Old football leagues never die. They just move to the back of your memory.

Check it out. There are the AFL, the WFL and, most recently, the USFL. Perhaps you might recall the U.S. Football League. Its logo was made in the stars-and-stripes image of the American flag. Born in the spring, it died in the courtroom one year ago.

A telephone call to the USFL's New York office now is received by a taped message that refers calls to the Randolph, N.J., home of Joe Cussick. He is the USFL controller and, along with legal counsel Jane Ellison, is one of two remaining USFL employes/consultants. Cussick said he gets few phone calls now. He said a former Denver Gold player recently called to try to get a copy of his 1984 contract to frame for his grandchildren to see someday and, Cussick added, "Believe it or not, I still get calls from people looking for New Jersey Generals season tickets."

Even Harry Usher, the former USFL commissioner, figures his name soon will fade from the American football psyche. "I'll probably be in the 15th edition of some trivia game," Usher said.

But, alas, it seems the curse of the Pittsburgh Maulers still lives in the form of the Baldwin (Pa.) High School Highlanders, proud members of the Quad-A West Conference.

In their one forlorn season (1984) of USFL existence, the Maulers got mauled. They finished 3-15, had three coaches (although the team folded before the third coach got his chance) and had their oft-injured, Heisman Trophy-winning running back, Mike Rozier, get booed in home games.

As part of their going-out-of-business settlement with the school system that owned the field they practiced on, the Maulers agreed to give their jerseys, pants and rain parkas to Baldwin High. Since their acquisition, Baldwin has compiled a Maulers-like 4-16 record (0-10 last season), according to Coach Vince Del Greco. During one game in sweltering heat last season, Del Greco said, a Highlanders player became dehydrated while wearing the thick Maulers jersey and nearly passed out.

"But we're gonna make a comeback this year," Del Greco promised. The coach also noted that "we're trying to get someone to paint the word 'Baldwin' over the word 'Maulers' on the back of the parkas."

"Other than that, though," Del Greco said, "I think they are good parkas."

It was late on the afternoon of July 29, 1986 that Patricia McCabe delivered the news that brought the three-year old USFL to its knees. McCabe is the New York telephone company reference clerk who served as jury foreman during the 10-week trial in the Manhattan courthouse at Foley Square.

In a case that focused on the tie between television and pro football, McCabe announced that the jury found the National Football League liable on one antitrust violation, but cleared it on eight others, including the key one in the case: that the NFL had denied the USFL access to a network television contract. McCabe, speaking in a detached undertone, told a crowded courtroom the NFL would have to pay only $1 in damages (trebled to $3). That rated about $1.6 billion less than the USFL had sought.

Now, only a surprising decision by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals could lend some form of aid to the lifeless once-upon-a-time spring league. The USFL has based its appeal on, among other things, the contention that the jury was confused by instructions given by Judge Peter Leisure. The Court of Appeals decision could come as soon as September, officials on both sides say.

So now, you ask, where did the USFL folk go? "They came from nowhere," said one former USFL official, "and they've gone back to nowhere."

That's not entirely true. More than 225 former USFL players reportedly are on NFL training camp rosters. Agent Leigh Steinberg said, "There will be a time when 20 percent of the players in the NFL started in the USFL." Who could doubt the quality of many USFL players? After all, we all know where Jim Kelly, Kelvin Bryant, Steve Young, Sean Landeta, Bobby Hebert, Reggie White, Anthony Carter and Herschel Walker have since gone. Check your NFL rosters.

Other USFL players, however, have taken markedly different paths. Breakers defensive back Joe Restic reportedly is pursuing his orthodontics career in Portland. Arizona defensive tackle Joe Ehrmann is working for a ministry in Baltimore. Federals quarterback Mike Hohensee has joined a handful of other USFLers in Arena Football. Baltimore Stars running back Allen Harvin has headed north with other USFLers for the Canadian Football League. Breakers quarterback Johnnie Walton, whose career was revived in 1983 when, at age 35 and after three years as head football coach at Elizabeth City (N.C.) State College, he came on to once throw for 440 yards in a USFL game, has since returned to Elizabeth City State as assistant vice chancellor for planning and development.

Meanwhile, Doug Plank, the former Bears safety who signed with Chicago's Blitz but never played a game for the USFL team, is back in Columbus, Ohio, where he owns a Burger King franchise. Numerous USFL players have gone into different ranks of football coaching.

Stars fullback Jeff Rodenberger, formerly of the University of Maryland, is working as a "loss-prevention consultant" for a Philadelphia firm, although the former special-teams standout admits, "I guess in layman's terms that means I'm a fire inspector." Sadly, Michigan Panthers defensive tackle Larry Bethea recently committed suicide in southern Virginia.

