In 1983, the NFL encountered perhaps its only competitor. It was called the United States Football League. It promised to be just like the NFL, but more fun. The new league was composed of twelve teams. There were some differences in rules between the two leagues, USFL played in the spring and they permitted both replay challenges and two-point conversions after touchdowns. The games aired on ABC and ESPN.
In the mid-eighties, a lot of wealthy people, who weren’t coke heads, had nothing better to do with their money than buying a sports team. Donald Trump saw the USFL as an exciting investment. He bought the New Jersey Generals from Oklahoma oil tycoon, J. Walter Duncan. Esquire article
The team played out of The Meadowlands during its three-season existence. The Generals won 31 season games and lost 25. Not too shabby.
Trump tried to get legendary coach Don Shula from the Dolphins to help him manage the Generals. Don Shula refused to participate unless Trump threw in a condominium in Trump Towers. No deal!
In 1986, Trump talked the USFL into changing their schedule to the Fall. Trump’s ultimate plan was to compete with the NFL so tenaciously, that a merger would be forced, and the owners of USFL teams would see a fat profit. Wikipedia article
Trump’s demand for profits was clearly the destruction of the USFL. When it looked like the USFL was gonna go down in flames, Donald Trump got desperate and sued the NFL for anti-trust laws. He won $3. He lost millions. ESPN article
Let’s see how much profits he could drain from his new job!
All through that second season, Trump continued to publicly push his fellow owners to move the U.S.F.L. to the fall and go toe-to-toe with the mighty N.F.L. It made no sense. Until the U.S.F.L. achieved parity on the field — and that was a long way off — it had no hope of attracting large numbers of fans and robust TV ratings in the fall. The networks airing its games expected it to play a spring schedule. Its network contracts called for the U.S.F.L. to keep a certain number of teams in major media markets. But how realistic was it to expect the Chicago Blitz to compete financially with the Chicago Bears? “To go head-to-head with them was insane,” the actor (and Tampa Bay Bandits partner) Burt Reynolds told Tollin, who made an ESPN documentary about the U.S.F.L. in 2009.
Years later, when Tollin interviewed Trump for the film, Trump described the league as “small potatoes.” (That line became the title of the documentary.) As he has all his life, Trump yearned to be in the big arena, and in sports, there was nothing bigger than the N.F.L. Rather than seeing the genuine possibility of building a stand-alone league by steering clear of the N.F.L. — and hitching its wagon to ESPN, which itself was not ready for the N.F.L. — his model was the A.F.L., which had ultimately forced a merger with the older league. New York Times article