1983

January
4 - University of Pittsburgh quarterback Dan Marino is the first player chosen at the inaugural "USFL Annual Selection Meeting" in New York, chosen by the Los Angeles Express.  In all 288 players are chosen over 24 rounds in a marathon draft which takes 15 hours, 41 minutes.

7 - Tim Spencer, the second overall selection in the draft three days earlier, is signed to a four year contract by the Chicago Blitz.

11 - The Arizona Wranglers name Atlanta Falcons assistant Doug Shively as head coach.

12 - Jim Mora is named as the second head coach of the Philadelphia Stars.  Mora succeeds George Perles, who had resigned the previous month.

31 - The Los Angeles Express open their inaugural training camp with 177 players (enough to fill the rosters of four USFL teams).

February
23 - Eleven days before the start of the inaugural USFL season, New Jersey Generals owner J. Walter Duncan signs 1982 Heisman Trophy winning running back Herschel Walker to a three year, $5 million contract, by far the richest in professional football.

March
6 - The inaugural season of the United States Football League kicks off with games in five different locations.  Tim Mazzetti of the Boston Breakers scores the first points in league history with a field goal on the team's opening drive against the Tampa Bay Bandits.  On the ensuing offensive drive, the Bandits would retort by scoring the league's first touchdown, a 6 yard pass from John Reaves to running back Ricky Williams.  The following night, the Michigan Panthers defeat the Birmingham Stallions in the inaugural Monday night game, 9-7.

20 - The Week 3 game between the Tampa Bay Bandits and New Jersey Generals at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey draws 53,270, the largest attended game of the inaugural season.

April
28 - The USFL announces the award of its first expansion franchise to Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr.  A "name the team" contest would later produce the name "Pittsburgh Maulers."

May
11 - League founder David Dixon exits the stage, selling the franchise he had awarded himself as compensation for organizing the USFL to a group including Dr. Jerry Argovitz, Bernard Lerner, Alvin Lubetkin, Fred Gerson and singer/actor Kenny Rogers.  The team is earmarked for Houston, and would soon be named the "Houston Gamblers."

16 - William R. Tatham, Sr. is awarded a USFL franchise for the San Diego market.  Also on that day, the Denver Gold fire head coach Red Miller, making him the first head coaching casualty in league history.  Eight days later, the Gold would hire former Denver Broncos quarterback Craig Morton.

31 - Former NFL and WFL head coach Jack Pardee is hired as the head coach of the expansion Houston Gamblers.

June
While in a meeting with Buffalo Bills general manager Pat McGroder to finalize and sign a contract with the team, rookie University of Miami quarterback Jim Kelly's agent is advised by McGroder's assistant that there's an emergency telephone call waiting for him.  The call is actually from Chicago Blitz general manager Bruce Allen, who conveys a simple message:  we'll not only match the Bills offer financially, but Kelly can choose where among the USFL's 18 markets he wishes to play.  Thinking quickly, Kelly is hustled out of the room, without signing the contract.  On June 9th, he signs with the USFL's Houston Gamblers instead.

14 - For the second consecutive year, the prospective owner of a San Diego USFL franchise is denied access to Jack Murphy Stadium by the San Diego City Council as William Tatham's application is rejected; this time by a 4-3 vote.  On the same day, the USFL announces it has awarded an expansion franchise to Jacksonville's Fred Bullard.

July
1 - The expansion Jacksonville Bulls announce the hiring of Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Lindy Infante as their head coach.

2 - Buffalo Bills running back Joe Cribbs signs a contract to play with the Birmingham Stallions beginning with the 1984 season.

3 - Edward J. DeBartolo and Paul Martha incorporate "Pittsburgh Maulers, Inc." to operate the franchise.  Martha, who also heads the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Spirit, is named president.

6 - The Pittsburgh Maulers announce the hiring of general manager George Heddleston.

11 - In a surprise announcement, the USFL announces the awarding of a 17th franchise, the San Antonio Gunslingers, to Clinton Manges.

