Memphis Showboats

Memphis Showboats
Memphis Showboats
Founded 1984
Folded 1986
Based in Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Home field Liberty Bowl
League USFL
Conference Eastern Conference
Division Southern Division (1984)
Team History Memphis Showboats (1984-5)
Team Colors Scarlet, Silver, White


Head coaches 1984-5 Pepper Rodgers (19-19)
Owner(s) William Dunavant & Logan Young

The Memphis Showboats were a 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 player on the Showboats' roster during their two seasons of existence was future Pro Football Hall of Fame member Reggie White.



Memphis businessman Logan Young was awarded an expansion franchise for Memphis in July 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, he discovered that most of his assets were tied up in a trust fund. 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, they were a runaway hit at the box office, and 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 seemed to have had a realistic chance to have been a viable business if the overall management of the USFL had been more realistic and financially sound. Indeed, the Showboats' stellar attendance figures made Dunavant a supporter of the USFL's move to the fall, believing that they would be very attractive to the NFL in the event of a merger. As it was, they 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.

In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Band Geeks", the band led by Squidward Tentacles plays at the "Bubble Bowl", during which clips of a Memphis Showboats game are shown.

A player from the Memphis Showboats appeared as a contestant on Press Your Luck in 1985.

Single season leaders

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


Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties

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

External links

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