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1986 USFL Season

By Patrick Mondout

Following the 1985 season, the Houston Gamblers merged into the New Jersey Generals and the Denver Gold merged into the Jacksonville Bulls.

A February, 1986 meeting of team owners, which was supposed to just be procedural, became a turning point in the league's history when Baltimore's owner Myles Tanenbaum suggested the league should idle itself until the $1.3B lawsuit against the NFL was resolved. When the news became public, Generals RB Herschel Walker then threatened to bolt for the Dallas Cowboys - who had wisely drafted his rights late in the 1985 NFL Draft - if the league did not play the '86 season as scheduled.

Other owners and league commissioner Harry Usher claimed it was only Tanenbaum who felt that way and Usher indicated that he'd be happy to hold a dispersal draft of Baltimore Stars players, if the owner was not willing to field at team the coming Fall. This was the two time defending league championship Stars he was ready to disperse! Such was the wacky world of the USFL as it started to implode.

It's hard to see how a league with no teams in California, Texas, or Chicago and with three of eight teams in Florida (but not Miami) was going to market itself, but the question became moot. The league cancelled the season (suggesting they'd be back in the Fall of 1987) and Herschel Walker and others bolted for the NFL.

When the Fall of 1987 came, there were labor problems in the NFL (just like in 1982), and a strike cost the older league four games (though three were played by replacement players, including many former USFL'ers), but there was no sign of the USFL itself.

For the anticipated 1986 season that was to take place in the Fall - in direct competition with the NFL - the league realigned the division as shown below.

1986 USFL Lineup

LIBERTY W L T PCT PF PA
Baltimore Stars            
Birmingham Stallions            
New Jersey Generals            
Memphis Showboats            
INDEPENDENCE W L T PCT PF PA
Arizona Outlaws            
Jacksonville Bulls            
Orlando Renegades            
Tampa Bay Bandits            
Note: Season cancelled.



USFL Bibliography
Books:
The $1 League: The Rise and Fall of the USFL by Jim Byrne
The Sporting News Official USFL Guide and Register, 1984
The Sporting News Official USFL Guide and Register, 1985
USFL Media Guides (each team published one each year)

Magazines:
Kickoff Magazine (published by league; 9 issues per year + playoffs; sold at games)
The Sporting News (regular coverage + special "preview" inserts)

These and many other USFL items can be found at eBay - check our links on the far right of this page!


Share Your Memories!

We have a USFL Forum! Our sites have always been by you and about you. If you check our TV Forums or our Technology & Science forums, you'll find literally thousands of messages from fans of 1970s TV shows, survivors of hurricanes or aircraft accidents, etc. from all over the world sharing their memories, asking questions, making comments. Our baseball section is new, but don't let that stop you from sharing your memories of USFL games you saw, now-forgotten stadiums, etc. Of course you can also ask questions, post trivia, or just read what others are saying.

--Patrick Mondout



 


How good would the '86 Generals have been with Herschel Walker in the same backfield with Jim Kelly and other former Houston Gamblers? Sadly, we'll never know. This issue of Sports Illustrated from 1986 anticipates such a development.


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