The New Orleans Breakers are back. Sort of. Are you ready for some spring football? It’s the United States Football League (USFL), reimagined.
The USFL, which is in no way affiliated with the old USFL of the early 1980s, will be a professional spring football league beginning this April with eight teams.
While the franchises have adopted the names of the old USFL teams, they will not have true home stadiums. Every USFL regular-season game will be played in Birmingham, AL either at Legion Field or Protective Stadium.
So Louisiana fans, if you want to see the Breakers in person, prepare to make the drive, it’s about five hours from New Orleans.
The first USFL game will be on Apr. 16 at 6:30 p.m. local time between the New Jersey Generals and the Birmingham Stallions. It will be simulcast on both NBC and Fox.
Who do I know on the New Orleans Breakers now?
Unless you are a hardcore college football fan, you may not anyone.
The Breakers are coached by Larry Fedora, who is also the team’s general manager. Fedora had four winning seasons while coaching at Southern Miss and then moved on to the University of North Carolina. With the Tar Heels, Fedora went 45-43 in seven years, before being fired in 2018.
With their first-round pick, which was announced live by New Orleans Saints legend Drew Brees, the Breakers chose quarterback Kyle Sloter. Each round of the draft was position-specific.
Sloter, like Fedora, was at Southern Miss for a while, where he played receiver. He transferred to Northern Colorado, had one big year at quarterback, throwing for 34 touchdowns and has been on multiple NFL practice squads.
Another name some college football fans might remember is wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, who played at Ohio State and had 17 career touchdowns.
When do the New Orleans Breakers play?
The Breakers first game is slated for Apr. 17 against the Philadelphia Stars at 3 p.m. local time. The game will be broadcast on the USA Network. The original Stars won two USFL titles while being coached by former Saints head coach Jim Mora.
The Breakers second game will be against the Tampa Bay Bandits on Apr. 24 at 3 p.m. The exact time and date for the remaining games are to be announced. All games will be broadcast on FOX, FS1, NBC, or Peacock.
Tom Benson Stadium in Canton, Ohio, named for the former Saints owner, will be the host of the USFL playoffs and Championship game this summer.
Who are the eight teams in the new USFL?
- Birmingham Stallions
- Houston Gamblers
- New Orleans Breakers
- Tampa Bay Bandits
- Michigan Panthers
- New Jersey Generals
- Philadelphia Stars
- Pittsburgh Maulers
The franchises kept the same names but updated their logos and wordmarks.
They were heartbreakers: The original New Orleans Breakers
The year was 1984. It was a great time to be a Louisiana football fan.
The United States Football League was in its second season, playing a late spring schedule and the New Orleans Breakers had come to town, seeking to capitalize on a market beat down by so much losing by the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.
It’s true. They had Buford Jordan at running back and signed college phenom Marcus Dupree.
The Breakers were It. Briefly.
Breaker games were loud and exciting, there were paper airplane contests at halftime. They would park a car at the 50-yard line and if you could throw an airplane through the window, you won the car. I still have ticket stubs and programs.
The Breakers started the season 5-0 and New Orleans was getting into it. The Saints had never had a winning season at that point. Alas, the Breakers crumbled and finished 8-10.
After playing their first season in Boston, then New Orleans, the Breakers relocated for the 1985 season to Portland.
When the old USFL died, after talking of moving to the spring – spurred on by a businessman named Donald Trump – so did the Breakers. They became a footnote in Louisiana sports history.
Did New Orleans support the Breakers back then?
Yes. The Breakers averaged more than 30,000 fans a game in the Superdome in 1984, which ranked them seventh of the then-18-team league.
Even though it’s hard to believe now with the success of the Saints in the last decade-plus, in 1984, the Saints were a laughingstock of the NFL, having never had a winning season to that point and playing a horrible brand of football.
With the USFL’s ill-fated plan to shift to spring for the 1986 season (which never happened) the New Orleans Breakers owners led by Joseph Canizaro recognized that the Breakers couldn’t compete head-to-head with the Saints and moved the franchise to Portland for the 1985 campaign.
Ironically, the death of the USFL ended up playing a huge role in the Saints first winning season in 1987.
The Saints were coached by Jim Mora, who came over from the Stars in the USFL, the quarterback was Bobby Hebert, who had played with the Michigan Panthers, and led by Hall of Famer Sam Mills on defense. Mills had played in the USFL for Mora.
Will Louisiana support the Breakers now?
The new USFL is another test of just how much America loves football. No one is quite sure how the single-site plan will work.
Will football fans in Birmingham come out to watch two teams that represent cities from other states? The USFL hasn’t released ticket sale numbers.
New Orleans remains one of the NFL’s biggest television markets. While the market size is small compared to other teams, the share of people who watch football on Sundays in New Orleans is incredible.
The Breakers could have helped those ratings by picking up a few Louisiana players, especially early on, but unless the Breakers start the season with a few wins, interest will probably quickly wane as nostalgia wears off.
Will you be able to bet on USFL games?
More states are legalizing sports betting and fans can now legally gamble on the USFL in:
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
Will this new version of the USFL survive?
That’s the big question. The track record of other professional football leagues in the spring is not good. The XFL failed in 2001 when it tried to go with more of a physical style of play, then relaunched in 2020 to much excitement and some unique rule changes.
XFL 2.0 was derailed by the Covid epidemic, but it is coming back in 2023 under the leadership of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
The AAF (Alliance of American Football) didn’t make it through a full regular season in 2019, halting operations after eight weeks, even though the gameplay was strong.
And while the original USFL has spawned plenty of good memories, the truth is the league was poorly managed and after initial high television ratings, viewers lost interest.