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June 24, 1984 – Washington Federals vs. New Orleans Breakers

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Washington Federals vs. New Orleans Breakers
June 24, 1984
RFK Stadium
Attendance: 6,386

United States Football League Programs

 

It was the final weekend of the 1984 United States Football League regular season in June 1984 and at stadiums across the league, a smiling Washington Federals cheerleader beckoned to fans from the cover of the USFL’s KICKOFF Magazine game program. But in the nation’s capital, there was little to smile about as the woeful, lame duck Federals played out the final 60 minutes of football of their bleak two-season run at RFK Stadium.

The Federals were reported sold a month earlier to Miami hotelier Sherwood Weiser, who planned to move the team to the Orange Bowl for the 1985 season.  The deadman-walking state of the team along with the Feds’ pathetic 2-15 record meant 7,495 no-shows compared to just 6,386 in the stands

The Feds were seemingly overmatched against the New Orleans Breakers, who started the season 6-1 and seemed destined for relevance.  But the Breakers were in the midst of the own collapse, losers of eight of their last 10 to fall out of playoff contention.  Ancient quarterback Johnnie Walton of New Orleans, playing his final pro game, opened the scoring with a 73-yard bomb to Frank Lockett off a flea flicker in the first quarter.  But the Federals showed some fight and opened a 20-10 lead by third quarter courtesy of a Curtis Bledsoe run and a pair of TD passes from Mike Hohensee.  (In typical Federals fashion, kicker Jeff Brockhaus blew an extra point.  The Feds used six kickers in just two seasons).  Despite a late touchdown run by the Breakers’ Mark Schellen, the Federals hung on to win their final game 21-17, raising their miserable two-year tally to 7-29.

The Federals sale to Woody Weiser fell through in August when USFL owners voted to move to a fall season in 1986.  Weiser didn’t want to compete with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in the fall and backed out of the deal.  The Federals went to Orlando instead, becoming the Orlando Renegades for the USFL’s final season in 1985.   The New Orleans Breakers were goners too.  Although quite popular in New Orleans, the planned move to the fall ruined their viability in the Big Easy, no matter how terrible the Saints were at the time.  The Breakers would move to Portland, Oregon for the 1985 season.

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Written by andycrossley

January 18th, 2014 at 12:09 am

1983-1984 Washington Federals

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United States Football League (1983-1984) B

Born: May 11, 1982 – USFL founding franchise.
Died: October 1984 - The Federals relocate to Orlando, FL.

Stadium: RFK Stadium

Team Colors:

Owner: Berl Bernhard

 

The Washington Federals were the snakebit franchise of the springtime United States Football League (1983-1985).  The Federals had the misfortune to debut in the nation’s capital just several weeks after the Washington Redskins won Super Bowl XVII, solidifying their grip on the region’s pro football passions.

Federals owner Berl Bernhard followed the league’s original slow growth business plan and opened his checkbook to sign one marquee player away from the NFL – rookie running back Craig James out of Southern Methodist University.  But James was repeatedly injured and managed to play in just 10 games with minimal effectiveness over two seasons.  The rest of the roster was relatively anonymous, with former NFL All-Pro defensive end Coy Bacon, by now far past his prime at age 40, the most familiar name.

The Federals debuted at RFK Stadium on March 6th, 1983 against the Chicago Blitz, who were coached by former Washington Redskins head man George Allen.  The game was selected as the league’s first nationwide broadcast in its ABC television deal.  More than 38,000 fans showed up in the rain, but the Federals were overmatched and lost 28-7.  The team would never again draw more than 15,000 fans in its two seasons of existence.

The Federals finished the 1983 season with the worst record in the 12-team USFL at 4-14.  But they did win their final two games, including a surprise upset of the league’s best team, the 15-3 Philadelphia Stars.  The last couple of weeks showed enough promise that Berl Bernhard brought back Head Coach Ray Jauch for a second season in 1984.

The nature of the league changed during the 1983-84 offseason.  New owners like Donald Trump (New Jersey) and William Oldenburg (Los Angeles) bought into the league and launched a salary war with the NFL over free agents and, especially, the 1984 college draft class.  Bernhard refused to be sucked into the spending spree and made no significant additions to the team during the winter of 1983-84.  The Federals’ biggest move was to acquire Reggie Collier from the Birmingham Stallions to try and settle the team’s chaotic quarterback situation.  Collier was Birmingham’s 1st round draft pick in 1983 but failed to hold down the starting job for the Stallions.  The same story would play out in Washington D.C., where Collier couldn’t unseat Mike Hohensee, a second-year quarterback from the University of Minnesota.

