Atlantic Division (1983)
Atlantic Division, Eastern Conference (1984)
Eastern Conference (1985)
1983-85: Myles Tanenbaum
1986: Steve Ross
1983-84: Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1985: Byrd Stadium, College Park, Maryland
Regular Season Record
1983 Atlantic Division Champions
1984 Atlantic Division Champions
1984 USFL Champions
1985 USFL Champions
Jim Mora (41-12-1, 7-1 in playoffs)
In what was at the time the fourth largest city in the United States, USFL founder David Dixon knew Philadelphia would be an essential market; one in which the league must have a presence. And its Philadelphia franchisee, local real estate developer Myles Tanenbaum, knew his team would need to be a winner from day one. And that's exactly what he got.
One of Tanenbaum's first hires would be Carl Peterson, a man with six years experience demonstrating an uncanny ability to identify player talent; a key figure in helping make Dick Vermeil's Philadelphia Eagles reach Super Bowl XV.
Giving Peterson Carte Blanche as President and General Manager, the pair would then choose Pittsburgh Steelers assistant George Perles as head coach. Peterson would then go about building the team from the inside out, starting with center Bart Oates, tackle Irv Eatman, and linebacker Sam Mills. The league's territorial draft would provide the Stars with the core of its backfield, with Penn State 1978 Heisman Trophy runner-up Chuck Fusina at quarterback and North Carolina standout running back Kelvin Bryant.
But just days before the Stars training camp was to assemble at Stetson University in Deland, Florida, Perles would leave the Stars in order to take what he considered his dream job as the head coach at Michigan State. On January 15th, just 50 days before the start of the inaugural season, Peterson would hire former Seattle and New England defensive coach Jim Mora who in turn would bring on board future NFL and XFL head coaches Vince Tobin, Dom Capers and Jim Skipper.
The adage in pro football is that defense wins championships. In Philadelphia, the Stars "Doghouse Defense" would help prove it. In the inaugural 1983 season the Stars defense would allow a meager 204 points over 18 regular season games, helping propel the team to the USFL's best regular season record at 15-3-0. In the Divisional Playoffs, the Stars would somehow overcome seven turnovers to advance to the league championship game, coming back from a 38-17 deficit to defeat George Allen and the Chicago Blitz in overtime.
While the 1983 season would conclude with a loss to the Michigan Panthers in the inaugural USFL Championship Game, Tanenbaum couldn't help but be enthused about his team's performance on the field. Running back Kelvin Bryant would earn league MVP honors, beating out among others New Jersey Generals running back Herschel Walker. Where Tanenbaum had less reason to be enthusiastic was the team's performance at the turnstiles.
The Stars inaugural game against the New Jersey Generals would draw a respectable 38,205 fans. But that would prove the high point of what would be declining attendance figures with virtually each of the team's nine home games in 1983. Less than half the season opener's crowd (18,718) would be on hand two weeks later to see the Stars take on the Tampa Bay Bandits, and in a Week 8 date against the Boston Breakers came the nadir, with just 10,257 fans in the stands. As a strong proponent for the spring football concept however, Tanenbaum was among few USFL owners who weren't fazed at the financial losses the team had suffered in 1983: he was willing to take short-term pain to achieve long-term gain.
The championship game loss notwithstanding, it was evident Carl Peterson and Jim Mora had built the Philadelphia Stars as the most competitive team in the USFL. The 1984 season would demonstrate that through dominance: the 15-3-0 record attained by the 1983 team would be eclipsed by the team's 16-2-0 mark in 1984, with the team's only losses coming at the hands of the New Jersey Generals - losses the Stars would avenge in the opening round of the playoffs, 28-7. Beating Birmingham on the strength of two touchdowns from running back Kelvin Bryant, 20-10, the Stars would avenge their championship loss by defeating the George Allen-coached Arizona Wranglers in a 23-3 final that just as easily could have been 41-3.
