Oklahoma-Arizona Outlaws

Founded 1984
Folded 1985
Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma (1984)
Tempe, Arizona (1985)
United States
Home field Skelly Stadium (1984)
Sun Devil Stadium (1985)
League USFL
Conference Western Conference
Division Central Division (1984)
Western Division (1985)
Team History Oklahoma Outlaws (1984)
Arizona Outlaws (1985)
Team Colors Black, Red, White (1984 - as Oklahoma Outlaws)
Black, Red, Copper, White (1985 - as Arizona Outlaws)



Head coaches 1984 Woody Widenhofer (6-12)
1985 Frank Kush (8-10)
Owner(s) 1984-5 William R. Tatham Sr.,
William R. Tatham Jr.

The Arizona Outlaws were a professional American football team that played in the United States Football League in the mid 1980s. They were owned by Fresno banker and real estate agent William Tatham, Sr., who had briefly owned the Portland Thunder of the World Football League.

History Edit

Oklahoma Outlaws Edit

The Outlaws were originally slated to play in San Diego. However, under pressure from baseball's Padres, the NFL's Chargers and the NASL's Sockers, the city refused to grant Tatham a lease for Jack Murphy Stadium.

Scrambling for a home, Tatham seriously considered playing in Honolulu for its inaugural 1984 season, but settled on Tulsa, Oklahoma--even though the city had not even been included in a list of possible expansion sites for the USFL. However, Tatham had roots in Oklahoma (his father had moved to California during the Great Depression), and felt that putting his team there would give something back to the state. He christened his team the Oklahoma Outlaws. The club was the second major-league sports team to play in the state, after the North American Soccer League's Tulsa Roughnecks, and played at Skelly Stadium.

On July 7, 1983, at the same time the USFL announced the expansion team, Tatham introduced Hall of Fame member Sid Gillman, who came out of retirement at age 71 to serve as the Director of Operations.[1] Gillman signed a roster of players, including former Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting QB Doug Williams, but Gillman was fired by Tatham in December in a dispute over finances.

Along with Williams, the Outlaws roster included rookie Oklahoma State star RB Earnest Anderson. Former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer coached the team. Williams had been one of the biggest NFL stars to bolt to the USFL. He left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after they offered him a contract that would have still made him among the lowest-paid starters in the league, even though it would have been triple his previous salary. Williams was not a very refined, efficient, or consistent passer at that point in addition to being a little rusty, but had a big arm and a knack for making plays.

The team only drew 15,937 to their first game, a home opener versus the expansion Pittsburgh Maulers on a rainy and cold spring day. (Home openers in the USFL for most teams were the highest attendance games of the season.) Two weeks into the season, Tatham's son, Bill, Jr.--who was serving as general manager despite being fresh out of law school—announced that Skelly Stadium was inadequate for the Outlaws' needs and that they would be playing elsewhere in 1985.

The Outlaws were competitive for much of the first half of the season, starting out 6-2 off the strength of Williams' arm. Unfortunately, the team could not consistently run the ball. (The Outlaws finished with a league worst total of 1537 total rushing yards --- almost 200 yards less than the 17th ranked team.) Two blowout losses sent the team into a downward spiral. They did not win another game that season, dropping 10 straight to finish 6-12.

In spite of those factors, the Outlaws averaged 21,038 fans (in a 40,000-seat stadium), 14th in the league. It might have been even higher if not for brutally cold and wet early-season weather and what amounted to season-long lame duck status. While Tulsa as a USFL host city had a number of legitimate problems, fan turnout was surprisingly respectable, especially compared to the crippling attendance numbers seen by USFL teams in Chicago (7,455), Washington (7,694) and Los Angeles (15,361). They were also one of eight teams whose average attendance was 45 percent or more of listed capacity.

During the team's season in Tulsa, all six of their wins came during inclement weather, 4 at home. Wins against Pittsburgh, Michigan, Houston, at Washington, and San Antonio came in rainy conditions, and a win against Chicago came in a Chicago snow storm.

Leaving Oklahoma Edit

The Tathams were looking for a larger market with an acceptable stadium. The Tathams nearly had a deal to merge the Outlaws with the Oakland Invaders. However, the deal collapsed at the last minute because Invaders owner Tad Taube was unwilling to give control of the team to the younger Tatham, who had by this time acquired a reputation as the enfant terrible of the league. This left the team homeless and looking at their options.