17 - At Denver's Mile High Stadium, the Michigan Panthers defeat the Philadelphia Stars, 24-22, in the inaugural USFL Championship Game.  Earlier in the day, the league announces that it has awarded it's 18th (and final) franchise, the Memphis Showboats.

August
4 - The Memphis Showboats hire Charley Thornton as general manager.

8 - The Pittsburgh Maulers hire Philadelphia Stars offensive coordinator Joe Pendry as their first head coach.

9 - Paid just $120,000 for his services as starting quarterback for the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1982, Doug Williams rejects an offer to return to the team for $400,000 a year, signing instead with the Oklahoma Outlaws for a reported $600,000 annual salary.

September
1 - The Memphis Showboats hire Franklin C. "Pepper" Rodgers as head coach.

6 - The USFL conducts its first (and last) expansion draft.  Each of the six teams select three players from each of the league's 12 charter franchises to stock their rosters.

22 - J. Walter Duncan and Chuck Fairbanks sell the New Jersey Generals to Donald J. Trump.

30 - As the first element of an unusual (but not unprecedented) "trade" of franchises, Dr. Ted Diethrich and George Allen sell the Chicago Blitz to Milwaukee cardiovascular surgeon Dr. James Hoffman.  They then immediately acquire the Arizona Wranglers from Jim Joseph, and in a third transaction trade for all but two players from the Chicago roster; in effect making the 1983 Chicago Blitz the 1984 Arizona Wranglers, and vice-versa.  Hoffman hires Marv Levy, who is unaware of the trade and believes he's taking over the team coached by Allen, to coach the "new" Blitz.

October
3 - Vince Lombardi, Jr., is named president and general manager of the Michigan Panthers.

16 - At the annual league meetings in Houston, the owners approve the relocation of the Boston Breakers to New Orleans for 1984.  The now 18 USFL teams are realigned into Eastern and Western Conferences, with each comprised of two divisions.  The Eastern Conference comprises the Atlantic Division (consisting of New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington) and the newly created Southern Division (with Birmingham, Jacksonville, Memphis, New Orleans, Tampa Bay); while the Western Conference comprises the Central Division (Chicago, Houston, Michigan, Oklahoma and San Antonio) and the Pacific Division (unchanged from 1983, with Arizona, Denver, Los Angeles and Oakland).

18 - The Breakers relocation to New Orleans is announced.

November
8 - The New Jersey Generals sign three-time All-Pro free safety Gary Barbaro, most recently of the Kansas City Chiefs.

15 - The Chicago Blitz sign Chicago Bears quarterback Vince Evans.

December
9 - George Matthews and Randy Vataha close a transaction selling controlling interest in the New Orleans Breakers to Joseph C. Canizaro six weeks after relocating the team from Boston in anticipation of the sale.

20 - Former New York Jets head coach Walt Michaels is hired as the second head coach of the New Jersey Generals.  Michaels replaces Chuck Fairbanks, who retired from coaching upon selling his 10% interest in the franchise.

22 - Bill Daniels and Alan Harmon sell the Los Angeles Express to J. William Oldenburg.  Oldenburg announces the appointment of Don Klosterman as team president.

1983 Home Attendance Averages

  1. 41,736 - Denver Gold
  2. 39,896 - Tampa Bay Bandits
  3. 35,004 - New Jersey Generals
  4. 31,211 - Oakland Invaders
  5. 25,776 - Arizona Wranglers
  6. 25,031 - League Average
  7. 25,000 - League Founder David Dixon's Inaugural Season Projection
  8. 22,250 - Michigan Panthers
  9. 22,046 - Birmingham Stallions
  10. 19,002 - Los Angeles Express
  11. 18,650 - Philadelphia Stars
  12. 18,133 - Chicago Blitz
  13. 13,850 - Washington Federals
  14. 12,817 - Boston Breakers

1983 Television Rating Averages

  • ABC - 6.0 (or 6.2, depending on the source), or 5.03 million viewers.
  • ESPN - 3.6 rating points, or 3.02 million viewers.