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Will Birmingham play in the United States Football League?

November 1, 1944
A new professional football league, the United States Football League, is showing interest in placing a team in Birmingham. The league wants to place two franchises in Southern cities with Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, and New Orleans all under consideration.

Another proposed league, the Trans-America Football League, is also interested in placing a team in Birmingham.

Reportedly, the league has been in contact with the Birmingham Barons, presumably to either own the franchise or to allow the proposed local team to play in Rickwood Field.

The USFL was formally announced in Philadelphia on July 24th and plans to begin play in 1945, "war conditions permitting". The league is the creation of Pittsburgh industrialist Roland Donald Payne.

There will be two divisions, Eastern and Western, and the league hopes to have 12 teams.

Cities that have already been issued franchises are Baltimore, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh in the Eastern Division. Western Division cities are Akron, Chicago, Cincinnati, Honolulu, and St. Louis.

Other cities that could still be in the mix are Buffalo, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle.

However, only 7 teams have posted the $10,000 franchise fee so far.

Plans are for each team to play a 20-game schedule, and the league estimates each franchise must make $30,000 per game to be profitable.

November 20, 1944
At the conclusion of a league meeting in Baltimore, the USFL announces that because of expected transportation problems, they will not field any West coast teams. Honolulu, however, will be a part of the league but will play all of their home games in "a major Eastern city" until the war ends.

November 27, 1944
  Harold "Red" Grange
Harold "Red" Grange, the "Galloping Ghost", is announced as commissioner of the USFL. Grange was a former player with the Chicago Bears, and many consider his signing in 1925 as a main factor that legitimized the National Football League. Grange also coached the Bears for two years.

"We plan to give the best football possible. We are not going to fight any other professional league nor are we going to try to steal players already under contract to other teams," Grange said.

He is also making plans for the day when champions of various professional leagues can get together for post-season games to determine a true world champion. "I see no reason why there cannot be two, three, or even four leagues over the country of major caliber, and I feel confident such a post-season series would be a big boon to the game. You can see what it has done for baseball. It would do the same for us."

Also announced are the 8 cities that have been formally admitted. Unfortunately, Birmingham was not named but Akron, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington were.

June 1, 1945
Grange announces he has resigned as commissioner of the USFL. In fact, he had turned in his resignation to league officials two weeks ago.

He gave two main reasons for his decision, the game "does not know where it is going" and wanting to devote more time to his insurance business.

"Professional football can never be on a sound basis until it owns its own parks or until baseball club owners organize their own league and thereby use their own parks. I would not advise anybody to start in pro football now. Players are holding out for between $400 and $600  a game when they used to get $150," Grange said.

June 5, 1945
The United States Football League folds. Organizers had hoped to place a team in New York city but the National Football League's Brooklyn Tigers will make Yankee Stadium their home park and the New York Giants secured the Polo Grounds, effectively shutting any other professional football out of the city. That situation and the war time economy were just too much to overcome.

While 1945's United States Football League may have failed, 1983 brought another United States Football League, and this one succeeded for three seasons.

Ironically, the new USFL would include a local team, the Birmingham Stallions.
Contact Gene Crowley
Last update: April 20, 2021