Ultimately, the Tathams would turn to the 1984 Western Conference Champion Arizona Wranglers. Despite representing the Western Conference in the 1984 championship game, the Wranglers did not draw enough fans to cover expenses, and owner Dr. Ted Diethrich wanted out. They had fielded a much more competitive team, but the Wranglers' 1984 attendance figures --- although respectable --- were actually slightly below those of the 1983 Wranglers team. Dietrich had anticipated much higher attendance and had again lost millions for the second year in a row. He sold the assets of the Wranglers to Tatham, and Tatham relocated the Outlaws to Arizona for the 1985 season as the Arizona Outlaws. Since the assets included all of the Wranglers' player contracts, this deal was reported by some outlets as a merger. As a result, Arizona received what amounted to its third USFL team in as many seasons. (The original Wranglers of the 1983 season had effectively swapped rosters with the 1983 Chicago Blitz during the 1983-1984 offseason.)

Arizona Outlaws Edit

The Outlaws played at Arizona State University's Sun Devil Stadium. They retained many of the better players off both rosters, but not all of them. Rather than retaining the majority of the 1984 Western Conference Champion Wranglers and simply replacing the retiring QB Greg Landry with Williams, for the second year in a row little effort was made to retain players in which Arizona fans felt a vested interest. Tatham did, however, name former Sun Devils coach Frank Kush as head coach. Kush was a hard-nosed, run-oriented coach who had shown little talent in dealing with professional QBs in his time in the NFL as coach of the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts. Although very much an icon in the region due to his successful 21-year tenure at ASU, he was a surprising choice to team with Doug Williams.

In the instance of mergers, the league ran allocation drafts to send players to other teams. The Tathams allowed several of the better players on the Wranglers to be dispersed. In this way Wrangler star HB Tim Spencer, for example, ended up starting for Memphis in 1985. Other key Wranglers joined Landry in retirement or defected to other leagues (ex. CB Frank Minnifield who left in the 1984 season). Wrangler lead receiver Trumaine Johnson actually held out for the full season.

The 1985 season was very much a replay of 1984, with the Outlaws struggling after a quick start. The team jumped out to a 4-2 start, including a 31-13 pounding of the Herschel Walker/Doug Flutie-led New Jersey Generals. However, they proceeded to drop six in a row, and seven out of eight. They rebounded to win three straight, but did not get enough help to make the playoffs, and finished 8-10.

The Outlaws were a much better rushing team in 1985 totalling 2019 yards in support of Williams and the passing game.

Area fans did not warm up to the Outlaws. For the second year in a row, attendance dropped --- from the 25,568 George Allen's Wranglers' drew the year before, to 17,881. The Outlaws actually drew 4,000 fewer fans than they did in Tulsa, even though Sun Devil Stadium was almost double the size of Skelly Stadium. Despite this, the Tathams hoped to stick it out once the league won their lawsuit against the NFL.

The Outlaws were one of eight teams slated to play in 1986—and the only team west of the Mississippi River left in the league. By this time, the Tathams had become some of the louder voices among the owners hoping to force a merger with the NFL (in which case their investment would more than double). However, the league won the suit but only received a $3 award. The Outlaws, and the rest of the league, had been counting on the lawsuit money to bail out their unsustainable spending. As the league had essentially staked its future on winning a hefty award in court, if suspended operations never to return.

Professional football in the Valley of the Sun would not be gone for long: the St. Louis Cardinals moved into Sun Devil Stadium for the 1988 NFL season.

