Years of existence: 1983-1984
Owner: A. Alfred Taubman
Stadium: Silverdome (80,638)
Colors: Royal plum, champagne silver, light blue and white
Overall Regular Season Record: 22-14
Overall Playoff Record: 2-1
Yearly Standings and Average Home Attendances1983: 12-6 (22,250)
1984: 10-8 (32,457)
The Michigan Panthers perhaps best exemplified what the USFL could have been. The Panthers, coached by Jim Stanley, were a young, exciting team that provided its fans with plenty of good football. The were also fortunate to have one of the richest owners in sports in shopping mall magnate A. Alfred Taubman. A 1-4 start in 1983 bore little resemblance to the way Michigan played the rest of the season. After the slow beginning, the Panthers won six straight to get back into contention for a playoff spot. Their 12-6 record and two victories over the Chicago Blitz gave them the Central Division crown and the right to host a first round playoff game. In front of 60,237 fans at the Silverdome, the Panthers cruised to a 37-21 win over the Oakland Invaders. Twice the Panthers went for it on fourth down when in field goal range and twice they scored touchdowns. Michigan then knocked off the Philadelphia Stars at Denver's Mile High Stadium for the first league crown (see below).
The Panthers had a great group of young talent led by QB Bobby Hebert (3,568 yards and 27 TDs) and explosive wide receiver Anthony Carter (60 catches for 1,181 yards). Ken Lacy rushed for 1,180 yards, John Williams ran for 12 touchdowns, and Derek Holloway caught 39 passes for 811 yards and 12 scores. Tight end Mike Cobb caught 61 balls. John Corker had a spectacular year with 28 sacks, 13 more than anyone else in the league, and Dave Tipton chipped in with 12 QB takedowns.
Michigan started the 1984 campaign at 6-0, but crashed to the earth after Carter broke his arm in the sixth game against the San Antonio Gunslingers. Try as they might, the Panthers were just a shadow of their former selves and had to win their final two games just to make the playoffs. Once there, they battled the Los Angeles Express in the longest game in pro football history before succumbing, 27-21, in the third overtime. Two missed field goals by otherwise reliable Novo Bojovic were the difference.
With the announced move to the fall for 1986, the Panthers had to find a new home to avoid being lame ducks in Detroit. A. Alfred Taubman chose to throw the Panthers' lot in with the Oakland Invaders, and the teams merged prior to the USFL's final season.Their Finest Hour:The Panthers started their inaugural year with a 1-4 record, tied for worst in the league. Little did they know that they would play in and win the first championship game in USFL history. But on July 17, 1983, they did just that. The Panthers took a 10-3 lead into the lockerroom thanks to a 12-yard Bobby Hebert to Derek Holloway TD pass. The Panthers opened the second half with an 80-yard drive that consumed nearly half the third quarter and ended with a 14-yard scoring toss to Holloway, giving Michigan a 17-3 advantage. The Stars crept to within three points after a field goal and a 21-yard Chuck Fusina to Willie Collier TD pass and Collier's two-point conversion. The game was beginning to resemble Philadelphia's amazing comeback against the Blitz a week earlier. But Hebert and Anthony Carter weren't through. Carter took an out pass by Hebert and turned it into the clinching 48-yard touchdown with 3:01 left in the fourth. A late score by the Stars made the final score 24-22, Michigan, in the first USFL championship. The fans stormed the Mile High Stadium field, offering their thanks for a great game.
1983 Michigan Panthers Roster
1984 Michigan Panthers Roster
Michigan Panthers Website
1983 Michigan Panthers Statistics
1984 Michigan Panthers Statistics