Bernhard learned just how far behind the curve his team had fallen on opening night of the 1984 season.  The Federals opened on the road against a lightly regarded expansion team, the Jacksonville Bulls (who would finish 6-12) and were blown out 53-14.  Bernhard famously complained that the team played “like a group of untrained gerbils” – a great line which got more national press attention that Bernhard probably wanted.  Head gerbil trainer Ray Jauch was fired three days later and replaced by assistant Dick Bielski, who couldn’t fare any better.  The Federals were even worse than the year before, finishing with the worst record in the league again at 3-15.

Off the field things were even worse.  Craig James was hurt again and the Federals let him bolt town midway through the lost season to sign with the NFL’s New England Patriots.  The Feds were just relieved to be out from under the fragile running back’s contract.  Attendance plummeted more than 50% from 1983′s already week numbers.  On May 6, 1984 the Federals drew the smallest crowd in the history of the USFL when only 4,432 fans showed up at RFK Stadium to watch an overtime loss to the Memphis Showboats.

In May 1984, Bernhard found an escape route.  He lined up a sale of the franchise to Sherwood “Woody” Weiser, a Miami-based hotelier who intended to move the team to South Florida for the 1985 season.  Weiser persuaded University of Miami Head Coach Howard Schnellenberger to quit his job (he’d led U of M to the national title just a year earlier) in return for part ownership of the USFL franchise and a guaranteed $100,000 salary for life.  It turned out to be a horrible decision for Schnellenberger.  At league meetings in August 1984, a cabal of new USFL investors led by Trump pushed through a plan to switch to a fall schedule in 1986 and take on the NFL head-to-head.  Weiser had zero desire to challenge the Miami Dolphins or U. of M. for attention and play dates at the Orange Bowl during the fall and pulled out of the deal.

After the Miami deal fell apart, Bernhard needed to find a new buyer.  He got one in Donald Dizney, a minority partner in the USFL’s popular Tampa Bay Bandits club.  Dizney bought out Bernhard and moved the team to Orlando, Florida in October of 1984.  Renamed the Orlando Renegades, the team played one final (losing) season in the spring of 1985 before the USFL went out of business in August 1986 on the eve of what was supposed to be its first fall season.

 

==Washington Federals Game on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1983 3/6/1983 vs. Chicago Blitz L 28-7 Program Video
1983 3/14/1983 @ Los Angeles Express L 20-3 Program
1983 3/20/1983 @ Boston Breakers  L 19-16 Program
1983 6/3/1983 @ Denver Gold L 24-12 Program
1984 4/14/1984 vs. Oklahoma Outlaws L 20-16 Program
1984 4/28/1984 @ Tampa Bay Bandits L 37-19 Program Video
1984 6/24/1984 vs. New Orleans Breakers W 20-17 Program

 

==Key Players==

  • Coy Bacon
  • Craig James

 

==YouTube==

The USFL’s debut weekend and the league’s first broadcast on ABC Sports.  The Federals host the Chicago Blitz on March 6, 1983. Lee Corso, ABC’s color commentator for the broadcast, would become the franchise’s head coach in 1985 after the team moved to Orlando.

==In Memoriam==

Back-up quarterback Joe Gilliam (1983) died of a heart attack on Christmas Day, 2000 at age 49.

Federals linebacker Mike Corvino(1983-1984) died in a car accident at age 46 on July 14, 2007.

Former Washington Redskins and Federals (1983) defensive end Coy Bacon died on December 22, 2008 at age 66.

 

==Links==

It Was Up, Up and No Way, William Oscar Johnson, Sports Illustrated, May 14, 1984

USFL Media Guides

USFL Game Programs

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Written by andycrossley

January 16th, 2014 at 2:08 am

1983 Boston Breakers

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United States Football League (1983)

Born: May 11, 1982 – USFL founding franchise.
Died: October 18, 1983 – The Breakers relocate to New Orleans, LA.