1984 Outlaws Opening Day depth chart Edit


QB - 12 Doug Williams --- 15 Rick Johnson

RB - 34 Darryl James --- 43 George Ragsdale

FB - 38 Sidney Thornton --- 42 Derek Hughes

WR - 83 Lonnie Turner --- 80 Darryl Crane

WR - 85 Mel Gray --- 87 Jack Steptoe --- 81 Otha Hill

TE - 88 Ron Wheeler

LT - 76 James Taylor

RT - 73 Duane Wilson

LG - 57 Frank Frazier --- 70 Reggie Irving

RG - 63 Alvin Powell

C - 50 Mike Katolin --- 64 Jay Bequette


NT - 65 Bob Nelson --- 60 Johnny Lewis

LDE - 90 Curtis Anderson --- 62 Tony Suber

RDE - 67 Jeff Jackson

LOLB - 54 Isaiah West --- 53 Vic Koenning

LILB - 58 Terry Beeson --- 51 Sam Prater

RILB - 56 Tony Hayes --- 94 John Truitt

ROLB - 52 Dewey McLain --- 68 John Mitchell

LCB - 22 Lee Wilson

RCB - 40 Barry Copeland --- 28 Tom Knight

FS - 21 Kelvin Middleton

SS - 44 Herb Williams --- 25 Bonji Bonner


K - 6 Stu Crum

P - 8 Bob Boris

DEVELOPMENTAL SQUAD: 10. LOYD, Mike (QB) 24. McMILLAN, Rod (CB) 26. SAMPLE, Ted (FB) 35. PITTMAN, Dwayne (RB) 55. BYROM, Bruce (C) 66. ROBERTS, Carl (G) 71. RUYLE, Clay (DE) 72. SPEIGHT, Robert (T) 77. LAMB, Jim Bob (T) 82. McCREARY, Loaird (TE) 84. JACKSON, Cleveland (TE) 86. BLAIR, Ken (WR) 92. BALLARD, Steve (DE)

1984 Outlaws player transactions Edit


Placed G Carl Roberts on injured reserve

Waived injured WR Jack Steptoe (knee)

Signed LB Daryl Goodlow ('84 Outlaws territorial pick)

Signed CB John Higgins to developmental squad

Activate WR Ken Blair and DE Clay Ruyle from developmental squad

Placed LB John Truitt and LB John Mitchell on developmental squad


Placed WR Mel Gray (hamstring) on injured reserve

Traded draft choice to Denver Gold for WR Alphonso Williams (Gold 18th draft choice)

Signed WR Alphonso Williams, P Case deBruijn (Saints camp '83) and TE Jerry Price (Gold camp '84)

Waived WR Ken Blair, CB Tom Knight, P Bob Boris, TE Loaird McCreary, TE Cleveland Jackson, DE Phil Bruneau (injured)

Placed FB Derek Hughes and LB Sam Prater on developmental squad

Activate FB Ted Sample, T Robert Speight, LB John Truitt from developmental squad


Announced retirement of K Stu Crum

Signed K Efren Herrera (Blitz camp '83)

Placed T Robert Speight on developmental squad

Activate CB John Higgins from developmental squad


Placed RB Darryl James (knee) on injured reserve

Signed RB Andrew Lazarus (Rams camp '83)

Placed CB John Higgins on developmental squad

Activate LB Sam Prater from developmental squad


Waived injured DE Tony Suber (broken leg)

Signed DE Mitchell Pounds and WR Jack Steptoe (waived by Outlaws 2/27/84) to developmental squad

Activated CB John Higgins from developmental squad

Placed RB Dwayne Pittman on injured reserve


Activate G Carl Roberts from injured reserve

Place C Bruce Byrom (leg) on injured reserve

1984 Oklahoma Outlaws game results Edit

Week Date Kickoff Opponent Results Game site Attendance TV
Final score Team record
1 Sunday, February 26th Pittsburgh Maulers L 7–3 1–0 15,937
2 Saturday, March 3rd Denver Gold W 17–14 (OT) 1–1 25,403
1 Sunday, March 11th San Antonio Gunslingers W14-7 2–1 24,311

Sun.Mar.17 - (W) OUTLAWS 17 at Chicago Blitz 14 (Att. 6,206) Sun.Mar.24 - (L) OUTLAWS 7 at Arizona Wranglers 49 (Att. 29,434) Sat.Mar.31 - (W) OUTLAWS 31 vs. HOUSTON GAMBLERS 28 *OT* (Att. 17,266) Sat.Apr. 7 - (W) OUTLAWS 20 vs. MICHIGAN PANTHERS 17 (Att. 21,510) Sat.Apr.14 - (W) OUTLAWS 20 at Washington Federals 16 (Att. 6,075) Sat.Apr.21 - (L) OUTLAWS 17 at Birmingham Stallions 41 (Att. 41,653) Fri.Apr.27 - (L) OUTLAWS 6 vs. JACKSONVILLE BULLS 34 (Att. 29,324) Sun.May. 6 - (L) OUTLAWS 17 at New Jersey Generals 49 (Att. 34, 917) Mon.May.14 - (L) OUTLAWS 21 at Tampa Bay Bandits 48 (Att. 45,116) Sun.May.20 - (L) OUTLAWS 12 at Houston Gamblers 31 (Att. 31,142) Sat.May.26 - (L) OUTLAWS 14 vs. OAKLAND INVADERS 17 (Att. 16,378) Sat.Jun. 2 - (L) OUTLAWS 0 vs. CHICAGO BLITZ 14 (Att. 17,195) Sun.Jun.10 - (L) OUTLAWS 10 vs. LOS ANGELES EXPRESS 17 (Att. 22,017) on.Jun.18 - (L) OUTLAWS 24 at Michigan Panthers 34 (Att. 15,838) Sun.Jun.24 - (L) OUTLAWS 0 at San Antonio Gunslingers 23 (Att. 21,625)

