The Tampa Bay Bandits
were a franchise in the
United States Football
. They were a charter member of the USFL and folded along
with the league after the 1985 season.
Preparing to play
Bay Bandits' majority owner were Canadian businessman
John Bassett and Miami attorney Steve Arky, and minority owners
included Hollywood mainstay Burt
Reynolds, at that time one of the most popular motion picture
actors in the world.
The team was named
the Bandits due to Reynolds' then-recent appearance in the hit
Smokey and the Bandit
movies, and his connection helped build local interest. Also
building interest was the hiring of former Florida Gator
and Tampa Bay Buccaneers
to be the team coach.
Spurrier had been serving as the offensive coordinator
at Duke University
before coming to
Tampa to take his first head coaching
1983 Tampa Bay Bandits Results
(11-7-0), 3rd in Central Division
- Sun. Mar. 6 - (W) BANDITS 21 vs. BOSTON BREAKERS 17 (Att.
- Sat. Mar. 12 - (W) BANDITS 19 vs. MICHIGAN PANTHERS 7 (Att.
- Sun. Mar. 20 - (W) BANDITS 32 @ New Jersey Generals 9 (Att.
- Sun. Mar. 27 - (W) BANDITS 27 @ Philadelphia Stars 22 (Att.
- Sat. Apr. 2 - (L) BANDITS 3 vs. CHICAGO BLITZ 42 (Att.
- Sat. Apr. 9 - (W) BANDITS 22 @ Denver Gold 16 (OT) (Att.
- Mon. Apr. 18 - (L) BANDITS 13 vs. LOS ANGELES EXPRESS 18 (Att.
- Sun. Apr. 24 - (W) BANDITS 30 @ Washington Federals 23 (Att.
- Sat. Apr. 30 - (L) BANDITS 10 vs. PHILADELPHIA STARS 24 (Att.
- Sun. May. 8 - (W) BANDITS 17 @ Oakland Invaders 10 (Att.
- Sun. May. 15 - (W) BANDITS 20 vs. ARIZONA WRANGLERS 14 (Att.
- Sat. May. 21 - (W) BANDITS 29 vs. OAKLAND INVADERS 9 (Att.
- Mon. May. 30 - (L) BANDITS 7 @ Michigan Panthers 43 (Att.
- Sun. June 5 - (W) BANDITS 45 vs. BIRMINGHAM STALLIONS 17 (Att.
- Sun. June 12 - (L) BANDITS 8 @ Chicago Blitz 31 (Att. 21,249)
- Sun. June 19 - (L) BANDITS 17 @ Boston Breakers 24 (Att.
- Mon. June 27 - (W) BANDITS 26 vs. DENVER GOLD 23 (Att. 46,128)
- Sat. July 2 - (L) BANDITS 17 @ Birmingham Stallions 29 (Att.
1983 Tampa Bay Bandits Roster
NO. NAME (POS) - GP/GS
- 7. REAVES, John (QB) - 8/7
- 11. KOONCE, Nat (QB) - 4/0
- 12. KELLEY, Mike (QB) - 6/3
- 15. JORDAN, Jimmy (QB) - 13/8
- 21. BOONE, Greg (FB) - 16/15
- 23. RAGSDALE, George (RB) - 1/0
- 29. PLATT, Sam (RB) - 16/9
- 30. WILSON, Greg (RB) - 6/0
- 32. FRANKS, Carl (FB) - 3/1
- 34. WILDER, Willie (FB) - 1/0
- 35. HOLMES, Richard (FB) - 4/1
- 43. ANDERSON, Gary (RB) - 8/8
- 44. WILLIAMS, Ricky (RB) - 1/1
- 60. MACKIE, Doug (T) - 13/12
- 62. MIKOLAJCZYK, Ron (T) - 15/11
- 70. ROBINSON, Joe (T) - 6/4
- 80. STEPHENS, Anthony (WR) - 6/0
- 82. COX, Martin (WR) - 15/0
- 83. FITZPATRICK, Jim (WR) - 2/0
- 84. TRUVILLION, Eric (WR) - 18/16
- 86. GILBERT, Lewis (TE) - 18/17
- 87. YOUNG, Robert (TE/LS) - 17/1
- 88. BUGGS, Danny (WR) - 18/18
- 89. GILLESPIE, Willie (WR) - 18/3
Bandits began play in 1983 in Tampa Stadium, and were immediately more successful than the
area's NFL franchise, the
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with whom
they shared a home field (though the Bucs played in the fall and
early winter while the Bandits played in the spring and early
The Bandits narrowly missed the playoffs in their
first season and made the postseason the next two years. While
their offense under Spurrier was usually one of the best in the
league, an average defense kept them from serious championship
The Bandits were also successful off the field. They drew the
highest average attendance over the three-year history of the USFL,
coming in 2nd in attendance in 1983 and leading the league in that
category in 1984 and 1985 with over 40,000 fans per game.
their memorabilia outsold that of the Buccaneers in the Tampa Bay area during the time of the team's
A fan-friendly atmosphere (including a theme
song, "Bandit Ball", penned and sung by Reynolds' friend Jerry Reed
) was one factor, and the Bucs'
futility during the period (they went 10-38 from 1983 to 1985) also
helped the Bandits' success. Due to broad local support, the
Bandits were one of a very few USFL teams with a stable home and
steady finances - they were the only USFL franchise to have the
same coach, owner, and home city throughout the league's three year
existence. Due to these factors, the Bandits are considered one of
the few USFL teams that had the potential to be a viable venture
had the USFL been better run.
The end of the USFL
Bassett was a strong proponent of the spring football concept. When
the USFL decided to switch to fall play for the 1986 season, he
declared his intention to organize a new spring football league
that would include the Bandits . However, failing health forced
Bassett to cancel his plans and sell the team (he died from
in May 1986), and neither the Bandits
nor the USFL would take the field again.
Prominent Tampa Bay Bandits
Single season leaders
Rushing Yards: 1206 (1985), Gary Anderson
Receiving Yards: 1146 (1983), Danny
Passing Yards: 4183 (1985), John