9 8 2
11 - At "21" in New York, the USFL
announces its presence, and its intent to play
spring football beginning in 1983. San
Diego is among the cities slated to host USFL
- Alan Harmon and Bill Daniels, co-owners of the
San Diego franchise, are denied permission to
use Jack Murphy Stadium.
2 - Harmon and Daniels' franchise is placed in
Los Angeles, and the team is named the
Express. CFL wunderkind Hugh Campbell is
hired as the team's head coach.
7 - The Express sign a five-year lease to play
home games at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
9 8 3
4 - With the first overall selection in the
inaugural USFL Draft, the Express select
University of Pittsburgh QB Dan Marino. He
doesn't sign with the Express, but prior to
signing with the NFL's Miami Dolphins does make
appearances on behalf of the team.
31 - The Express first training camp opens with
177 players, enough to fill four USFL team
see more of the
Express timeline, visit the
Timeline of the USFL
Played in USFL:
Harmon and Bill Daniels (1983); J.
William Oldenburg (1984); league
Campbell (1983); John Hadl (1984-85).
(21-33-0 regular season)
Western Conf. Champ.
Harmon and Bill Daniels were cable
television pioneers who were awarded a
USFL franchise... for San Diego.
After the pair were rebuffed by the City
of San Diego in its effort to secure use
of Jack Murphy Stadium however, the duo
got permission from the league to relocate
to Los Angeles, where the Express were
the entertainment capital of the world, even
quality entertainment options such as pro football
are a hard sell, a fact learned by the Express
early on. While the team drew well for its
home opener against the New Jersey Generals in
1983, the rest of the season produced less than
stellar attendance - 22,000 against Washington the
following week, 17,000 against Oakland, 13,000
against Arizona, down to 11,471 for the regular
season finale against the Denver Gold. It
was, to say the least, disappointing. But,
when Harmon and Daniels were approached by J.
William Oldenburg about selling the franchise, the
pair got out and Oldenburg stepped in.
Oldenburg was a colorful character to say the
least; a self-described billionaire with the
nickname "Mr. Dynamite" who stated he'd
have Wayne Newton on the Express Board of
Directors. He also signed rookie quarterback
Steve Young to the most lucrative contract in
professional football history, valued at a total
in excess of $40 million. While Newton's
singing talents and Young's signal calling were
both unquestioned, their ability to help the team
at the gate was nominal at best - an Express game
coupled with a Newton post-game concert drew more
flies than spectators, and despite Young's
presence the attendance slide of 1983 continued
into 1984 - 8,000 against Jacksonville, 10,049
against Memphis, 10,193 against the Michigan
Panthers, and the capper - 7,964 for a playoff
game against the Michigan Panthers that was among
the most intriguing football games ever played, a
triple overtime showdown ultimately won by the
Oldenburg had seen enough. Between the
Express losing a reported $15 million and his
other enterprises flagging under somewhat shady
circumstances, the financial picture of "Mr.
Dynamite" imploded, causing him to turn
control of the club over to the league after the
1984 season. Having already taken control of
the Chicago Blitz and deciding to fold that
franchise, the USFL's ownership faced a dilemma -
if both the Blitz and Express were folded, ABC
would be able to trigger an escape clause in the
league's network television contract - something
that, giving the nature of the ABC/USFL
relationship, was a very real possibility.
The owners, at the suggestion of new commissioner
Harry Usher, voted to keep the team afloat in 1985
while Usher scrambled to find a buyer (one never
came forward). Operated on a shoestring
budget by the league in an effort to minimize
losses (the team even fired its cheerleading squad
in a cost-cutting move), the Express still managed
to lose $6 million along with 15 of their 18 games
in 1985, after going to the USFL's Western
Conference championship game the year
before. Fans stayed away in droves, and
Usher was reportedly on the brink of being fired
for pushing to operate the team in 1985.
Never finding a buyer, in part due to the
expensive contracts Oldenburg had signed, the
Express last stop came at tiny Pierce College in
Woodland Hills, California, where the team played
its final home game against the Arizona Outlaws -
another idea cooked up by Usher.