USFL Teams: Arizona Wranglers
By Patrick Mondout
Arizona Wranglers, later known as the Arizona Outlaws,
were a team in the short-lived United
States Football League (USFL) in the mid Awesome80s. The teams played
home games in Arizona State University's Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe,
Ted Diethrich (1984-85)
Bill Tatham (1985)
Beat LA Express 35-23
Lost to Philadelphia 23-3
Arizona Outlaws (1985)
Football fans in the Phoenix area had longed for an NFL team
(unfortunately for them, their wishes soon came true in the person of Bill
Bidwell and his perennially mediocre Cardinals), but many were nonetheless
excited when it was announced in 1982 that area had been selected for a
team in the mysterious new USFL.
See also: 1983
Wranglers, 1984 Wranglers,
Although a number of "name" players were signed by some teams
and more than a few notable college players signed, no one knew for such
which teams would actually perform the best come week one. In front of
45,167 fans in the opener at Sun Devil Stadium, the Wranglers got blown
out 24-0. Although the curiosity factor often means the first games are
more heavily attended in a new league than subsequent games, any real
enthusiasm for the new teams seem gone after week one, where the Wranglers
could get no closer to the end zone than the Invaders 18 yard line.
The Wranglers were one of the weakest teams in the inaugural season of
the USFL winning just 4 of 18 games. With six of their first eight games
at home in the desert heat, the Wranglers actually entered week 9 tied for
first with a 4-4 record, but they failed to win another game.
Heart surgeon Ted Diethrich owned the 12-6 playoff
bound Chicago Blitz, but lived in Arizona
and wanted to own a team closer to home. The ownership in Phoenix was
willing to sell, but since he could own two franchises, he had to find
someone to take his team in Chicago. He found Dr. James Hoffman
(ironically was also a heart surgeon) to partner with on one of the more
unusual franchise shift in major sports history. Further complicating
matters was the fact that hand-picked head coach George Allen was under a
personal services contract with Diethrich and had Blitz stock options and
Allen did not want to coach "those losers" in Arizona.
Diethrich purchased the Wranglers franchise and sold the Blitz
franchise to Hoffman. The unusual aspect was that as part of the $7M deal,
he kept all Blitz players, contracts, and personnel (except players Virgil
Livers, Tim Koegel, Jim Stone and Marcus Anderson) and Hoffman received
all Wranglers players and contracts (except players Jeff Kiewell and Alan
Risher). Former Redskins QB Billy Kilmer quipped, "Allen has traded
more players than anyone, but this is the first time he's ever traded
teams and kept the players."
The sports section of the October 1, 1983 Chicago Tribune announced,
"The great Blitz switch is official; USFL's worst team coming
here." And while you might expect that most observers believed
Diethrich got the better end of the deal, Hoffman himself was delighted.
He believed George Allen had spent far too much money on players and
claimed he would not have been interested in buying the club if it meant
inheriting those contracts. Allen wasn't thrilled to be leaving Chicago,
but was happy to continue coaching the players he had spent the previous
spring and summer coaching.
Not surprisingly, the 1984 season proved much more successful for
Arizona football fans than had 1983. The team finished 10-8, made the
playoffs and beat Steve "the $40 Million Dollar QB" Young and
the L.A. Express to reach the '84 USFL Championship game, where they lost
to the Philadelphia Stars 23-3.
The original deal between Blitz owner Dr. Ted Diethrich and coach
George Allen would have allowed the latter to exercise stock options after
the 1984 season, but he wisely refused and thus was never a part-owner of
the team as others have reported. Diethrich, who personally received $15M
of a $40M purchase price a few years earlier from the sale of Advanced
Diagnostic Research to Squibb, lost $14M in his two seasons owning first
the Chicago Blitz and then the Arizona Wranglers.
Another USFL owner facing financial losses but
willing to invest even more was Oklahoma
Outlaws owner Bill Tatham. Tatham bought 75% of Diethrich's stock and
merged his club with the Arizona Wranglers for the 1985 season, creating
the Arizona Outlaws. Other USFL teams had merged prior to the '85 season
and the Outlaws were a disappointment at 8-10. The teams owners still
believed in the league and planned to play in the fall of 1986, but the
league suspended operations before that could happen.
Single Season Leaders
Rushing Yards: Reggie Brown 1031 in 1985
Receiving Yards: Alphonso Williams 1087 in 1984
Passing Yards: Doug Williams 3645 in 1985
$1 League: The Rise and Fall of the USFL by Jim Byrne
The Sporting News Official USFL Guide and Register, 1984
Sporting News Official USFL Guide and Register, 1985
USFL Media Guides (each team published one each year)
Kickoff Magazine (published by league; 9 issues per year + playoffs; sold at
The Sporting News (regular coverage + special "preview"
These and many other USFL items can be found at
eBay - check our links on the far right of this page!