Cable television pioneers Alan Harmon and Bill Daniels were awarded a USFL franchise for San Diego when the league announced its formation in 1982. However, the city refused to grant the team a lease to play at Jack Murphy Stadium under pressure from the stadium’s existing tenants—baseball’s Padres, the NFL’s Chargers, and the NASL’s Sockers. The only other outdoor facility ...
Then, just as quickly as the Express rose, they fell. Midway through the season, the FBI began investigating Oldenburg’s financial dealings. Multiple exposés by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times revealed Oldenburg not only had a habit of luring savings and loans into questionable deals but was also nowhere near as well off as he had long ...
History of the Express
The Los Angeles Express was a professional American football team that played in the United States Football League (USFL) from 1983 to 1985. The Express was based in Los Angeles, California, and competed against teams such as the New Jersey Generals, Birmingham Stallions, and Tampa Bay Bandits. Despite their short existence, they impacted sports fans nationwide due to their star-studded lineup of players, including future NFL Hall of Famers Steve Young and Gary Zimmerman.
The Express was founded by billionaire J. William Oldenburg who purchased the franchise for 9 million dollars at its inception in 1983; this was one of the highest prices ever paid for a USFL team at that time. He signed several high-profile college stars, including Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier and other notable names like Fredd Young, David Lewis, and Mel Gray, to build interest around his new team. With these talented players leading them, they had immediate success going 11-7 during their first season while making it all way to the semi-finals, where they lost out narrowly 27–21 against Michigan Panthers despite having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Unfortunately, despite early successes, things quickly started unraveling as financial issues began plaguing LA express. Owner Bill Oldenburg defaulted on payments owed towards league fees resulting in multiple lawsuits against him. This ultimately led league suspending operations after three seasons ending an era prematurely before any real legacy could be established. Even though brief, LA express remains fondly remembered among many sports fans today due to its star-studded roster, which included legendary names from NFL hall fame and exciting brand football showcased during those few years.
1983 – 1985 / United States Football League
1983 – 1985 / Los Angeles Express
Express – The Los Angeles Express was a professional American football team that played in the United States Football League (USFL) from 1983 to 1985. The Express had one of the most unique nicknames in all sports, and its origins are steeped in history.
The name “Express” was chosen by owner William Oldenburg as an homage to legendary 19th-century transcontinental railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington, who founded the Pacific Electric Railway Company - commonly known as “the Big Red Cars,” which connected many cities throughout Southern California during its heyday from 1901 to 1961. As such, when Oldenburg chose his team nickname, he wanted something that would conjure up images of transportation and speed – hence why he selected ‘Express.'
In addition to being a nod towards Huntington's railway system, another reason why Oldenburg opted for this particular moniker is that it also tied into Los Angeles' long-standing association with Hollywood movies, specifically those featuring trains or locomotives such as "Union Pacific" (1939), "Great Race" (1965) and even more recently "Polar Express" (2004). All these films featured express-style engines barreling down tracks at high speeds - much like how fans envisioned their beloved LA Express on game days!
So there you have it, sports fans! Next time you're cheering on your favorite USFL franchise, be sure not to remember its rich heritage behind its unique name: The Los Angeles EXPRESS!
Original USFL Team
Final USFL Team
Team’s Final Outlook
Unable to find a new owner for the Express, the league announced the team would suspend operations for the 1986 season.
USFL Championship 0
1983 – 1985 / Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
1985 / United States Football League
1984 / J. William Oldenburg
1983 / Alan Harmon & Bill Daniels
1984 – 1985 / John Hadl (14 wins – 24 losses)
1983 / Hugh Campbell (8 wins – 10 losses)
To qualify as the greatest player for this team, the player must have played one season for this team. If not, we will remove the player.
* verifies that player has played for this team as an added player by a fan.
1984 / Conference Championship Game (vs Arizona Wranglers 23 – 35)
1984 / Division Champions (vs Michigan Panthers 27 – 21 OT)
Averaged 19,002 in 1983, 15,361 in 1984 and 8,415 in 1985 (93,607 seat stadium)
*Blue is this team’s history