Harry Usher, executive vice president and general manager of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, Tuesday was named the new commissioner of the United States Football League.
Usher succeeds Chet Simmons, who resigned Monday after serving as commissioner since the spring-summer league was founded nearly three years ago.
Usher, who had been considered the leading candidate for the commissioner’s job, was the key aide to LAOOC chief Peter Ueberroth, who took over as baseball commissioner Oct. 1.
Usher, an attorney, flew to New York Monday night to continue previous talks with club owners about the post. He said on his arrival that he would take the job under certain circumstances.
Usher, 45, was given a three-year contract, effective Feb. 1.
“This is a tremendous challenge and one I am looking forward to with great anticipation,” Usher said in a statement released by the league office. “A challenge as stimulating as the 1984 Olympic Games is difficult to match. However, there is no question that the USFL will be equally demanding and interesting.”
Usher, whose has specialized in entertainment law, said he planned to devote the next several weeks to becoming familiar with the USFL’s operation.
He played baseball and football at Brown, where he was Phi Beta Kappa graduate in 1961.
“This is an extremely important day for the USFL,” said A. Alfred Taubman, chairman of the committee that voted unanimously Tuesday to hire Usher. “Harry Usher is the right man at the right time. He is the person who will lead the league to the realization of its full potential as a major force in sports in this country.”
Bill Tatham Jr., president of the USFL’s Arizona Wranglers, said he wasn’t surprised by the chain of events leading to a change of league leadership.
“I think Chet felt he’d done what he could,” Tatham said. “I think for him this is the latest step in a long list of successful ventures.”
He said that Simmons’ resignation had been “in the works for quite some time.”
“He was extremely cooperative,” Tatham added. “He worked with the franchises on a daily basis. He would come to your city to help promote the franchise. He’s a good man. He was a good commissioner.”
Simmons, who took the commissioner’s job one month after the USFL was formed in 1982, had been under fire from some club owners for failing to negotiate a new, larger network television contract and for the league’s continued financial losses. The USFL signed a two-year contract with ABC before Simmons became commissioner.
After Simmons joined the league, the USFL signed a two-year contract with ESPN, a cable network. That contract was renewed for three years, beginning next month.
ABC had two one-year options in its contract and picked up the option for the 1985 season. But the network informed the league that it wasn’t interested in televising USFL games when the league moves to a fall schedule in 1986 in direct competition with the National Football League.