ICYMI: Welcome Back, Michigan Panthers!!
The United States Football League (USFL), which existed from 1983-1985, will return to play next spring. The league announced as much on Monday.
The league will play a 10-game schedule next year with eight teams participating. All teams involved will feature the original names and cities (except for the Breakers franchise, which started in Boston) as they had back in the 1980's.
They are the Philadelphia Stars, Pittsburgh Maulers, New Jersey Generals, Birmingham Stallions, Tampa Bay Bandits, New Orleans Breakers, Houston Gamblers, and....the Michigan Panthers.
The Panthers are the last professional football team based in Michigan to win a league title, taking the initial USFL title in 1983 (beating the Philadelphia Stars in the title game 24-22 in Denver, Colorado). The Arena League's Detroit Drive and Grand Rapids Rampage won Arena League titles over the years, but as far as 100-yard football teams go, the Panthers are it
The original Panthers featured stars like future New Orleans Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert and former Michigan wide receiver (and future NFL star) Anthony Carter (pictured as a Minnesota Viking, above).
And they also played professional football's longest game ever, a triple-overtime loss to Steve Young and the Los Angeles Express in the 1984 USFL playoffs , which turned out to the franchise's final game before they merged with the Oakland Invaders.
The USFL went out of business when they "won" their billion-dollar antitrust lawsuit against the National Football League in 1986. But they were awarded only $1.00 in damages (which was tripled to $3.76).
For more information about the original USFL, there are two great books about the original USFL: The $1 League: The Rise and Fall of the USFL, by Jim Byrne. And the other one is Football For a Buck, by Jeff Pearlman.
And there was a ESPN 30 for 30 documentary done about the league in 2009, called "Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?" by Mike Tollin.