The USFL- alternate to the NFL in the 1980's
Football is in the air with training camps in full tilt and the pre-season games already started. Sunday and Monday Night football telecasts have begun, and before you know it, tailgating and Sunday afternoons will go hand-in-hand.
The NFL is the top league in the country, possibly the world. Whatever they do turns to gold. There have been other football leagues that have tried to break their monopoly and failed. The last one to try disappeared twenty years ago.
The USFL attempted to take on the NFL and lost. But while it was a part of the sports scene, there were many exciting teams and players. The Metropolitan area had its own USFL club- the New Jersey Generals. They played at the Meadowlands from 1983-1985. Here's a look back on the short-lived franchise.
The USFL was formed in 1983 as an alternative to the NFL that would be played in the spring, following the completion of the Super Bowl. The New Jersey Generals were one of the flagship franchises for the league. The team made instant headlines by signing Georgia underclassman Herschel Walker, the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner. The team was coached by Chuck Fairbanks, and even with a big rookie season by Walker (1,812 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns), the Generals finished with a 6-12 record in their inaugural season.
Donald Trump purchased the team following the 1983 season. He hired former New York Jets head coach Walt Michaels to replace Fairbanks. He signed former NFL MVP quarterback Brian Sipe from the Cleveland Browns. He also signed defensive back Gary Barbaro and linebackers Willie Harper, Jim LeClair, and Bobby Leopold.
The Generals improved to 14-4 in the 1984 season, losing to the Philadelphia Stars in the first round of the playoffs by a score of 28-7. Walker finished with 1,339 yards and 16 touchdowns. Sipe threw for 2,540 yards with 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Blocking back Maurice Carthon rushed for 1,042 yards and 11 touchdowns.
In 1985, Trump signed Heisman winning Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie and traded Sipe to the Jacksonville Bulls. Flutie finished with 2,105 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. He also ran for 465 yards and 6 touchdowns. Walker had his best season, rushing for 2,411 yards and 21 touchdowns. Carthon ran for 726 yards and 6 touchdowns. The team finished 11-7 and once again was defeated in the playoffs by the Philadelphia Stars, 20-17.
The Generals merged with the Houston Gamblers (and their star quarterback Jim Kelly) for the 1986 season that would never be played. The USFL took the NFL to court in an anti-trust suit to play their schedule in the fall. Donald Trump was the driving force behind this decision. The USFL actually did win the suit, but was awarded only $1 in damages. The owners decided to suspend operations for the 1986 season and appealed the jury's decision. They subsequently lost the appeal and the league was history.