The history of the United States Football League is at risk. Right now, thousands of videotapes that capture the entire history of the original USFL have been preserved. Nearly every game and every play of this glorious celebration in the 1980s survives. The professional debuts and heroics of Jim Kelly, Herschel Walker, Steve Young, and many more are intact but in danger.
We are seeking your help to convert the vast videotape library of United States Football League game broadcasts and raw footage created between 1983-1985 into a digital format. Without conversion, this footage will soon be lost.
After more than three decades, the ¾” U-Matic videotapes that preserve the game action from 1983-1985 are reaching the end of their lives and need to be transferred to a new, more permanent medium. Without this conversion, the tapes will degrade until the footage is no longer viewable.
These tapes were recorded on-site for every USFL game. There were 413 games played in league history, and we estimate over 400 are preserved. About half are the ABC, ESPN or local broadcasts, while the remainder consists largely of raw footage shot from the sidelines or a traditional overhead view. Games span multiple tapes, so there are roughly 2,500 tapes in the collection.
When the league went out of business in 1986, the ownership and responsibility of the league’s video history transferred to Halcyon Days Productions, the USFL’s production company. The tapes have been stored in various storage facilities ever since. Unfortunately, the nature of analog tape is impermanent. With aging tape technology degrading, they need to be digitized to be preserved forever.
The digital conversion is a specialized and time-intensive process. U-Matic was a broadcast format prone to accumulating build-up over the years, so the tapes must be cleaned and then played on specialized equipment to be converted to digital. Challenges with the equipment and videotapes are expected and require the attention of a trained technician.
The total cost will be $80,000 for this process, which is a one-time expense and includes transportation of the tapes to the video lab and digital storage for a vast amount of video data. The digitization will allow for quick retrieval of entire games or specific moments in USFL history, and this process will make the USFL immortal.
Supporters of the project who contribute at least $100 will be provided exclusive access to all surviving episodes of “This is the USFL,” an estimated 60 shows of the league’s weekly highlight program, via a video sharing service. Each episode is packed with features and highlights, typically containing some footage of each game from the prior week. Other video exclusives may also be added throughout the campaign.
Gary Cohen, owner of Triple Threat TV and Halcyon Days Productions, is an Emmy award-winning producer of non-fiction programming for clients such as ESPN, MTV and MSNBC. Halcyon Days created the USFL’s weekly highlight show, “This is the USFL,” along with team and yearly shows, and Mr. Cohen has protected the USFL’s video history for over 35 years.
Paul Reeths, USFL historian and author, wrote The United States Football League: 1982-1986, chronicling the USFL’s history through detailed interviews with owners, staff, coaches, and players. Mr. Reeths also created the Internet’s first USFL historical site, usflsite.com, more than 25 years ago. Mr. Reeths has organized the GoFundMe campaign.