Memphis Showboats
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Memphis Showboats

Memphis Showboats
Based inMemphis, Tennessee, United States of America
Home fieldLiberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
ConferenceEastern Conference
DivisionSouthern Division (1984)
Team HistoryMemphis Showboats (1984-1985)
Team colorsScarlet, Silver, White               
Head coaches1984-1985 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 popular culture

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.

Schedule and results


Week Day Date Opponent Game site Attendance Television Final score W/L Record
1 Bye --
2 Bye --
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
Regular Season
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
Regular Season
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 --


Single season leaders

  • Rushing Yards: 789 (1985), Tim Spencer
  • Receiving Yards: 1143 (1985), Greg Moser
  • Passing Yards: 2128 (1985), Mike Kelley


Season W L T Finish Playoff results
1984 7 11 0 4th Southern Division --
1985 11 7 0 3rd Eastern Conference Won Quarterfinal (Denver)
Lost Semifinal (Oakland)
Totals 19 19 0 (including playoffs)


External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



Music Scenes