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Wednesday, March 5
Updated: March 6, 11:11 AM ET
The $3.76 antitrust lawsuit

By Greg Garber

Story of the USFL
Below is a loose (very loose) chronology of the headline stories from the USFL:

  • Herschel Walker signs on
  • When football was F-U-N
  • Young signs with Express
  • The Class of '84
  • Marcus Dupree: The phenom
  • Blitz 'em in Chi ... uh, Buffalo
  • Only the sky was their limit
  • The cradle of NFL coaching?
  • Perpetual motion
  • (The pursuit of) USFL trivia
  • The Donald (Trump, of course)
  • The $3.76 lawsuit
  • Stick with the plan
  • Landeta and Flutie

    -- Greg Garber

  • Inevitably, with the USFL hemorrhaging money and attendance and television ratings dwindling, the league played its Trump card: A $1.5 billion antitrust suit against the NFL. It all played out in the spring and summer of 1986 in Manhattan's U.S. District Court.

    Harvey Myerson, the USFL's flamboyant attorney, claimed to have three "smoking guns" that proved the NFL had conspired to monopolize pro football:

    1) A March 2, 1973 memorandum to NFL broadcasting director Robert Cochran from NFL counsel Jay Moyer suggesting that an "open network" might be an "invitation to formation of a new league."

    2) An Aug. 4, 1983 memo from Jack Donlan, the NFL Management Council executive director, to his staff insisting that NFL teams should push USFL teams to "increase the salaries of existing players or run the risk of losing them."

    3) A plan to "conquer" the USFL presented in February, 1984 to NFL management by Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter.

    The NFL argued that the USFL was its own worst enemy and had only itself to blame for its financial woes.

    Even the testimony of Howard Cosell and Al Davis -- the Raiders owner was excluded from the lawsuit in exchange for his testimony -- failed to save the USFL. On July 29, a jury of six found the NFL guilty of acting as a monopoly, but agreed with the NFL's argument that the USFL had done itself more damage. The jury awarded the USFL a symbolic $1 award, which was trebled according to antitrust law to $3. The total, including interest, came to $3.76. Later, the USFL collected more that $6 million in court costs. By then, it was too late.

    Next: Post-mortem: Stick with the business model

    Greg Garber is a senior writer at

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