The team started out in 1983 as the Boston Breakers, owned by Boston businessman George Matthews and former New England Patriots wide receiver Randy Vataha. They had originally hoped to play at Harvard Stadium, but Harvard University rejected them almost out of hand. Their next choice was Sullivan Stadium, the home of the Patriots, but high rent and the stadium's location (30 miles southwest of Boston) made this unrealistic. They finally settled on Nickerson Field on the campus of Boston University, a rather antiquated facility that seated only 20,300. The team's cheerleaders were called "Heartbreakers."
Coach Dick Coury put together a fairly competitive team led by 36-year-old former World Football League QB Johnnie Walton and Canadian Football League Veteran HB Richard Crump. The Breakers finished 11-7, narrowly missing the playoffs. Walton, who had retired from pro football years earlier and had spent the previous three years coaching college football, was the league's 7th ranked passer. Coury was named coach of the year.
Despite fielding a fairly solid team, playing in Nickerson doomed the team in Boston. It was so small that the Breakers lost money even when they sold out as visiting teams got a portion of the gate proceeds. The Breakers and Washington Federals were the only teams to draw less than 14,000 per game in 1983. The other 10 teams drew over 18,000 per game. Matthews again found after the season that he was unable to secure a lease for his Breakers in any of the larger stadiums in the Boston area. Concluding that the stadium situation was untenable, Matthews moved the team to New Orleans and was approved by the USFL on October 18, 1983 and later sold his interest to New Orleans real estate developer Joe Canizaro.
In New Orleans, the team was owned by Joe Canizaro with a minority owner Neal Kaye Sr., the team played in the spacious Louisiana Superdome, also home to the NFL's New Orleans Saints. They started out the season 5-0, and all signs pointed to them running away with the Southern Division. However, they only won three more games to finish 8-10. This included a 35-0 thrashing by the Philadelphia Stars and losses in their last six games. In spite of adding NFL star TE Dan Ross and rookie HBs Buford Jordan and Marcus Dupree (whose signing was technically against USFL rules as he was underage), the team struggled. Walton was inconsistent and ultimately retired after the season, while Dupree would experience constant problems with his knees throughout his time with the Breakers.
On the positive side, New Orleans supported the team well, averaging 30,557 per game, Jordan ran for 1,276 yards (4th in the league), and Ross and WR Frank Lockett had strong years.
After the season, the league owners decided to go for broke and move to the fall starting in 1986. This put teams like New Orleans, Michigan, and Philadelphia in an awkward situation. Canizaro knew that the Breakers could not hope to compete with the Saints, and opted to move before the 1985 season rather than play a lame duck season in New Orleans.
Searching for a home, Canizaro was particularly intrigued when he visited Portland. It was a fairly large market with a reasonably adequate facility by USFL standards in 20,323 seat Civic Stadium (which, to a certain degree of irony, was even smaller than the same Nickerson Field that Canizaro's predecessor had rejected two years prior). The move to Portland was announced on November 13, 1984. The team drew an average of 19,919 per game in Portland.
On the field the team struggled, as the strain of playing in three cities in three years finally caught up with them. The team opted to go with former Jacksonville starter Matt Robinson as Walton's replacement, rather than seeking a more proven USFL QB without a home, like Craig Penrose, Alan Risher, or Mike Hohensee, or trading for someone like Oakland's Fred Besana, or even signing an NFL vet. Robinson ultimately proved to not be an adequate replacement for Walton, finishing with a 62.6 QB rating. HB Jordan did have another strong year with over 800 yards as did Lockett.
The Breakers were one of nine teams slated to play in the USFL's first fall season, and were slated to be one of only two teams west of the Mississippi River. However, while the USFL's antitrust suit against the NFL was underway, Canizaro folded the franchise, citing over $17 million in losses over three years. Canizaro was the only league owner who moved his team twice and both moves were tremendous distances. There was some discussion of transplanting the Denver Gold organization to Portland, but this idea was ultimately abandoned as the Gold instead merged with the Jacksonville Bulls. The entire league suspended operations not long afterward after it was awarded only $3 in damages.
The Breakers had the distinction of being the only team to play for the entire duration of the USFL for three different cities, each season in a different city without relocating mid-season. Unlike many USFL teams, the Breakers never changed their name, logo or colors when they relocated.
Among the top "name" players that the Breakers had were LB Marcus Marek, HB Marcus Dupree of OU, QB Johnnie Walton, K Tim Mazzetti, QB Matt Robinson, HB Buford Jordan, P Jeff Gossett, OT Broderick Thompson and TE Dan Ross.
Coury was the team's coach for all three seasons. He was no stranger to Portland, having coached the Storm of the World Football League in 1974. Defensive coordinator was the late Pokey Allen who would later take Portland State University to two national championship games. The Offensive coordinator during the 1983 season was College Football Hall of Famer and former NFL Most Valuable Player Roman Gabriel. In 1985, the offensive coordinator was former Edmonton Eskimos head coach Pete Kettela. Allen would hire former Breaker executive Steven "Dream" Weaver as his marketing director and whose publicity stunts raised his Portland State teams to a national acclaim. The team president for the Portland Breakers was the legendary John Ralston, who was also a founder of the USFL. Other executives included Jack Galmiche, John Brunelle and Brian Feldman. Feldman was the only executive who worked in all three cities.Rushing Yards: 1,296 (1984), Buford Jordan
Receiving Yards: 1,189 (1984), Frank Lockett
Passing Yards: 3,772 (1983), Johnnie Walton
Dick Coury (1983–1985)