CHICAGO – Nearly four decades ago, the league made its debut as an alternative to the NFL, featuring teams with creative names and some marquee players.
The upstart USFL made some noise when it was founded in 1982 and then over the next few years as they took the field in the spring and early summer. Even Chicago had a team in this league that hope to provide a challenge to the established NFL
But by the end of 1986, the league was no more.
It was one of many that have tried and ultimately failed to produce a true competitor to the NFL. But in 2022, the USFL is going to try again.
Fox Sports announced on Thursday that the league is going to return next spring, fielding a minimum of eight teams. It’s unclear if the league will bring back some of their old team names, but they do have the rights to use them if they’d like.
Brian Woods, who is CEO of the developmental The Spring League, is co-founder of this new chapter of the USFL.
“I’m extremely passionate about football and the opportunity to work with FOX Sports and to bring back the USFL in 2022 was an endeavor worth pursuing,” said Woods in a statement Thursday. “We look forward to providing players a new opportunity to compete in a professional football league and giving fans everywhere the best football viewing product possible during what is typically a period devoid of professional football.”
The original league was founded in 1982 and began play in the spring of 1983 with teams across the country, including the Chicago Blitz. The league played in the spring in 1983, 1984, and 1985 then decided to move to the fall for the 1986 season.
But that season was never played as financial hardships along with the league’s lack of compensation after winning an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL (Awarded just $1, which eventually became $3.76) led to its shutdown.
The Blitz never even made it that far as they played just two seasons in the USFL. In that first season, the team led by head coach George Allen went 12-6 in the 18-game season and tied for the Central Division title.
But due to a tiebreaker loss to the Michigan Panthers, they were the Wild Card and went on the road to face the Philadelphia Stars in the opening round of the playoffs. They’d lose that contest 44-38 in overtime at Veterans Stadium.
That offseason came the infamous “franchise trade” that saw nearly everything from the Blitz get swapped with the Arizona Wranglers. Orginal team owner Dr. Ted Diethrich sold the team to James Hoffman, and when Diethrich bought the Wranglers, most everything from Chicago including players were swapped with the Arizona franchise.
That wasn’t a good thing for the Blitz, even though they hired future Hall of Fame head coach Marv Levy before the trade, since the Wranglers were 4-14 the year before.
Despite signing former Chicago Bears like quarterback Vince Evans, offensive lineman Dan Jiggetts, and defensive back Doug Plank, the team finished last in the Central Division with a 5-13 record. Meanwhile, the Wranglers used a significant amount of former Blitz players to advance to the USFL Championship Game.
The team would suspend operations before the 1985 season before the league itself folded in 1986.