9 8 2
11 - Formation of the United States Football
League is announced at "21" in New
York City. Among the cities mentioned as
USFL sites is Chicago, though no ownership group
is in place there.
21 - Chicago's team gets an ownership group as
Dr. Ted Diethrich, George Allen and Willard
(Bill) Harris are awarded a USFL franchise.
6 - George Allen announces a "Name the
Team" contest, instructing submitters
"The name should be aggressive... short and
punchy." Over ten days the team
receives over 20,000 submissions from 19
22 - Mike Wehrli of Naperville, Illinois
submission of "The Blitz" is chosen
from among 3,351 suggested names that included
the Aces, Butchers, Cohos, Fury, Grizzlies, Hit
Men, Rhinos, Skyscrapers, and Zephyrs.
2 - UCLA TE Tim Wrightman becomes the first
player to sign a USFL contract, with the Blitz.
12 - 14-year NFL veteran quarterback Greg Landry
is signed by George Allen.
9 8 3
4 - After making a series of pre-draft trades,
the Blitz select Ohio State RB Tim Spencer with
the second overall pick in the inaugural USFL
6 - The Blitz debut with a victory over the
Washington Federals at R.F.K. Stadium.
see more of the Blitz
timeline, visit the
Timeline of the USFL
Played in USFL:
Ted Diethrich and George Allen (1983);
Dr. James Hoffman (1984)
Field, Chicago, Illinois.
Allen (1983); Marv Levy (1984).
(17-19-0 regular season)
story of the Chicago Blitz is a tale of
two cities: Chicago, and Phoenix,
Arizona. It's also a tale of two
very different owners, Drs. Ted Diethrich
and James Hoffman, who each came to the
realization that making the USFL popular
in Chicago was a difficult if not
the founder of the Arizona Heart Institute and a
cardiovascular surgeon from Phoenix, teamed up
with legendary head coach George Allen and
southern California developer Willard (Bill)
Harris to acquire the Chicago franchise.
Harris initially sought the USFL's Denver team,
but subsequent events paired him with Diethrich
and Allen in Chicago.
From the very beginning the USFL was a bad fit in
the windy city. Despite Allen's presence and
his penchant for spending lavishly to attract the
best on-field talent he could find, by and large
the football fans of Chicago decided spring
football wasn't their cup of tea. The team's
home opener against the Denver Gold drew only
21,949 fans, and with the exception of games
against the New Jersey Generals and a late-season
affair with playoff implications against the
Michigan Panthers, Soldier Field would never
gather that many Blitz fans together again.
With the NFL's Bears having hired fiery head coach
Mike Ditka and the team in a rebuilding process
that would ultimately lead to an NFL championship
in 1985, the USFL was an afterthought in the
hearts and minds of Chicagoland football fans
pretty much from Day One.
The team on the field however was almost
immediately given favorable comparisons to a
number of NFL squads, thanks largely to Allen's
absolute dedication to finding the best 40 players
he could. The team held a series of tryout
camps during the summer and fall of 1982, looking
at over 3,200 players and signing a whopping 340 -
enough to stock eight USFL clubs - to
contracts. In November he took recruiting to
a new level, traveling to Logan Correctional
Center for the purpose of trying out an inmate
there. Allen's wheeling and dealing led to a
12-6-0 record in 1983 and the sole wild-card berth
in the league. In their Divisional Playoff
game against Philadelphia, the Blitz seemingly had
the contest in hand when the Stars rallied to
score 24 fourth quarter points to tie the game at
38-38, then drive downfield for a touchdown to win
in overtime, 44-38, denying George Allen an
appearance in the first USFL championship game.
Allen would get his trip to the USFL title tilt
the next year, but it would be in Arizona rather
than Chicago. Diethrich, tired of losing
millions in Chicago as well as traveling half way
across the country to see it happen, decided to
sell the Blitz. At the same time, Arizona
Wranglers owner Jim Joseph announced he wanted to
sell his team. The result was negotiations
that ended in an unusual "franchise
swap" of sorts: Diethrich sold the
Blitz to fellow cardiovascular surgeon James
Hoffman, then bought the Wranglers from
Joseph. The teams then swapped all assets -
player contracts, coaching staffs, right down to
the fitness equipment, in effect making the '83
Blitz the '84 Wranglers and vice-versa. But
with a competitive team failing to do well at the
box office, how would the transplanted, woeful
4-14-0 Wranglers fare?
The answer came to Hoffman quickly. Despite
spending heavily on promoting the "new"
Blitz, the team had hit a dead-end in terms of
season ticket sales. In less than five
months and without his team having played a single
regular season game, Hoffman had had enough.
He relinquished control of the team, which was for
all practical purposes assumed by the league to
avoid the embarrassment of having a team fold just
before the start of a season - in the nation's
third largest media market no less.
The 1984 Blitz fared as badly as their owner had,
drawing 7,808 for the season opener against
Houston (a 45-36 loss) and a reported 4,307
against the New Jersey Generals. The team
never cracked 10,000 in attendance again, and
after the season was concluded the Blitz were
mercifully, well, blitzed.