Stadium: Nickerson Field

Team Colors:

Owners: George Matthews & Randy Vataha

 

The Boston Breakers were one of twelve original franchises in the springtime United States Football League (1983-1985).  Expectations were low for Head Coach Dick Coury’s club, which failed to virtually all of its draft picks and fielded a team of low budget, no-name NFL training camp cuts and Canadian Football League castoffs.

Starting quarterback Johnnie Walton was 35 years old and hadn’t worn a football uniform since 1979, but he flourished in Coury’s pass-happy offense, finishing second in the USFL with 3,772 passing yards.  Former CFL All-Pro tailback Richard Crump rushed for nearly a 1,000 yards to supplement the passing game.  Although the college draft was a near washout for the Breakers, the team hit big with 9th round draft choice Marcus Marek, the all-time tackling leader out of Ohio State University.  Marek racked up 240 tackles and assisted tackles at inside linebacker and earned 1st Team All-USFL honors.

To nearly everyone’s surprise, the Breakers finished 11- 7 and narrowly missed the final playoff spot.  Coury was named the USFL’s Coach of the Year.

The Breakers were saddled with an unfortunate stadium situation in Boston, playing in tiny Nickerson Field, which all lacked modern amenities such as luxury suites or convenient parking.  With no suitable alternatives in the region, owners George Matthews and Randy Vataha sold the club for a reported $8.0 million to New Orleans developer Joseph Canizaro.

Canizaro moved the Breakers to New Orleans for the spring of 1984.  After a season in New Orleans, Canizaro moved the club again, this time to Portland, Oregon.  Each version of the Breakers – Boston, New Orleans and Portland – lasted just one season in their respective city.  The USFL folded after the 1985 season.

 

==1983 Boston Breakers Results==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
3/6/1983 @ Tampa Bay Bandits L 21-17 Program
3/13/1983 @ Denver Gold W 21-7
3/20/1983 vs. Washington Federals W 19-16 Program
3/27/1983 @ New Jersey Generals W 31-21
4/2/1983 vs. Birmingham Stallions W 27-21 Program
4/10/1983 vs. Oakland Invaders L 26-7 Program
4/17/1983 @ Arizona Wranglers W 44-23
4/24/1983 @ Philadelphia Stars L 23-16
5/1/1983 vs. Michigan Panthers L 28-24 Program
5/7/1983 @ Los Angeles Express L 23-20
5/16/1983 vs. Denver Gold W 17-9
5/22/1983 @ Washington Federals W 21-14
5/29/1983 vs. Philadelphia Stars W 21-17 Video
6/6/1983 vs. Chicago Blitz W 21-15 Program
6/11/1983 @ Birmingham Stallions L 31-19
6/19/1983 vs. Tampa Bay Bandits W 24-17
6/25/1983 @ Oakland Invaders L 17-16 Program
7/3/1983 vs. New Jersey Generals W 34-10

 

==Key Players==

 

==YouTube==

Philadelphia Stars at Boston Breakers at Nickerson Field, May 29, 1983.

==In Memoriam==

Offensive tackle Louis Bullard, who played for the Breakers in Boston, New Orleans and Portland, passed away from cancer on April 18, 2010 at age 53.  Bullard was one of the Breakers’ player representatives and the spokesperson for dozens of Portland Breakers in their long fight to collect unpaid wages from team owner Joe Canizaro.

 

 

==Links==

USFL Media Guides

USFL Game Programs

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Written by andycrossley

December 10th, 2013 at 3:52 am

1984 New Orleans Breakers

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United States Football League (1984)

Born: October 18, 1983 - The Boston Breakers relocate to New Orleans.
Died: November 13, 1984 – The Breakers relocate to Portland, OR.

Stadium: The Louisiana Superdome (69,658)

Team Colors:

Owner: Joseph Canizaro

 

The Breakers of the United States Football League started out at Boston University’s Nickerson Field in the spring of 1983.  Nickerson seated only 20,000 fans and was a destination of last resort after the Breakers’ first choice – Harvard Stadium – didn’t pan out.  Given the stadium situation in Boston, the franchise had no hope of sustainability there and original owner George Matthews decided to sell.

