The team’s original owner, Denver real estate mogul Ron Blanding, held fast to USFL founder David Dixon’s original blueprint for the league. He kept tight controls on expenses (including player salaries) while heavily marketing the team in the Rockies. The Gold’s original coach was Red Miller, who led the National Football League’s Denver Broncos to their first-ever Super Bowl.
However, Miller bristled at Blanding’s bargain-basement approach to running the team. The players used rented cars from Rent-a-Wreck, some of which were in rather poor condition. They had to rely on bare-bones meals, traveled to training camp in old school buses, and only had 100 uniforms for the 120 men they invited to camp. Blanding also balked at signing any of the Gold’s first seven picks in the 1983 draft. It got to the point that an irate Miller once threatened to quit unless Blanding decided to “act like a fucking owner of a professional football team.”
Unfortunately, just after Davis took over, the USFL announced that it would switch to a fall schedule for the 1986 season. Knowing that the Gold could not even begin to compete directly with the Broncos, Spedding was one of two owners (the other being Tampa Bay Bandits owner John F. Bassett) to vote to stay on a spring schedule. His guess proved right. While the Gold had been one of the USFL’s attendance leaders, fans in the Denver area were not about to abandon the Broncos. Despite finally getting into the playoffs with an 11-7 record, the Gold’s attendance crashed from over 20,000 to 14,400 fans per game.
As a result, despite finishing second in the Western Conference, they were forced to play on the road against the lower-seeded Memphis Showboats under pressure from ABC. The network, who had considerable influence over the USFL due to the structuring of the league’s television contract, did not want the embarrassment of having a game played in a near-empty stadium.
With the Gold’s viability destroyed by the planned move to the fall, Spedding sold the Gold’s player contracts to the Jacksonville Bulls. Although the move was billed as a merger, Spedding retained the Gold’s intellectual properties. He seriously considered joining Bassett’s proposed spring football league before Bassett’s failing health prevented that league from launching. Instead they, and the USFL as a whole, were doomed by the ill-advised attempt to move the playing season to the fall in direct competition with the more established league. The league’s high-stakes anti-trust suit against the NFL, awarded only $3 to the USFL. The jury cited the league’s abandonment of Denver and several other major markets as one reason why it awarded the USFL only nominal damages. With no new funds to cover their irresponsible spending, the league folded.
The Denver Gold was a franchise in the United States Football League, an attempt to establish a second major professional football league in the United States, playing a springtime season, from 1983 to 1985.
1983 – 1985 / United States Football League
1983 – 1985 / Denver Gold
Gold – There’s gold in those Rockies. Refers to the “Gold Rush” in early years of our country. The Denver franchise using the nickname “Gold” is perfect with their close proximity to the Rocky Mountains.
Original USFL Team
Final USFL Team
Team’s Final Outlook
Doug Spedding knew that the Gold could not hope to compete with the Broncos; shortly after the 1985 season, he cut a deal to merge the Gold with the Jacksonville Bulls.
USFL Championship 0
1983 – 1985 / Mile High Stadium
1984 – 1985 / Doug Spedding
1983 / Ron Blanding
1985 / Mouse Davis (11 wins – 8 losses)
1983 – 1984 / Craig Morton (12 wins – 12 losses)
1983 / Red Miller (4 wins – 7 losses)
1985 / Division Championship Game (vs Memphis Showboats 7 – 48)
Averaged 41,736 in 1983, 33,953 in 1984 and 14,446 in 1985 (51,706 seat stadium)
*Blue is this team’s history