UPDATE (July 14, 2022): I'm excited to unveil this opportunity to preserve the entire video library of the USFL. These videotapes were the league's archive until being turned over to Halcyon Days Productions in 1985. An estimated 400+ games remain preserved on tape. The videotapes won't last indefinitely, however, and the footage must be converted to a digital format to be preserved and accessed. How can you help? Check out the USFL Video Library Preservation GoFundMe campaign. Please contact me, Paul Reeths, with any questions.
Order the book, The United States Football League, 1982–1986.
San Antonio Gunslingers
Years of existence: 1984-1985
Owner: Clinton Manges
Stadium: Alamo Stadium (32,000)
Colors: Kelly green, royal blue, silver and white
Overall Regular Season Record: 12-24 (.333)
Overall Playoff Record: 0-0
Yearly Standings and Average Home Attendances1984: 7-11 (15,444)
1985: 5-13 (11,721)
Always a butt of league jokes, the Gunslingers were one of the USFL's prime examples of how not to run a franchise. The team appeared to be underfinanced from the start. Team owner Clinton Manges had a fortune in oil but had a hard time converting it to cash to pay his players and staff. The crash of the oil market didn't help. The league even had to tell the 'Slingers to move their offices out of a double-wide trailer in the Alamo Stadium parking lot. Missed paydays became routine during the 1985 season, causing the resignation of coach Jim Bates and a near player revolt.
Somehow, though, the Gunslingers remained competitive on the field. After an 0-4 start to begin their first year, San Antonio compiled a respectable 7-7 record the rest of the season. Despite a lack of name talent, Gil Steinke coached a disciplined team that forced 13 more turnovers than it gave up, and QB Rick Neuheisel kept San Antonio close most of the time.
The missed paydays and rinkydink operations finally caught up with the Gunslingers in 1985. Not even the Bounty Hunter defense which produced four safeties could keep the team from slipping to 5-13. All in all, it was a miracle that San Antonio still fielded a team by the end of the 1985 campaign. Jim Bates left the team after several missed payrolls, and Steinke took back the reins down the stretch. The players proved their love of the game by playing their best when the franchise was crumbling around them. They won two out of their last three games despite the fact that many players were having a tough time paying their rent.
Addendum- The Gunslingers held a reunion in 1998, thirteen years after the team had played its last game. More than 50 former members of the squad attended. Read my report.Their Finest Hour: No, it wasn't the time the lights went out at Alamo Stadium during a nationally-televised ESPN game against the Houston Gamblers. It wasn't even the time an unidentified San Antonio player was put on the injured list due to a groin injury caused by the lid on a trunk he was packing. Instead, we'll go with the Gunslingers' first win, a 14-10 decision against the Oakland Invaders. Oakland drew first blood in the opening quarter on a 19-yard Fred Besana to Gordon Banks scoring pass. San Antonio tied it before halftime when Rick Neuheisel found Joey Hackett in the endzone from nine yards out. Kevin Shea's 36-yard field goal put Oakland up, 10-7, in the third, and it stayed that way until deep into the fourth. Neuheisel directed a drive which culminated in Al Penn-White's one-yard run with 1:22 remaining. The San Antonio defense held, and the Gunslingers became the last of the 1984 expansion teams to record a win.
1984 San Antonio Gunslingers Roster|
1985 San Antonio Gunslingers Roster
1984 San Antonio Gunslingers Statistics|
1985 San Antonio Gunslingers Statistics