Philadelphia sports fans, meanwhile, were beginning to appreciate the Stars as the 1984 season progressed, with home attendance increasing by nearly 10,000 per game. The Stars 1984 title represented the first pro football championship for Philadelphia since 1960, and as Myles Tanenbaum and Carl Peterson had believed, fans responded positively to having a championship-caliber team in town. But almost as quickly as the 48 pound USFL Championship Trophy could be carried from Tampa Stadium to the intersection of Broad Street and Pattison Avenue, it and the team that won it would be moving on down the road. I-95, to be more precise.
As had been the case with USFL teams operating in Detroit, Pittsburgh and other markets, the decision by league owners to move to a fall schedule beginning with the 1986 season would have an immediate impact on Myles Tanenbaum and the Stars. Having been a big advocate of going forward with a spring schedule, Tanenbaum tried to make the best of what he considered a bad situation, announcing that the team would be relocating to Baltimore for 1985. Being less than a year removed from witnessing the NFL's Colts being packed up and moved to Indianapolis in the middle of the night, Baltimore's civic leaders welcomed the news with open arms. But there was a catch.
Under the terms of the Colts lease for Baltimore Memorial Stadium - a lease which team owner Robert Irsay had broken by moving the team to Indianapolis and was now in litigation - the Stars couldn't play their games there.
With no other viable option in the area, the former Philadelphia Stars, now billed as the Baltimore Stars, would play their 1985 home games at the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium in College Park, 35 miles from their new home city and closer to the Washington, DC market which the league had just abandoned than to Baltimore. And if that weren't bad enough, with no adequate training facilities at its disposal, while the Stars would play games in Maryland essentially their base of operations was... Philadelphia.
The result, predictably, was bad on all fronts. Off the field, the team had abandoned a growing fan base in the aftermath of a league championship, doing so to be a transient team operating in a failed market. Baltimore sports fans, while looking forward to the prospect of the team occupying Memorial Stadium for 1986, weren't disposed to attend games in College Park. On the field meanwhile, players, coaches and front office staffers became expert commuters on Interstate 95, bouncing between Philadelphia, Baltimore and College Park depending on where they were needed. The on-field result would be a 10-7-1 regular season record, good enough to be the seventh qualifier in an eight-team playoff field but far short of the standards the team had set in 1983 and 1984.
As had been the case in 1984 however, come playoff time the Stars as a team dug deep and found a way to win. The path to the 1985 USFL Championship Game for the Stars would be identical to that in 1984: first through New Jersey (who could beat the Stars in regular season play readily enough, but could never do it in the playoffs, in this case falling to the Stars 20-17), then Birmingham (who'd beaten Baltimore twice during the regular season but couldn't do it a third time, falling 22-20).
Having traveled to East Rutherford, New Jersey twice already (once during the regular season, and again for the first round playoff against the Generals), the team would do so one last time, squaring off against the Oakland Invaders in the 1985 USFL Championship Game. A see-saw affair in which Baltimore and Oakland traded scores, a mid-fourth quarter drive which culminated with a 7 yard touchdown run by MVP Kelvin Bryant would give the Stars a 28-24 lead they wouldn't relinquish, earning the team back-to-back USFL championships before an announced crowd of 49,263.
Growing tired of the events of the preceding year and sensing that those of the next year would be fruitless, Myles Tanenbaum decided that championships aside, he'd had enough. Taking a flyer on whether the USFL would actually return in the fall of 1986, future Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross would buy the franchise, but when the results of USFL v. NFL became clear, the Stars would finally fall to Earth.
The Official Timeline of Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars
(from a corporate perspective; potentially incomplete)
- "The Philadelphia Franchise USFL Associates" ("PFUA" below) is organized as a Pennsylvania limited partnership. This entity, in turn, was primarily owned by Footham Associates, Inc., one of Tanenbaum's business enterprises.
- Upon relocating to Baltimore, PFUA was dissolved (on December 19, 1984), whereupon the franchise was transferred to a new, Maryland entity, "Baltimore Stars Football Associates."
- Upon Tanenbaum's sale of the team, ownership of the franchise was assumed by "Baltimore Stars, Inc.," a Maryland corporation which would be dissolved by the State of Maryland on October 15, 1986.