

July 19, 1985
Stallions running back Joe Cribbs and his agent, Louis Burrell, have reached a buy-out agreement with the Stallions for the remaining three years on his contract. The buy-out price is estimated at $750,000. The NFL's Buffalo Bills general manager, Terry Bledsoe said that talks have been underway for a couple of weeks.

Also, Hoadley says the Stallions have paid their four month back-taxes in full, including the 10% delinquency fee. "They've settled up. They gave us all the money they owed."

July 31, 1985
Usher announces that the New Jersey Generals and the Houston Gamblers will merge before the 1986 season.

New majority owner Steve Ross purchased the Gamblers last week from Jerry Argovitz with the hopes of merging. Argovitz will become the president of the merged team, and the Gambler coaching staff, headed by Jack Pardee, will coach the team. Trump said the team would be named the Generals and would likely move to Shea Stadium. Generals quarterback Doug Flutie would probably be traded, and two different groups in Boston are interested in acquiring him and setting up a USFL franchise in Boston.

October 31, 1985
At an owner's meeting in Memphis, the Stallions owners agree to post the $500,000 letter of credit required to remain in the USFL.

November 1, 1985
At the same owner's meeting in Memphis, Usher announces that there are nine teams committed to the 1986 season with another one or two that may renew before the season kicks off.

Birmingham, New Jersey, Baltimore, Memphis, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Arizona, and Portland have all issued the $500,000 letters of credit required.

The Portland team will be the former Denver Gold, which will replace the now defunct Portland Breakers.

"I am now 100% certain the league will play football in the fall of '86," Usher said.

When asked about the league's lawsuit against the NFL, Usher said, "The suit is extremely important to us, but it's not a make or break thing. What we're trying to do is get the revenues to play professional football on a highly competitive level."

The owners also approved of the merger of the New Jersey Generals and the Houston Gamblers franchises.

December 4, 1985
A meeting was held between representatives of the USFL and the NFL to discuss a potential settlement of the lawsuit.

The USFL was represented by attorney Harvey Myerson and the NFL was represented by lawyer Paul Tagliabue. Included in the discussion was a three-step compromise: 1) Two current USFL teams would be allowed to buy into the NFL before the 1986 season. 2) A ten to twelve team spring football league would be financed by both leagues starting in 1986. 3) The most successful franchises of the spring league would advance to gain membership into the NFL.

December 11, 1985
NFL owners approved a resolution avowing that the NFL has no interest in merging with the USFL or settling the $1.3 billion antitrust suit against it. An NFL spokesman said the resolution was in response to the continued rumors of the two leagues merging.

February 19, 1985
At the annual owner's meeting in New York, Usher announces the USFL will play in the fall of 1986 with eight teams in two divisions. Liberty Division members are Baltimore Stars, Birmingham Stallions, Memphis Showboats, and New Jersey Generals. Independence Division members will be Arizona Outlaws, Jacksonville Bulls, Orlando Renegades, and Tampa Bay Bandits.

The Houston Gamblers will merge with the New Jersey Generals.

The Denver Gold will merge with the Jacksonville Bulls.

Usher also announced that the fourth USFL Championship Game will be played on the Sunday after the NFL's Super Bowl.

"We now have the strongest people, in the strongest franchises, and playing in the right season. There's virtually no chance of us losing the lawsuit. It's about as fool-proof as you can get. We're going to have a great victory," Trump said.

April 24, 1986

U.S. District Judge Peter K. Leisure refused to void the NFL's current contracts with ABC, NBC, and CBS. The USFL had petitioned for a summary judgment, but Leisure ruled that they had failed to show that the contracts violated federal antitrust laws.

The trial date is set for May 12th.

Leisure also laid out the ground rules for the trial. He will refuse to allow the USFL to present some of its claims to the jury, among them the charges that the NFL illegally monopolized the supply of available game officials, that it tried to prevent USFL clubs from gaining favorable stadium leases, and that it disparaged the new league in an illegal attempt to harm its prospects.

May 14, 1986
The league sadly announces that former Tampa Bay Bandits owner John Bassett has died following his year-long battle with cancer. The 47 year-old Bassett had his first bout with cancer in 1976, just prior to the Birmingham Bulls first season.

July 29, 1986
The USFL receives a favorable verdict against the NFL from the jury.

However, only $1 was awarded to the USFL for their damages, which was tripled to $3 under federal antitrust laws.

The jury dismissed the USFL's television portion of the case, because the USFL has access to cable television, including their ESPN contract.

The five woman, one man jury deliberated for 31 hours before returning with a judgment against the NFL on one of the nine antitrust counts against it.  However, there seemed to be some confusion among the jurors regarding their responsibilities. Fatigue from the eleven week case also had an affect in their ruling. "We were very worried and very tired. I was getting physically ill, not sleeping. I wanted to get out. But we all agreed that the NFL was a monopoly and a monopoly is not fair. We can't compute damages. It was a compromise and the government should decide how much the damages should be. We thought the government would follow up on the verdict. We thought according to the instructions that the government could decide damages. I didn't understand the instructions and I put my faith in the court," said one of the female jurors.

