1 9 8 2

May 11 - The launch of the USFL is announced at "21" in New York City.

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April 28 - Just weeks into its inaugural season, the USFL announces its plans to expand, adding the Pittsburgh Maulers as the league's 13th franchise.
May 11 - On the first anniversary of the league's launch announcement, the USFL expands to Houston, awarding a franchise to a partnership of Bernard Lerner, Dr. Jerry Argovitz, Alvin Lubetkin and Fred Gerson.
May 31 - The Houston franchise names former NFL and WFL head coach Jack Pardee as its head coach for 1984.
June 9 - In a stunning move, University of Miami quarterback Jim Kelly signs with the Gamblers rather than the NFL's Buffalo Bills.
July 11 - Wishing to give the Gamblers a natural rival, the league announces that the San Antonio Gunslingers will join the league beginning in 1984.
September 6 - The Gamblers roster gets 36 new names as the team participates in the USFL Expansion Draft.
October 16 - Houston hosts the 1983 USFL Annual Meeting.  The Gamblers are aligned into the Western Conference's Central Division along with Chicago, Michigan, Oklahoma and San Antonio.

To see more of the
Gamblers timeline, visit the
Timeline of the USFL

Years Played in USFL: 1984, 1985
Club Owner(s): Alvin Lubetkin, Bernard Lerner, Dr. Jerry Argovitz, Fred Gerson (1984);
Alvin Lubetkin, Dr. Jerry Argovitz, Jay Roulier (1985)
Playing Site: Houston Astrodome, Houston Texas
Head Coach(es): Jack Pardee
Overall Record: 23-15-0 (23-13-0 regular season)
. .

Year Head Coach W L T Pct. Finish Post-Season Notes
1984 Jack Pardee 13 5 0 .722 1st, Central Div. Lost in Divisional Playoff
1985 Jack Pardee 10 8 0 .556 3rd, Western Conf. Lost in Divisional Playoff
Team Totals 23 13 0 .639 --- 0-2 in Post-Season Play

The USFL didn't have a team in Texas in 1983.  Whether that was by design or due to oversight is subject to debate, but the football-crazy Lone Star state seemed more than eager to take a crack at pro football in the spring, and in 1984 the USFL delivered not one but two franchises to the state. 
The first of these was the Houston Gamblers, whose existence was announced on the first anniversary of the league's launch announcement.  On the field the Gamblers quickly became a team the rest of the USFL envied - one of the team's first deals was to sign University of Miami quarterback Jim Kelly, a 1st round pick of the NFL's Buffalo Bills, to a long-term contract.  The team hired a head coach with an NFL pedigree in the form of Jack Pardee.  Simply put, on the field the Gamblers made it known that they'd be competitive from Day One.

Off the field however was just as interesting a story.  USFL founder David Dixon had, as part of his compensation for conceiving the league, was awarded a franchise of his own.  Choosing not to launch it in 1983 in order to help the league's other 12 owners, after the 1983 season he was looking to cash out.  The Gamblers ownership group, looking to acquire an expansion franchise, instead bought Dixon's franchise rights and Texas had its team.  Originally Bernard Lerner was to be the head of the ownership group, but internal squabbles on a variety of subjects would put Dr. Jerry Argovitz front and center in the public eye.  Argovitz, a dentist who would give up his practice to become a sports agent, immediately ran into troubles as a number of his clients were trying to negotiate USFL contracts - an obvious conflict of interest.  Argovitz resolved the issue by selling his agency, but it wasn't the type of start Commissioner Chet Simmons had in mind for the USFL's presence in Texas.

The team on the field was, as predicted, immediately competitive, delightfully shocking fans with Darrell "Mouse" Davis "Run n' Shoot" offense.  The expansion Gamblers put up points in bunches, averaging over 34 points a game.  The defense gave up 400 points in 18 games, but the firepower exhibited by Kelly and his wide receiving corps, particularly Ricky Sanders and Richard Johnson, put up 618.  In just their first year, the Gamblers went 13-5-0 and captured the Central Division title, eclipsing the defending USFL champion Michigan Panthers by a full three games.  While the team's appearance in the 1984 USFL playoffs was all too brief (losing in dramatic fashion to the eventual Western Conference champion Arizona Wranglers, 17-16), Houston football fans had a winner for the first time in recent memory. 

1985 was more of the same, with the high-powered Gambler passing game tempered by a running game that featured 1,000-yard rusher Todd Fowler.  During the season though defenses began to catch on to the Run n' Shoot concept, and while they weren't completely able to shut Kelly & Co. down, they were able to do enough damage to lower the team's record to 10-8-0.  The Gamblers once again made the playoffs, but once again fell in the first round, this time at the hands of the Birmingham Stallions.

Despite the Gamblers success however, the 1985 team didn't draw fans as they had the year before, almost certainly a by-product of the USFL's decision to move to a fall schedule beginning in 1986.  While the Gamblers were a treat to watch on the field as a spring team, Houston's fall pro football interest was reserved for the Oilers, whether the Gamblers won or lost.  Argovitz had lost millions, and near the end of the 1985 season the USFL floated the team money to keep it alive through the playoffs.  After the 1985 season a group approached Argovitz about buying the team and relocating it to New York City, but Generals owner Donald Trump stepped in instead, buying the Gamblers and merging it into his New Jersey club in preparation for a fall 1986 season that wasn't to be.

As was the case in a number of cities, Houston's foray into spring pro football was a successful one - until the announcement that the USFL was moving to a fall schedule.  Once that occurred, the Gamblers proved to be a bad bet.

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