A New Orleans-based antiques dealer, David Dixon was the founder of the United States Football League, first envisioning the concept of spring football a number of years before the league actually came into being - almost 20, to be exact.  He got the idea from watching local colleges and universities conduct spring football practices at their home stadia - along with thousands of others.

The thinking was rather simple:  if people will watch college teams practice in the spring, why wouldn't they watch professionals play games?  The process of putting his concept in motion, however, was something that took considerably longer.


When he thought of the concept in 1965, it wasn't a good time to launch because of the existence of another "renegade" pro football venture, the American Football League.  Dixon watched the AFL with great interest until it merged with the NFL on February 1, 1970.  Just a few years later another league would be launched - the World Football League - and its failure would provide Dixon with an even better education as to what it took to make a new pro football league succeed, and what would happen with certain key ingredients (owners with deep pockets committed to the concept, television revenue and exposure, proper marketing) weren't mixed together.

In 1980 Dixon decided that the NFL's popularity was reaching a point where pro football fans would support a spring league, and began recruiting investors and others who thought his idea had merit.  Over the course of the next 18 months he would find a dozen men who fit what he considered his essential criteria:  men of considerable wealth who like him thought spring football was a viable concept that should be explored.  This "daring dozen" would ultimately form the league's initial 12 franchises, with Dixon keeping one for himself in exchange for his work in founding the league and putting things together.

On May 11, 1982, David Dixon sat back like a proud papa as some of his league's owners announced their intention to play pro football in the spring as the United States Football League.  If these men held to his plan, Dixon reckoned, they would lose acceptable amounts of money for roughly three years, then begin to build the USFL into a viable, national product that would help supply the insatiable thirst of professional football fans for the game year-round.

Within a year Dixon realized that, at least in some cases, he had misjudged those whom he had entrusted with franchises in his baby.  Denver's Ron Blanding was the perfect ideal of the type of owner Dixon had in mind - frugal with spending but great with local marketing - but after the first year, he was gone.  The television deal that Dixon saw as a lynchpin to the league's initial success had been seen as an albatross by those he had recruited, insufficient in the wake of their excessive spending.  New Jersey had signed Herschel Walker to a contract with an annual salary nearing what Dixon thought should be spent on an entire team in 1983.

Dixon opted not to activate his own USFL franchise for 1983 in order to help shepherd the league through its inaugural year, but after 1983 decided rather than join the ranks of the owners it was time to get out.  When Bernard Lerner, Jerry Argovitz and their associates were looking to bring the USFL to Houston, Dixon saw an opportunity and sold them his franchise rights.  Less than two years after sitting at the "21" press conference like a proud papa, David Dixon's baby had abandoned him on the doorstep.

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