|Based in||Memphis, Tennessee, United States of America|
|Home field||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium|
|Division||Southern Division (1984)|
|Team History||Memphis Showboats (1984-1985)|
|Team colors||Scarlet, Silver, White|
|Head coaches||1984-1985 Pepper Rodgers (19-19)|
|Owner(s)||William Dunavant & Logan Young|
The Memphis Showboats were an American football franchise in the United States Football League. They entered the league in its expansion in 1984 and made the 1985 playoffs, losing in the semifinal round to the Oakland Invaders. Perhaps the most prominent players on the Showboats' roster during their two seasons of existence were future Pro Football Hall of Fame member Reggie White and future professional wrestler Lex Luger.
Memphis food manufacturer Logan Young was awarded an expansion franchise for Memphis on July 17, 1983. However, soon after hiring Memphis native and former college coach Pepper Rodgers as head coach and signing a lease to play in the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, he discovered that most of his assets were tied up in a trust fund that he couldn't access. Ultimately, he was forced to take on limited partners, then sell controlling interest to cotton magnate William Dunavant, remaining as team president.
Despite White's play, the Showboats finished fourth in the Southern Division and missed the playoffs. Like the rest of the division, they were left far behind by the Birmingham Stallions and Tampa Bay Bandits. However, like most of the USFL's other Southern teams, they were a runaway hit at the box office. Indeed, they were one of the few teams whose crowds actually grew as the season progressed.
The Showboats broke through in 1985, finishing fourth in the East and earning a playoff berth. They should have traveled to Denver's Mile High Stadium to face the Denver Gold. However, the Gold's local support had practically vanished after the USFL announced it was moving to the fall. ABC Sports did not want the embarrassment of showing a half-empty stadium. It forced Harry Usher to give Memphis home-field advantage in the first round, since the Showboats had been among the league's attendance leaders once again. The Showboats thrashed the Gold 48-7 before losing to the Oakland Invaders 28-19 in the semifinals.
The Showboats represented a serious attempt to form a viable professional football organization, and seemed to have a realistic chance to have been a viable business if the overall management of the USFL had been more realistic and financially sound. Indeed, like the World Football League's Memphis Southmen before them, the Showboats appeared to be on more solid footing than the league as a whole. The Showboats' stellar attendance figures made Dunavant a supporter of the USFL's move to the fall. Although Memphis was only a medium-sized market (while Memphis proper had 650,000 people, the surrounding suburbs and rural areas are not much larger than the city itself), Dunavant believed his team's popularity would have made it very attractive to the NFL in the event of a merger. As it was, the Showboats ceased to exist, along with all other USFL franchises, when the league failed to collect significant damages in its 1986 anti-trust suit against the NFL.
Despite the eventual failure of the USFL, the success of the Showboats franchise was noticed by the NFL, indicating a viable market in Tennessee. In 1997, the Houston Oilers franchise would move to Nashville, though they played their first season in Memphis, before moving to Nashville and being renamed the Tennessee Titans.
Dunavant emerged as an investor in the proposed Memphis Hound Dogs franchise that entered the NFL's 1993 expansion sweepstakes (the Hound Dogs lost to the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars). Rodgers and general manager Steve Erhart would later emerge with the Memphis Mad Dogs, a Canadian Football League franchise that played one season in 1995; Erhart would also manage the Memphis Maniax of the XFL.
In the SpongeBob SquarePants Season 2 episode "Band Geeks", the band led by Squidward Tentacles plays at the "Bubble Bowl", during which clips of a Showboats game vs. the Tampa Bay Bandits in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium are shown in March 29, 1985.
A player from the Memphis Showboats appeared as a contestant on Press Your Luck in 1985.
