Pearlman: USFL Video Vault Worth $100K A Year

The USFL has been defunct for more than 30 years, but its highlights remain lucrative for Gary Cohen

The DA Show
September 12, 2018 - 12:14 pm

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Author Jeff Pearlman dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Wednesday to discuss his new book, “Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL.”

While the USFL lasted just three seasons (1983-85), it left quite a legacy – and taught the NFL some valuable lessons, including the importance of marketing.

“Oh, very much,” Pearlman said on The DA Show. “If you look back at the USFL videos, there were more sack clips, there was more dancing in the end zone, there was more trash talk. The one thing the USFL did that the NFL was not doing at that time is they wanted you to get to know the personalities. They opened (the NFL) up to the idea that players are worth promoting. It’s not just about the emblem on the helmet; it’s worth talking to these guys. So if you want to talk about the birthplace of guys like Jim Kelly and Steve Young becoming household names and developing their personalities, it’s right there with the USFL.”

Interestingly, the NFL does not license its footage to many outlets – which is why USFL highlights still appear on TV.

“This is the best thing ever,” Pearlman said. “There was a weekly USFL highlight show . . . (hosted by) Mike Tollin and his partner, Gary Cohen. And toward the end of ’85, the USFL could no longer pay them. They just didn’t have the money. One day, one of the guys at USFL calls Gary Cohen into his office and says, ‘We can’t pay you, but I’m going to give you something valuable. I’m going to give you the film vault.’”

Cohen, understandably, didn’t think the film vault would have much value. Well, he was wrong.

“He told me through the years he made $100,000 every year just off of that,” Pearlman said. “If a TV company isn’t the official TV of the NFL, they can’t use NFL footage. If you look closely – beer commercials, TV commercials, TV shows, SpongeBob, you will see USFL players.”