Bart Oates joined the USFL out of BYU to play for the Philadelphia Stars in 1983.
Oates got a phone call from the Stars with no knowledge of what the league was about or that they would play in the spring.
Bart’s brother, Brad, left the NFL after six seasons and joined up with the new spring league that gave veterans like Brad a few more moments in the sun. Bart says that Brad’s signing with the USFL was a factor in his decision to give the spring league a shot.
Oates signed a three-year deal worth over $300,000, plus bonuses. At this time in the NFL, only elite offensive lineman made over $100,000 a year, with the average NFL salary just over $150,000.
Oates, who played in five bowl games in his senior year in college, was late getting to camp and quickly learned the lay-of-the-land from his older brother and roommate at the Stars’ training facility in DeLand, Fla.
The Stars were the best USFL team – period. Philadelphia, led by coach Jim Mora, were 41-12-1 in their three-year existence; 7-1 in the postseason, including two USFL Championships.
While other USFL teams like the Panthers, Express, Generals and Gamblers had flashier names, former Star players made the biggest impact on the NFL once the USFL folded.
“The facts speaks for themselves,” says Oates with a proud tone in his voice. “The number of Pro Bowl appearances by former USFL players proves the effect the USFL players had on the NFL.”
On the Stars alone — Oates, LB Sam Mills, DE William Fuller and P Sean Landeta played in a total of 16 Pro Bowls during their NFL careers. From the Stars coaching came defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and Dom Capers, the head coach of the Houston Texans.
Oates, who won a total of five championships in the USFL and NFL combined, played in a city (Philadelphia), like Detroit, where the NFL team was lousy at the time.
“We could have beaten the Eagles by 1985 because we were deep enough in talent by then,” he says.
“I would have stayed in the USFL if the league stayed in business in the spring,” says Oates emphatically, since last playing for the Stars 20 years ago. “But once the league announced it was going to play in the fall, it was a ploy, it was never going to happen.”