|Week||Day||Date||Opponent||Game site||Attendance||Television||Final score||W/L||Record|
|3||Saturday||February 11, 1984||vs. San Antonio Gunslingers||Shreveport, Louisiana||3-13||L||0-1|
|4||Saturday||February 18, 1984||vs. New Orleans Breakers||Lafayette, Louisiana||0-20||L||0-2|
|1||Sunday||February 26, 1984||Philadelphia Stars||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||28,098||9-17||L||0-1|
|2||Sunday||March 4, 1984||Chicago Blitz||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||10,152||23-13||W||1-1|
|3||Sunday||March 11, 1984||at New Orleans Breakers||Louisiana Superdome||45,269||14-37||L||1-2|
|4||Saturday||March 17, 1984||at Birmingham Stallions||Legion Field||41,500||ESPN||6-54||L||1-3|
|5||Sunday||March 25, 1984||Denver Gold||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||21,213||24-28||L||1-4|
|6||Saturday||March 31, 1984||Jacksonville Bulls||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||17,180||ESPN||27-24||W||2-4|
|7||Sunday||April 8, 1984||at New Jersey Generals||Giants Stadium||43,671||10-35||L||2-5|
|8||Saturday||April 14, 1984||at Los Angeles Express||Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum||10,049||ESPN||17-23 OT||L||2-6|
|9||Friday||April 20, 1984||at Jacksonville Bulls||Gator Bowl Stadium||36,256||10-12||L||2-7|
|10||Friday||April 27, 1984||Pittsburgh Maulers||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||30,640||17-7||W||3-7|
|11||Sunday||May 6, 1984||at Washington Federals||RFK Stadium||4,432||13-10 OT||W||4-7|
|12||Friday||May 11, 1984||San Antonio Gunslingers||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||32,406||38-14||W||5-7|
|13||Saturday||May 19, 1984||at Oakland Invaders||Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum||22,030||14-29||L||5-8|
|14||Friday||May 25, 1984||Tampa Bay Bandits||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||27,422||31-21||W||6-8|
|15||Friday||June 1, 1984||New Orleans Breakers||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||31,198||20-17||W||7-8|
|16||Saturday||June 9, 1984||at Tampa Bay Bandits||Tampa Stadium||48,785||24-42||L||7-9|
|17||Saturday||June 16, 1984||Birmingham Stallions||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||50,079||ESPN||20-35||L||7-10|
|18||Monday||June 25, 1984||at Houston Gamblers||Houston Astrodome||22,963||ESPN||3-37||L||7-11|
|Week||Day||Date||Opponent||Game site||Attendance||Television||Final score||W/L||Record|
|1||Saturday||February 2, 1985||vs. New Jersey Generals||Charlotte, North Carolina||11,667||3-16||L||0-1|
|2||Saturday||February 9, 1985||vs. Baltimore Stars||Winter Haven, Florida||9-14||L||0-2|
|3||Saturday||February 16, 1985||at Jacksonville Bulls||Gator Bowl Stadium||13-10||W||1-2|
|1||Monday||February 25, 1985||at San Antonio Gunslingers||Alamo Stadium||10,983||20-3||W||1-0|
|2||Monday||March 5, 1985||at Jacksonville Bulls||Gator Bowl Stadium||40,112||ESPN||24-14||W||2-0|
|3||Saturday||March 9, 1985||Baltimore Stars||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||37,466||21-19||W||3-0|
|4||Saturday||March 16, 1985||at Birmingham Stallions||Legion Field||34,500||19-34||L||3-1|
|5||Sunday||March 24, 1985||Oakland Invaders||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||28,773||19-31||L||3-2|
|6||Friday||March 29, 1985||Tampa Bay Bandits||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||23,952||ESPN||20-28||L||3-3|
|7||Thursday||April 4, 1985||at Orlando Renegades||Florida Citrus Bowl||21,223||ESPN||17-28||L||3-4|
|8||Sunday||April 14, 1985||at Baltimore Stars||Byrd Stadium||15,728||ABC||13-10||W||4-4|
|9||Friday||April 19, 1985||New Jersey Generals||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||44,339||ESPN||18-21||L||4-5|
|10||Saturday||April 27, 1985||at Denver Gold||Mile High Stadium||8,207||ESPN||33-17||W||5-5|
|11||Friday||May 3, 1985||Birmingham Stallions||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||29,025||38-24||W||6-5|
|12||Sunday||May 12, 1985||Houston Gamblers||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||27,325||ABC||17-15||W||7-5|
|13||Saturday||May 18, 1985||at Tampa Bay Bandits||Tampa Stadium||44,818||ESPN||38-14||W||8-5|
|14||Friday||May 25, 1985||at Portland Breakers||Civic Stadium||16,682||ESPN||14-17||L||8-6|
|15||Saturday||June 1, 1985||at New Jersey Generals||Giants Stadium||45,682||ESPN||7-17||L||8-7|
|16||Friday||June 7, 1985||Orlando Renegades||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||23,216||ESPN||41-17||W||9-7|
|17||Saturday||June 15, 1985||Jacksonville Bulls||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||31,634||31-0||W||10-7|
|18||Saturday||June 22, 1985||Arizona Outlaws||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||32,743||ESPN||38-28||W||11-7|
|Quarterfinals||Sunday||June 30, 1985||Denver Gold||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||34,528||48-7||W||--|
|Semifinals||Saturday||July 6, 1985||Oakland Invaders||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||37,796||ABC||19-28||L||--|
|1984||7||11||0||4th Southern Division||--|
|1985||11||7||0||3rd Eastern Conference||Won Quarterfinal (Denver)|
Lost Semifinal (Oakland)