ESPN HistoryESPN+InnovationThe ESPN DifferenceUFL

Flashback Friday: ESPN’s First American Pro Football Telecast In 1983 Featured The Panthers Vs. Stallions

ABC's Saturday telecast of the Panthers at Stallions UFL playoff game, the first in the new league's history, harkens back to this historic meeting of the two franchises 41 years ago in the 1980s' iteration of the USFL

Saturday in Birmingham, Ala., will mark another historic first in a season of milestones in the United Football League’s (UFL) inaugural season.

The Michigan Panthers will meet the host Birmingham Stallions (3 p.m. ET, ABC, ESPN Deportes, ESPN+) in the UFL’s first-ever playoff game. The winner will represent the USFL Conference in the UFL Championship Game in St. Louis on Sunday, June 16.

Either the Panthers or Stallions will meet the XFL Conference Championship Game winner, which will be determined Sunday when the San Antonio Brahmas visit the St. Louis Battlehawks.

However, the Panthers-Stallions’ rivalry predates the UFL, which resulted this year with the merger of the USFL and XFL spring leagues.

Indeed, these franchises played in the very first live American pro football game ESPN ever televised, March 7, 1983, when that decade’s iteration of the USFL – the United States Football League – began a notable three-season run.

The Monday night game was the first of 34 ESPN USFL telecasts in 1983; ABC broadcast other games that season, including three that kickoff weekend.

The Panthers and Stallions played the 1983 game before more than 38,000 fans in Birmingham’s legendary Legion Field, located about a 10-minute drive from the site of Saturday’s playoff game, Protective Stadium.

In the video above, ESPN play-by-play commentator Jim Simpson and analyst Paul Maguire describe the action as kicker Novo Bojovic converts a 48-yard field goal just before halftime.

The boot – Bojovic’s third successful 40-plus yard field goal of the game – proved to be the winning points in a 9-7 Panthers’ victory. The Panthers would later win the first USFL championship.

Teri Couch contributed to this post

For more on ESPN’s UFL coverage, visit ESPN Press Room’s UFL page

Below, watch highlights of the 2024 Stallions’ game-winning drive in their Week 10 duel versus the Panthers in Birmingham. The Stallions prevailed, 20-19.

Back to top button