New Orleans real estate mogul Joseph Canizaro purchased the Boston Breakers in October 1983 for a reported $8 million and moved the team to the Louisiana Superdome.  The Breakers move was Joe Canizaro’s second attempt to bring a pro franchise to the Superdome.  In 1975, he led an unsuccessful effort to acquire and relocate Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles to the building.

Canizaro inherited the roster and coaching staff of the 1983 Boston Breakers, who had been the surprise of the USFL, going 11-7 and just missing the playoffs with an anonymous roster led by a 35-year old quarterback (Johnnie Walton) with awkward mechanics who hadn’t played in four years.

To this line-up, the 1984 New Orleans Breakers added three talented skill position players.  NFL jumper Dan Ross joined at tight end from the Cincinnati Bengals.  Ross, a Massachusetts native, planned to come home to play in Boston but found himself in the Big Easy instead.  The Breakers also added two big and talented rookie running backs in Buford Jordan out of Louisiana’s McNeese State and the spectacularly talented 19-year old college dropout Marcus Dupree.  Dupree had the big name and the five-year $6 million contract, but it was Jordan who turned out to be the star, rushing for 1,276 yards and 8 touchdowns.

The Breakers started the 1984 season 5-0 and were 6-1 through seven weeks.  But the team melted down in the second half, losing nine of its final eleven games to finish 8-10 and out of the playoffs.

When it came to the USFL, owner Joe Canizaro’s luck and timing were uncharacteristically lousy.  Although the Breakers drew reasonably well in the Big Easy (30,556 per game in 1984), Canizaro lost a reported $5 million on the team during the 1984 season.  Worse yet, in August 1984, less than a year after Canizaro bought the Breakers, a renegade faction of USFL owners led by Donald Trump of the New Jersey Generals pushed through a plan to move to a fall season in 1986.  The move immediately imperiled the ten USFL franchises that shared markets and stadia with NFL teams.  A wave of mergers, shutdowns and relocations followed as the USFL prepared for its final spring season in 1985.  Canizaro could never hope to compete with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints head-to-head in the fall, so he packed the Breakers off to Portland, Oregon.

 

==1984 New Orleans Breakers Results==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
2/26/1984 @ San Antonio Gunslingers W 13-10
3/4/1984 @ Oakland Invaders W 13-0 Program
3/11/1984 vs. Memphis Showboats W 37-14 Program
3/18/1984 @ Jacksonville Bulls W 38-9
3/25/1984 vs. Chicago Blitz W 41-35 (OT) Video
4/2/1984 @ Birmingham Stallions L 31-17
4/8/1984 vs. Pittsburgh Maulers W 27-24 Program
4/16/1984 vs. Tampa Bay Bandits L 35-13
4/22/1984 vs. Denver Gold W 20-18 Program
4/27/1984 @ Philadelphia Stars L 35-0
5/7/1984 vs. Arizona Wranglers L 28-13
5/13/1984 vs. Michigan Panthers W 10-3 Program
5/20/1984 @ Tampa Bay Bandits L 31-20
5/27/1984 vs. Birmingham Stallions L 31-14
6/1/1984 @ Memphis Showboats L 20-17
6/10/1984 @ New Jersey Generals L 31-21 Program
6/15/1984 vs. Jacksonville Bulls L 20-17 (OT)
6/24/1984 @ Washington Federals L 20-17 Program

 

==Key Players==

 

==YouTube==

1984 New Orleans Breakers profile with Jim Lampley:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwMXAYupKvM

 

New Orleans Breakers vs. Chicago Blitz at the Superdome. March 25 1984.

 

==In Memoriam==

Former New Orleans Breakers offensive lineman Broderick Thompson died from injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident on February 4, 2002.  He was 41 years old.

Breakers tight end Dan Ross died of a heart attack following a jog on May 16, 2006 in Atkinson, New Hampshire.  He was 49.

Offensive tackle Louis Bullard, who played for the Breakers in Boston, New Orleans and Portland, passed away from cancer on April 18, 2010 at age 53.  Bullard was one of the Breakers’ player representatives and the spokesperson for dozens of Portland Breakers in their long fight to collect unpaid wages from team owner Joe Canizaro.

