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July - John Bassett meets with David Dixon in Toronto about the potential launch of the USFL. 
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February - Bassett commits to fielding a USFL team with the proviso that he receives exclusive franchise rights to the entire State of Florida.  His demand is met. 
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March - Stephen Arky, son in law of Birmingham owner Marvin Warner, joins Bassett in the Bandits ownership. 
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April - Football Partners, Ltd. is formally granted a USFL franchise for Tampa.  The team would later become "Tampa Bay Bandits Football Club, Inc."
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May 11 - At "21" in New York City, the United States Football League announces its plans to begin play with the 1983 season.  Over the next six weeks, television packages with ABC and ESPN are also announced.
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July - Burt Reynolds joins Bassett and Arky in the Bandits ownership group.
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August - The Tampa entry in the USFL officially becomes the "Tampa Bay Bandits."
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November - 1966 Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier is named head coach.
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December 21 - The Bandits sign a 15-year lease with the Tampa Sports Authority for use of Tampa Stadium.
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January 4 - The Bandits take part in the inaugural USFL Draft, selecting University of Pittsburgh lineman Jimbo Covert with the 12th overall selection in the 1st round.
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March 6 - The Bandits play their inaugural game, a 21-17 come from behind victory over the Boston Breakers.
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March 26 - The Bandits beat the Philadelphia Stars on the road, 27-22, leaving town with the league's only unbeaten record at 4-0-0.
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April 3 - Luther Bradley of the Chicago Blitz sets a pro football record with six interceptions of Bandits passes as the team gets humbled, 42-3.
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Years Played in USFL: 1983, 1984, 1985.
Club Owner(s): John Bassett, Stephen Arky, Burt Reynolds (1983-85); Lee Scarfone, Tony Cunningham (1985).
Playing Site: Tampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida.
Head Coach(es): Steve Spurrier
Overall Record: 35-21-0 (35-19-0 regular season)
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Year Head Coach W L T Pct. Finish Post-Season Notes
1983 Steve Spurrier 11 7 0 .611 3rd, Central Div. Failed to Qualify
1984 Steve Spurrier 14 4 0 .778 2nd, Southern, Div. Lost in First Round
1985 Steve Spurrier 10 8 0 .556 5th, Eastern Conf. Lost in First Round
Team Totals 35 19 0 .648 --- -

John Bassett was no stranger to operating a pro football team.  Awarded the Toronto franchise In the ill-fated World Football League, he almost immediately had to relocate the team to Memphis when the Canadian Parliament, fearful that the WFL would present a challenge to the Canadian Football League, passed a law barring the team from playing in their country.  They needn't have worried - the WFL was a dismal failure pretty much across the board, lasting less than two years.
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Though skeptical when first approached about the USFL concept due to his WFL experience, Bassett didn't recoil in horror at the thought of tackling a new pro football venture.  Quite the contrary.  Bassett became a big proponent of spring football, jumping on the USFL bandwagon early and providing financial backing to continue exploration of the idea.

In February 1982, Bassett committed to fielding his own USFL team, with the proviso that founder David Dixon grant him the entire State of Florida as an exclusive USFL territory.  Dixon, realizing he could close the deal with such a promise, did so.  Bassett would later gain from this arrangement himself, as the league's 1984 expansion to Jacksonville, as well as the Washington Federals move to Orlando in 1985, each would "infringe" on Bassett's territory, requiring compensation.

Upon committing to field a team Bassett formed "Football Partners, Ltd.," enlisting among his partners Stephen Arky, who was the son-in-law of Birmingham Stallions majority owner Marvin Warner and originally had sought a franchise for Miami.  After the league's announcement, actor and former Florida State back Burt Reynolds came on board the ownership group as a partner.  To take advantage of Reynolds' enormous popularity at the time, specifically the popularity of "The Bandit" character he portrayed in two "Smokey and the Bandit" films, the team was christened the "Tampa Bay Bandits."

Bassett built the Bandits front office carefully, bringing in Ralph Campbell to head up business operations and Lewis "Bugsy" Engelberg to lead the team's football operations.  Engelberg was renown for dusting off talented but otherwise forgotten players, and he quickly built the Bandits into a winner by doing precisely that, resurrecting among others the career of quarterback John Reaves, who had languished in the NFL.

While Dixon had emphasized spending on "name" head coaches for USFL teams in an effort to build initial credibility, Bassett went a different road, hiring 37 year old Duke University head coach Steve Spurrier.  Spurrier wasn't a commodity in coaching circles as yet, but had another asset in his favor - marketability.  As a former Heisman Trophy winner and star quarterback at Florida, Spurrier had local drawing power, which in the early days proved just as important.

The Bandits succeeded from day one both on the field and at the gate.  While not profitable in 1983, the team was among the league leaders in average attendance, and as a result was chosen as the site for the 1984 USFL Championship Game.  1984 proved equally successful, with the Bandits earning a wild-card berth in the USFL playoffs and quickly developing a fan base that made the NFL's Buccaneers more than a little concerned.  Average attendance was near 40,000 a game, a sign that in Tampa at least, the USFL was becoming a success.  Bassett, however, was himself failing.  Having fought skin cancer in his mid-30's, in 1984 he learned cancer had come back with a vengeance, in the form of two inoperable brain tumors.

The team essentially withered as Bassett did.  The USFL's vote to move the league to a fall schedule beginning in 1986 was strongly opposed by the Bandits ownership group, with Bassett railing against his fellow owners on national television and announcing that he'd launch a new, rival spring league.  As the 1985 season drew to a close Bassett withdrew from the Bandits ownership, skipping out on Tampa Stadium lease payments (which were paid by the league to avoid embarrassment) and ultimately selling to Lee Scarfone and Tony Cunningham.

No one would see the Bandits play in the fall in 1986.  Bassett died in May of that year, while general partner Stephen Arky, implicated in a securities scandal, took his own life less than ten days after the 1985 USFL Championship Game.  New owners Scarfone and Cunningham were among those left standing after USFL v. NFL, but without a national television contract and limited resources to weather the storm, the Bandits, along with the rest of the USFL, opted to close up shop. 

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