1984 Oklahoma Outlaws total roster Edit

1. HARRIS, Lonnie (WR), 1. HERRERA, Efren (K), 3. DeBRUIJN, Case (P), 6. CRUM, Stu (K), 8 BORIS, Bob (P), 10. LOYD, Mike (QB), 12. WILLIAMS, Doug (QB), 15. JOHNSON, Rick (QB), 20. HIGGINS, John (SS), 21. MIDDLETON, Kelvin (FS), 22. WILSON, Lee (CB), 22. YANCY, Bill (CB), 24. McMILLAN, Rodney (CB), 25. BONNER, Bonji (SS), 26. SAMPLE, Ted (FB), 27. BEDFORD, Vance (CB), 28. KNIGHT, Tom (CB), 33. LAZARUS, Andrew (RB), 34. JAMES, Darryl (RB), 34. ANDERSON, Earnest (RB), 35. PITTMAN, Dwayne (RB), 35. TUCKER, Mel (RB), 38. THORNTON, Sidney (FB), 40, COPELAND, Barry (CB), 41. WILLIAMS, Alphonso (WR), 42. HUGHES, Derek (FB), 43. RAGSDALE, George (RB), 44. WILLIAMS, Herb (SS), 45. ROBINSON, Kevin (FS), 46. GOODLOW, Daryl (LB), 50. KATOLIN, Mike (C), 51. PRATER, Sam (LB), 52. McLAIN, Dewey (LB), 53. KOENNIG, Vic (LB), 54. WEST, Isaiah (LB), 55. BYROM, Bruce (C), 56. HAYES, Tony (LB), 57. FRAZIER, Frank (G), 58. BEESON, Terry (LB), 60. LEWIS, Johnny (NT), 62. SUBER, Tony (DE), 63. POWELL, Alvin (G), 64. BEQUETTE, Jay (C), 65. NELSON, Bob (NT), 66. LEVELIS, Joe (T), 66. ROBERTS, Carl (G), 67. JACKSON, Jeff (DE), 68. MITCHELL, John (LB), 70. IRVING, Reggie (G), 71. RUYLE, Clay (DE), 72. PYTEL, Steve (T), 73. WILSON, Duane (T), 76. TAYLOR, James (T), 77. LAMB, Jim Bob (T), 78. SPEIGHT, Robert (T), 80. CRANE, Darryl (WR), 80. McCLAIN, Frank (WR), 81. BENNETT, James (WR), 81. HILL, Otha (WR), 82. McCREARY, Loaird (TE), 83. TURNER, Lonnie (WR), 84. JACKSON, Cleveland (TE), 85. GRAY, Mel (WR), 86. BLAIR, Ken (WR), 86. PRICE, Jerry (TE), 87. STEPTOE, Jack (WR), 88. WHEELER, Ron (TE), 90. ANDERSON, Curtis (DE), 91. POUNDS, Mitchell (NT), 91. McCUNE, Ken (DE), 92. BALLARD, Steve (DE), 94. BRUNEAU, Phil (DE), 94. COLE, Robert (DE), 94. TRUITT, John (LB).

COACHING STAFF: Head Coach: Woody Widenhofer

Offensive Coordinator/QBs - Ed Chlebek; Offensive Line - Charlie Butler; Running Backs - Frank Novak; Receivers/Spec. Teams - Wright Anderson; Defensive Coordinator/Secondary - Jim Johnson; Tim Mills Defensive Line - Ralph Staub; Linebackers - Jim McKinley; Strength & Conditioning - Bert Jacobson; Trainer - Keith Jones, Equipment Mgr. - Bud Turk

Single season leaders Edit

Rushing Yards: 1031 (1985), Reggie Brown

Receiving Yards: 1087 (1984), Alphonso Williams

Passing Yards: 3645 (1985), Doug Williams

Season-by-season Edit

Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties

Season W L T Finish Playoff results
Oklahoma Outlaws
1984 6 12 0 4th WC Central -
Arizona Outlaws
1985 8 10 0 4th WC -
Totals 14 22 0 (including playoffs)

Outlaws in video games Edit

The Outlaws' logo can be found in Madden NFL's Create-A-Team Feature. They are also featured in Blitz: The League, the Arizona Outlaws are a Division 3 team and are the first opponents against the player's created team.

References Edit

  1. Oklahoma Outlaws to Join USFL; Chicago Herald; July 8, 1983; Page 22.

External links Edit

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