 

==Downloads==

1984 New Orleans Breakers USFL Draft Selections 

 

==Links==

USFL Media Guides

USFL Game Programs

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Written by andycrossley

June 22nd, 2013 at 1:53 pm

March 10, 1985 – New Jersey Generals vs. Los Angeles Express

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New Jersey Generals vs. Los Angeles Express
March 10, 1985
Giants Stadium
Attendance: 58,741

United States Football League Programs

 

Week Three of the 1985 United States Football League season saw one of the most exciting individual match-ups in the league’s brief, colorful history.  58,741 showed up at Giants Stadium for the New Jersey Generals‘ home opener, eager to get their first look at New Jersey owner Donald Trump’s latest prize – Heisman Trophy-winning rookie quarterback Doug Flutie out of Boston College.  A national television audience watched the Sunday matinee on ABC, with Keith Jackson and Lynn Swann handling the call.

Flutie was the only big-name collegian to sign with the USFL after the upstart league’s January 1985 draft.  Belt tightening was the rule of the day.  By 1985, Trump was the only league owner still willing to back up his bluster with blockbuster signings.  (Flutie’s rookie deal was reportedly worth $5.5 to $7.5 million over five seasons).  More typical was the approach of the Portland Breakers, who didn’t even bother to contact most of their draft picks.

What a difference a year makes.  Just twelve months earlier, the USFL was flush with confidence and with the cash of new owners like Trump, Edward DeBartolo, Sr. and Bill Dunavant.  In the month following the USFL’s January 1984 college draft, the upstart league lured away approximately one third of the Top 100 prospects for the 1984 NFL draft.  DeBartolo had the #1 overall pick and landed Mike Rozier, the reigning Heisman winner from the University of Nebraska, for his Pittsburgh Maulers club.  Dunavant signed future Hall-of-Famer Reggie White out of the University of Tennessee for his Memphis Showboats.

But nobody made a bigger splash than Los Angeles Express owner William Oldenburg.  Oldenburg’s ownership of the Express lasted only eight wild months, from December 1983 to July 1984.  But during his brief reign, he hired long-time Los Angeles Rams personnel man Don Klosterman and gave him an open checkbook to build a championship team.   Possessed (briefly) of seemingly unlimited cash, Klosterman decided to do this through the draft.  During a two-month spree from January to March of 1984, the veteran exec assembled one of the most remarkable teams in the history of pro football.

Klosterman signed 31 rookies, including more than a dozen players projected to go in the first four rounds of the NFL draft and two future Hall of Famers.  The headline maker came in March 1984, when Klosterman reeled in Brigham Young quarterback Steve YoungYoung was projected to go #1 overall in the 1984 draft to the Cincinnati Bengals.  The terms of Young’s deal were as much an object of media fascination as the player himself.  The contract called for Young to earn $40 million dollars over 43 years, though this was largely through annuity payments.  (The Express’ actual commitment was probably closer to a much more normal-sounding $8.4 million over 4 years).  Some outlets reported the complex deal as the richest in the history of professional sports.

With their 31 rookies the Express made it to within one game of the USFL Championship game in July 1984.  But by that time Oldenburg was under federal investigation for fraud.  The checkbook was closed and the league took over the franchise that same month.  By the time the Express rolled into Giants Stadium to face the Generals in Week 3 of the 1985 season, the ownerless team was being operated as a ward of the league.  The other 13 owners agreed to fund the Express’ massive payroll obligations, but cut all other expenses, from marketing to medical supplies, to embarrassing levels.  Two weeks before the Generals game, the Express fired their cheerleading squad in order to save $980 per game.

Neither QB set the world on fire this day.  Steve Young absorbed seven sacks and threw two interceptions into the arms of Generals cornerback Kerry Justin, including a pick-six with under three minutes left.  Doug Flutie scrambled for a first half score but appeared lost in the passing game, completing only two passes for 19 yards in the first half.  But it was Flutie who wowed Generals fans and the national TV audience with one of his famous 4th quarter rallies.  The Express took a 24-14 lead into the final quarter.   Then Flutie led the Generals on clock-chewing drives of 70 and 78 yards, capping both with rushing touchdowns.  On the day, Flutie ran for 97 yards and three scores.  Young got the ball back with 2:43 remaining, but Justin put a dagger in the Express with his 42-yard interception return for a score on the drive’s second play.  The Generals won 35-24.

 

==YouTube==

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Written by andycrossley

June 5th, 2013 at 7:12 pm