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May 11 - At "21" in New York City, the USFL announces its plans to play spring football beginning in 1983.

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July 17 - Memphis is awarded the USFL's 18th and final franchise.  Young's group, Memphis Pro Football, Inc., is the initial franchise holder.
Fall - Realizing that he alone lacked the financial resources to underwrite the team's operations, Young forms a limited partnership (Memphis Showboats, Ltd.) in an effort to attract investors.

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February 26 - The Showboats take the field in their first game, a 17-9 loss to the Philadelphia Stars.  28,098 is the paid attendance - a solid start.  A week later, the 'Boats earn their first victory, defeating the Chicago Blitz, 23-13.
August 22 - The USFL's owners (Memphis owner Bill Dunavant among them) vote to move to a fall schedule beginning in 1986.  With good attendance figures in a market where there wasn't already an NFL franchise, Dunavant sees the Showboats as a potential survivor if the NFL and USFL merge.

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

Years Played in USFL: 1984, 1985
Club Owner(s): Logan Young, Jr. (1984), William Dunavant (1984-85)
Playing Site: Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tennessee
Head Coach(es): Pepper Rodgers
Overall Record: 19-19-0 (18-18-0 regular season)
. .

Year Head Coach W L T Pct. Finish Post-Season Notes
1984 Pepper Rodgers 7 11 0 .389 4th, Southern Div. Failed to Qualify
1985 Pepper Rodgers 11 7 0 .611 3rd, Eastern Conf. Lost USFL Semi-Final
Team Totals 18 18 0 .500 --- 1-1 in post-season play

Logan Young, Jr. was the living embodiment of a modern showboat.  Having inherited a fortune from his father, who made millions in the soft drink and margarine businesses during World War II, Young was flamboyant, braggadocious but without being pompous, and a lover of football.
So when the USFL came into existence, Young thought he could make a splash and give the community a new team to cheer for, maybe making a buck or two in the process but definitely having a good time.  In the spring of 1983 when he learned that the USFL was planning to expand for 1984 he immediately put an application together.  It'd be neat for Memphis to have pro football, Young surmised.

After awarding five other applications (including, inexplicably, the one that brought the league the San Antonio Gunslingers), it awarded Young his team, which was almost immediately dubbed the Showboats.  Befitting Young's showboating style, he quickly put together a top flight marketing staff to promote his club, hired local legend Pepper Rodgers as the team's head coach, and... ran out of cash.  See, most of the assets that Young had, assets the USFL perceived as readily available to operate the team, were actually locked up in a trust fund that the owner couldn't access.  Before the Memphis Showboats had even pumped up a football, there was a cash crunch.

Young ultimately resolved the problem, first by lining up limited partners who kicked in $150,000 per partnership unit, and then when that didn't result in enough money being raised, giving up majority control of the team to William Dunavant, a man who inherited his father's money and then proceeded to make a whole lot more money with it in the textiles industry.  Dunvant had real, accessible money (reportedly at the time Dunavant's worth was $150 million) and a real interest in the Showboats being a successful enterprise.  While Young remained a part of the ownership group, it was Dunvant who kept the 'Boats afloat.

The team on the field in 1984 would post the second-best record among expansion franchises, going 7-11-0 and finishing fourth in the USFL's Southern Division, but the real stories were the play of future Pro Football Hall of Famer Reggie White and the Showboats fans themselves - the team's attendance was stellar by USFL standards, drawing 30,640 for their game against the Pittsburgh Maulers, 32,406 against the Gunslingers, and 50,079 when the Showboats took on their Alabama-based rivals, the Birmingham Stallions.  Unlike most USFL teams where the attendance figures got lower as the season progressed, in Memphis they got higher.  It was encouraging to say the least.

Adding talent for the 1985 season through the draft as well as the dispersal draft held after the league consolidated from 18 teams to 14, the Showboats fared even better in their second season, posting an 11-7-0 record and finishing third in the seven-team Eastern Conference.  The attendance numbers had improved over '84, with the team averaging over 30,000 in paid attendance per game.  Awarded home field advantage thanks to their attendance, in the 1985 USFL divisional playoffs the Showboats destroyed the Western Conference's #2 seed, the Denver Gold, 48-7.  And while the 'Boats fell to the Oakland Invaders in the USFL's semi-finals the following week, fans of Memphis had reason to look forward to the league's move to the fall in 1986.

But the loss to the Invaders would prove the team's final game.  The verdict of USFL v. NFL would cause a near immediate cancellation of the 1986 USFL season, and while the Showboats likely would have done as well in the fall as they had playing in the spring, the league and the Showboats were sunk.

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