Central Division (1983)
Central Division, Western Conference (1984)
1983: Dr. Ted Diethrich, George Allen
1983-1984: Dr. James Hoffman
1984: League Operated Franchise
Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois
Regular Season Record
1983 - George Allen (12-6-0, 0-1 in playoffs)
1984 - Marv Levy (5-13-0)
Along with Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, USFL founder David Dixon viewed having a franchise in Chicago as absolutely vital to achieving one of the league's key goals: securing a network television rights contract going into its inaugural season.
Unforuntately, Dixon found no financially well-heeled Chicagoland residents interested in even indirectly taking on George Halas and the NFL's Chicago Bears. But there was one man who was downright eager to do so: former Washington Redskins and Los Angeles Rams head coach George Allen, who felt he'd been promised a similar position with the Bears, only to be left at the altar when Halas named Mike Ditka as his new head coach.
From that point, Dixon and Allen would work together to find an owner to put a team in Chicago, ultimately convincing renown Phoenix-based cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Ted Diethrich to acquire the franchise along with southern California real estate developer Willard (Bill) Harris, who had sought the Denver franchise before teaming up with Diethrich and Allen. Convinced spring football would be viable, Diethrich initially had asked to place a team in Phoenix, but Dixon dissuaded him, telling him Phoenix might be considered for expansion but wasn't on the radar for the 1983 inaugural season.
Just weeks later meanwhile, Diethrich would be angered when Jim Joseph, who had agreed to give up the Los Angeles territory, would move his franchise to Phoenix, setting up the Arizona Wranglers. But believing the overall concept of spring football sound and encouraged by having one of the best coaches of the era handling the football end of the business, Diethrich pressed forward. In retrospect he shouldn't have just walked away from the team - he should've run.
The Best USFL Team Money Could Buy
Prior to the start of the 1983 season the Blitz were viewed quite favorably in the media, thanks largely to Allen's reputation and his fierce dedication to fielding the best 40 players possible. An example of this dedication was a series of tryout camps during the summer and fall of 1982, in which Allen and his staff looked over 3,200 players and signed a whopping 340 to contracts - enough players to stock 8 1/2 USFL rosters. That November he'd add a new story to his recruiting legend, traveling to Logan Correctional Center for the purpose of trying out an inmate there
Mostly however, Allen went with his tried and true practice of eschewing rookies in favor of experienced, veteran talent that others had cast off. Former Detroit and Baltimore quarterback Greg Landry was signed, as was former Bear and Seattle Seahawk Bob Newton at guard, ex-Chicago defensive back Virgil Livers, and former Baltimore and Detroit linebacker Stan White.
Despite Allen's approach and an impressive 12-6-0 inaugural season record in 1983, Chicago football fans stayed away from Soldier Field in droves. The poor attendance (reported as 22,600) at the team's March 20th home opener against the Denver Gold could easily be written off as the game was played in miserable conditions (snow with a wind chill approaching 15 degrees). But the next week, against the Los Angeles Express the team drew only 10,936. A late April visit from Herschel Walker and the New Jersey Generals generated enough curiosity to cause 32,184 to go through the turnstiles, but the team failed to draw more than 20,000 for any of its remaining home dates.
Diethrich and Allen Go To Arizona; The Blitz Go To Oblivion
Watching millions of dollars go down the drain trying to persuade Chicago sports fans that competitive spring football was worth paying to see, owner Ted Diethrich had seen enough. Ready to either sell or fold up his tent after the 1983 season, he would soon learn that Jim Joseph - who a year earlier had been awarded a franchise in his hometown of Phoenix, was also looking to get out of the league.
Deciding he might fare better taking more of a hands-on approach than he could from 1,500 miles away, Diethrich orchestrated an unusual deal: he sold the Blitz to a fellow cardiovascular surgeon, Milwaukee-based James Hoffman; then bought the Arizona Wranglers from Joseph. As part of the deal, the teams then basically swapped all assets - player contracts, coaching staffs, right down to the fitness equipment.
So Chicago football fans, who by and large had ignored the very competitive 1983 Blitz, would now have a reason to ignore the nowhere near competitive, relocated 1983 Arizona Wranglers. And as if to tell fans what was to come under the new regime, new owner James Hoffman railed against how Diethrich and Allen had operated the 1983 team, saying "If I'd had the opportunity to buy the Blitz as they were, I wouldn't have considered it," and "Their front office was terrible... if you look down at the (player's) contracts, they're headin' for absolute disaster."
Hoffman would hire Hall of Fame head coach Marv Levy to coach the team, but Levy, unaware of the franchise swap, signed his contract believing he was going to coach the players from the team George Allen had put together. In fact the 1984 Blitz roster would feature only two players that had played for Allen in 1983: backup quarterback Tim Koegel, and guard Tom Thayer.
After just a few months after these moves and before the 1984 Chicago Blitz had played a single regular season game, Hoffman bailed on the franchise, leaving the league office to scramble to avoid the nightmare of having the team in the nation's third largest media market fold just days before the start of a season.
The 1984 Blitz, a/k/a the 1983 Arizona Wranglers, fared as badly as you might expect under the circumstances. The lackluster attendance figures of 1983 looked downright wonderful when a more curious than fanatic crowd of 7,808 turned up for the team's home opener, a 45-36 loss to the expansion Houston Gamblers. Not even the attraction of Herschel Walker and the New Jersey Generals would help, with the Blitz drawing just 4,307 for that game. The team never cracked 10,000 in attendance again, and after the 1984 season drew to a close, the league quickly and unceremoniously folded it.
The Official Timeline of Chicago Blitz
(from a corporate perspective; incomplete)
- June 23, 1982: Chicago Football Club, Inc. ("CFC" below) organized as an Arizona corporation.
- October 26, 1983: CFC merged into Arizona Professional Football Corporation.
- January 1984: Dr. James F. Hoffman surrenders franchise. League establishes "CPHFC, Inc." to operate team.
- July 2, 1984: New Chicago franchise (not CPHFC) awarded to Edjer Corporation.