The lone male juror felt confident of their decision and said, "We did not really feel the USFL had been financially damaged. We felt the USFL had damaged themselves."

USFL owners were undecided how the decisions would affect their upcoming fall season. "It's hard to comprehend a decision of $1 in damages from a jury that knew the case had such monumental meaning. To win the case and get only a dollar is like no decision. If we had won a reasonable judgment, there would be no question we'd go on and play this fall. I'm not so sure after this happened," said Sklar.

The USFL is considering their options for appealing the awards portion of the judgment.

August 4, 1986
At an owner's meeting in New York, the league votes to suspend play for the 1986 season.

"Because of the unbelievable impossibility of effectively playing professional football without a television agreement from a network and because of the injury we have suffered at the hands of the NFL as found by a jury, we are postponing play for the '86 season," Usher said.

When asked if the Stallions would ever play again, Dotsch said, "I just don't know. I never say never, though. It would be a long pull." Dotsch hinted that the USFL may have cut its own throat by wavering from its original plan of not signing the multi-million dollar players. "Every good coach has a game plan. In this case, the USFL got away from the game plan. There's no question we did, or I'll say the USFL did. I don't think we did or Tampa Bay did. Hindsight is much better than foresight, I know, but things were done that hurt us. We (the Stallions) didn't go crazy. We lost the fewest dollars of any USFL team. We were always the poorest team in the playoffs, but we held our own and I'm proud of that. We did a good job with what we had. We won a lot more than we lost, and that's the biggest thing."

August 7, 1986
The USFL and the United States Football League Players Association agree to complete free agency for all USFL players to allow them to sign with NFL teams. With that agreement made, a mass exodus is expected, which would leave the USFL without many, or all, of their marquee players.

October 2, 1986
Leisure denies appeals by the USFL and the NFL.

The NFL's appeal was to overturn the jury's ruling that they were an illegal monopoly, while the USFL's appeal was for an increase in their award amount of $1 due to juror confusion over what their responsibilities were.

"The next step for us (the USFL) is going to court in November for a hearing on injunctive relief to get the NFL off one of the TV networks. And filing an appeal with a higher court for another trial, probably in January or February," Sklar said.

October 16, 1986
Usher announces that the USFL has filed a motion asking Leisure to split the NFL into two totally separate conferences and knock the established league off one of the three major networks.

The USFL's desire is to break up the NFL into two new leagues, the AFC and the NFC, and each would negotiate its own television contracts, run its own finances, and conduct separate drafts. Doing so would then allow the USFL to be exclusively shown on the third network. "We're not giving up. We're not going to go away," Usher said.

December 17, 1986
     Photograph
  Former Stallions owner
Marvin L. Warner
arrested in April 1991
   
Leisure throws out the USFL's request to break the NFL into two autonomous conferences.

An appeal is likely, but with the 1986 fall season already cancelled, with each passing day the future looks bleaker for the USFL to continue. "I can't say this latest decision by Judge Leisure's court is the end of the USFL, but it makes playing in the fall of '87 unlikely," Sklar said.

"There's still a lot of interest, but we know the chances of us starting up again are realistically nil," Dotsch said.

January 8, 1987
Usher announces that USFL franchise owners have decided to cancel the 1987 fall season. With their decision to appeal the $3 award in their antitrust suit against the NFL, the owners felt the appeal could last up to six months, which would damage their ability to properly prepare for the 1987 season.         

March 2, 1987
A Cincinnati, Ohio jury convicted Warner and two former Home State Savings Bank presidents of charges stemming from an investment scheme that set off a state-wide financial crisis in 1985.

March 10, 1988
The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the USFL's appeal of their $1 jury judgment.

     Photograph
  45th U.S. President
Donald J. Trump
   
The vote was a unanimous 3-0 decision and from all appearances, is the final nail in the league's coffin. "I'm very disappointed. I'm sorry for the players and the public and the television fans," Usher said.

Epilogue
The United States Football League was the biggest threat to the National Football League since the American Football League merged with the NFL in 1966.

However, it was not strong enough to take on the established league in the courts or on the field.

When the USFL died, so did Birmingham's greatest chance at joining the NFL.

However, the city's brush with the NFL wasn't gone forever. In 1991, Birmingham secured a team in the NFL's developmental league, the World League of American Football. The Birmingham Fire played for two years before the NFL decided to concentrate on making the WLAF a European league.

And in what could be arguably the strangest turn of events in Birmingham sports history, former New Jersey Generals owner Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States in 2017.
 
 
 
Contact Gene Crowley
Last update: October 17, 2018