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Wednesday, March 5
Updated: March 6, 11:02 AM ET
The Donald (Trump, of course)

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

  • There was a time when Donald Trump was just another New York real estate guy with big hair. That all changed on Sept. 21, 1983 when he bought the New Jersey Generals from oilman J. Walter Duncan for $10 million.

    "He was just a Donald, not The Donald," remembered Charlie Steiner, who as the radio voice of the Generals had a front row seat for the histrionics. "He was a boy builder and then he bought the team. It was the best thing that ever happened to the USFL and the worst thing that ever happened to the USFL.

    "He bought the back page of the Daily News and the Post. Suddenly, he was a man about town. He was building the greatest football team in history. Pretty soon, he was making Page Six. It didn't matter to him if the league made it or not, he had already succeeded."

    The Generals, 6-12 in their inaugural season under Duncan, improved dramatically to 14-4 but lost in the playoffs. After watching his Hail Mary pass against Miami, Trump pursued 1984 Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie and signed him for the 1985 season. New Jersey went 11-7 but drew 41,268 fans per game, third to Tampa Bay and Jacksonville.

    People close to the situation say that Trump was not concerned with winning the USFL championship; he had bigger goals. He wanted a team in the NFL and he wanted it in New York. Forty-seven days into his tenure, Trump said he was "declaring war" on the NFL. This was not the original intent of the USFL's owners, but before the 1985 season they voted to move their 1986 games to the fall, directly against the NFL schedule.

    "The league didn't want to do this, but basically Donald had them by a choke hold," Steiner said. "He was the face of the USFL -- for better or for worse. Like Bush with the Iraq thing, he was able to convince his 'willing coalition.' Actually, there are a lot of similarities there.

    "The feeling around the USFL was to wait another year. You know, wait until the NFL goes on strike because you'll have superstars falling out of the sky. Either the strike wouldn't have happened, or the USFL would have flourished. Donald just couldn't wait."

    Next: The $3.76 antitrust lawsuit

    Greg Garber is a senior writer at

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