Detroit Lions fans have endured another season of disappointment, but it hasn't always been that way for fans of Michigan professional football teams.

The Michigan Panthers were once champions of the USFL.

Yes, we've had great Arena League Football teams with championships for both the Grand Rapids Rampage and the Detroit Drive, but did anyone really like arena football? The league filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 27, 2019.

With the XFL ready to launch a seemingly-more-serious try at changing the landscape of pro football in the U.S., now is a good time to look back at the most recent glory years, actually singular glory year, for fans of pro football in Michigan, 1983.

The 1983 Michigan Panthers were led by former University of Michigan star wide receiver Anthony Carter. Carter would later go on to become an NFL Pro Bowler and play for both the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions.

It was a strong start for the Panthers, but the USFL only existed for three seasons, 1983 - 1985:

  • The Michigan Panthers won the championship in 1983.
  • The Panthers made the playoffs in 1984 before losing in triple overtime when future Detroit Lions Pro Bowler Mel Gray scored against them to end the game. (The XFL's new shootout-style overtime avoids marathon games like this and is the best idea football has had in years.)
  • The Panthers merged with the Oakland Invaders and moved to Oakland in 1985.

Why did the Panthers leave Michigan?

Donald Trump.

New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump was leading the push to move the USFL season from spring to fall. The Panthers owner knew he couldn't compete with the Detroit Lions. He wanted to keep the team in Michigan, but only if the league stuck with a spring schedule. When the USFL moved to fall, the Panthers owner merged with the Oakland Invaders and moved the team to Oakland.

Grab some snacks and enjoy this blurry alternative to commercials and excessively long halftime shows.

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