Pacific Division (1983)
Pacific Division, Western Conference (1984)
Western Conference (1985)
1983-1984: Tad Taube
1985: Tad Taube and A. Alfred Taubman
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland, California
Regular Season Record
1983 Pacific Division Champions
1985 Western Conference (regular season) Champions
1983: Chuck Fairbanks (6-12-0)
1984-85: Walt Michaels (25-12-0, 0-2 in playoffs)
Sometimes life decisions are made after careful thought and meticulous planning. Others are made on a whim or by the toss of a coin. In the case of the USFL, the latter would ultimately shape the league's operations in Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Oakland, California.
Recruited as owners by David Dixon, friends and business associates Jim Joseph and Thaddeus N. ("Tad") Taube had agreed to be co-owners in a franchise earmarked for the San Francisco Bay area. Initially unsure where in the region the team would call home, the relocation of the NFL's Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles made the decision easy: the team would call the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum home, and would further exploit the NFL's abandonment of the market by branding the team as the "Oakland Invaders."
From the outset, Taube had been the more active of the partners, and while there was no real friction between the partners, by April of 1982 Taube had decided he'd rather assume majority ownership of the team. Joseph, who hadn't been as interested in the day to day machinations of the Invaders, nonetheless saw sufficient opportunity in the USFL that he now desired a franchise of his own. Fortunately, an opportunity had emerged to accommodate both.
Alex Spanos, who had been awarded the USFL's franchise in Los Angeles, advised his partners that he would be giving up those rights in order to acquire a minority stake in the NFL's San Diego Chargers. Spanos ultimately would buy controlling interest in the club and, in 2017, relocate it to... Los Angeles.
Recognizing both Joseph and Taube had sufficient wherewithall to operate their own franchises, league founder David Dixon told the pair he'd gladly allow either of them to take Spanos place and obtain the rights to the Los Angeles home territory. To resolve who would operate in which market, Joseph and Taube decided to settle the matter by tossing a coin: the winner got to make the choice of Oakland or Los Angeles, while the loser got the other.
On May 7, 1982, the friends met for dinner at Vince's Restaurant in San Mateo to decide the matter. The coin was tossed. Joseph won the toss and elected to receive the Los Angeles franchise. Taube meanwhile would stay near the bay. It's a question as to whether Taube really wanted the Los Angeles territory anyway. A self-made man in every sense of the word, Taube had grown up in the Bay Area after emigrating to the United States from Poland, earning an industrial engineering degree from Stanford. As a Bay Area real estate developer and investor, prior to joining the ranks of USFL owners he had already made a mark both as a successful businessman and civic-minded philanthropist. While he saw owning the Oakland Invaders as a business opportunity, he also to an extent saw it as an act of civic duty to a degree, particularly once the Raiders left the region for Los Angeles in 1982.
Kicking off their inaugural 1983 season with a 24-0 victory over Jim Joseph's Arizona Wranglers (wait... didn't Jim Joseph win a coin toss and go to Los Angeles?) on March 6th, Tad Taube would enjoy gloating rights over his friend and former USFL business partner. But even prior to the team's debut, Taube's enthusiasm for the league would be tempered by concerns about its television contract with ABC.
In its zeal to reach the deal and gain the national exposure and credibility that accompanied having ABC as its terrestrial broadcast partner, the owners of the twelve USFL franchises had ignored some key details... details which Taube (along with Birmingham Stallions owner Marvin Warner) were now finding troublesome. Of particular concern to Taube:
- The lack of a "blackout clause" that prevented the network from telecasting a team's game into its own home territory, thereby taking away incentive for fans to attend games in person)
- The negotiated rights fees ($9 million in 1983 and 1984, then bumped up to $14 million for 1985 and $18 million in 1986 if ABC exercised its option for years three and four; see below) were seen as inadequate; and
- ABC held not only a unilateral option to renew the deal for the 1985 and 1986 USFL seasons, but also had negotiated a right of first refusal to the terrestrial (and pay television) broadcast rights for 1987 "and subsequent years.")
Over the next three years, Taube would fight hard to try and get at least some of the terms of the ABC renegotiated. As one of the more "hands on" owners in the USFL, Taube would keep in almost constant communication with the league office and his fellow team owners on a variety of issues, among them the failure of a number of his colleagues to adhere to David Dixon's original blueprint with respect to spending on player talent. While on the field the Invaders would be somewhere in the middle of the USFL pack, they would manage to clinch a playoff berth with a 9-9-0 record thanks to their alignment into a profoundly weak Pacific Division.
Off the field the Invaders would benefit from the Raiders departure, drawing 41,233 for the team's inaugural home game against the Birmingham Stallions, and topping 30,000 fans at home against Philadelphia, New Jersey and Boston while just falling short of that mark against Arizona, Tampa Bay and Denver. Given the grand scheme of things, the Invaders were doing just fine by anyone's account. Anyone, that is, but Tad Taube.
By the time the 1984 USFL season was underway, Taube would come to the opinion that the league should seek out a merger with the older National Football League and play a fall schedule. Egged on by New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump, Taube began to see spring football as a financial albatross, staying in the league primarily in hope his Invaders would be in a prime position to be among the franchises added to the NFL should a merger scenario unfold.
In a 1984 season that saw the Invaders fall from first to worst in the Pacific Division standings, attendance would drop as well (in part due to the USFL's announcement that they would play in the fall beginning in 1986, in part because when it came to spending on player talent, Taube could squeeze a quarter until the eagle screamed). Still hoping that USFL v. NFL would produce a successful result, Taube didn't yet want out of the league entirely - but he did want someone else to help him shoulder the financial losses.
After talks to merge the Invaders and Oklahoma Outlaws broke down, Taube came to terms with Michigan Panthers owner A. Alfred Taubman, another original USFL owner who had seen all together too much money go down the chute. Taubman, realizing that his Panthers simply couldn't compete with the NFL Lions in the fall, agreed that the Invaders would be the surviving team; and while the financial results in 1985 weren't any better than they had been in 1984, the results on the field were a dramatic improvement. Now equipped with a roster stocked with some of the league's best young talent including the core of the Panthers 1983 championship squad, the Invaders rolled to the best record in the USFL, going 13-4-1 and winning the Western Conference's regular season championship.
Unlike 1983 when the Invaders would lose to the Panthers in the Divisional Playoffs, the combined Invaders/Panthers would defeat the Tampa Bay Bandits and Memphis Showboats in the 1985 postseason, advancing to the 1985 USFL Championship Game against the defending champion (but relocated) Baltimore Stars; a team they had fought to a 17-17 tie in the season's early stages. Just as the regular season game between them had been close so was the championship, but the Stars would emerge victorious, 28-24.
From that point on the Oakland Invaders were a professional football team in name only, suspending operations along with the rest of the league and awaiting the ultimately outcome of USFL v. NFL Once the verdict came in, the team went from merely hibernating to dead.
The Official Timeline of Oakland Invaders
(from a corporate perspective; incomplete)
- May 27, 1982: SFBA, Inc. incorporated in California.
- September 22, 1982: Bay Area Football Partners ("BAFP" below), a limited partnership, is formed in California. SFBA is the general partner.
- September 30, 1982: BAFP files for a number of trademarks, which simultaneously reference "San Francisco Bay Invaders" and "Oakland Invaders." The team, meanwhile, is referred to in league documents as the "Bay Area Invaders" during this time.
- May 1, 1989: SFBA, Inc. dissolved.