You might meet a former USFL player anytime, anywhere. New York Giants guard Chris Godfrey, a former USFL standout, said, "I bumped into a New Jersey state policeman a while back and we started talking and he says, 'Yeah, I played for the {Washington} Federals.' "

San Francisco quarterback Steve Young, the former Los Angeles Express passer whose reported $40 million contract gave the USFL front-page headlines, recalled the puny Los Angeles Coliseum crowds. "I still run into people," Young said, "who say 'I was one of the 100 people who were there.' "

USFL coaches have been scattered. The Showboats' Pepper Rodgers is working with city officials vying to get Memphis an NFL franchise. Arizona's Frank Kush holds a similar role in Phoenix, and coaches youth football in his spare time. ("I'm the highest-paid Pop Warner coach in the country," said Kush, who has two years left on his Wranglers contract.)

The Stars' Jim Mora, the only former USFL head coach who is a head coach in the NFL, led the vastly improved New Orleans Saints to a 7-9 mark last season. Three of the four Arena Football head coaches, including former Federals coach Ray Jauch, have USFL ties. And George Allen, the former Blitz coach and longtime Redskins coach, is in southern California and heads the President's Council on Physical Fitness.

Similarly, you'll find board room leaders of the USFL all across the land. USFL Commissioner No. 1, Chet Simmons, is pursuing cable sports television interests from his home in Savannah, Ga. Usher, the USFL's second commissioner, recently was named senior vice president of Weintraub Entertainment Group, a Los Angeles-based firm.

Bruce Allen, former Arizona general manager and son of the former Redskins coach, is a sports agent who represents several highly regarded NFL draft picks. Stars owner Stephen Ross, the New York land developer who in 1985 reportedly paid $4 million to buy 80 percent of a team that never again took the field, has expressed interest in owning an NFL franchise in Baltimore.

You'll find the former Federals owner, Berl Bernhard, at the District law firm he helped found more than a quarter of a century ago -- Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand. Bernhard still laughs about the time he compared the Federals' effort to that of "a pack of untrained gerbils," admitting, "That quote someday may fit into the lexicon of sport." The former Federals general manager, Dick Myers, recently accepted the position of assistant athletic director at American University.

And New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump -- a central figure in both leading the USFL in its attempt to move to a fall schedule and in the subsequent trial -- still can be reached at his favorite Taj Majal: the Trump Tower. You'll find it sitting regally at 725 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y.

Certainly, the USFL shook the very foundation of the professional football industry. It had a dynamic effect on player salaries. It gave a showcase to players and coaches whom the NFL turned away. Some careers were revived, others were born.

The USFL was the league for "players who were an inch short or 10 pounds too light, but who still could play," said former Breakers coach Dick Coury, now an assistant with the Los Angeles Rams. The classic USFL player might have been three-time all-USFL linebacker Sam Mills. A football underdog at 5 feet 9, Mills now is a starter for the NFL Saints, with unlimited potential.

The USFL also caused an explosion in the sports agent industry ("It tripled the number of agents," according to Steinberg) and, with its demise, the USFL unwittingly may have triggered many of the gross illegalities recently committed by sports agents, Steinberg said.

"Now you have such a large number of agents competing and the player pool slackened by 40 percent {without the USFL}," Steinberg said. "There's now a more keen competition among agents."

The USFL also proved there are enough skilled players and coaches to fill a second professional league. It created the instant replay officiating system now used in the NFL. Some believe the USFL opened the doors for the Arena Football league and perhaps for the new spring league reportedly being formed by USFL founder Dave Dixon. It has been said, too, that the USFL unintentionally may have proven the need for a minor league football system, something the NFL Raiders' Al Davis has clamored for over the past two decades.

The ultimate truth is that the USFL threatened the NFL at every level and brought to the courtroom a football civil war that, with a different verdict, could have changed the face of professional sports.

Dallas Cowboys President Tex Schramm, a dominant figure in the NFL for several decades, recently listed, in order, the entities he believes have posed the gravest threats faced by the NFL during Pete Rozelle's 28 years as commissioner: 1) the American Football League; 2) the Raiders' franchise shift; 3) the USFL (Schramm noted that both the Raiders and the USFL relate to the larger issue of the courts' role in defining the NFL's antitrust status), and 4) the players union. The USFL's imprint will forever remain on the NFL.

Cussick said 10 lawsuits are outstanding against the USFL, several filed by creditors. He also said, in the end, "roughly 80" former players did not receive full payment from their USFL contracts. Meanwhile, the Rams' Coury said he still gets calls from former USFL players looking for job references.

So, barring a dramatic reversal from the appeals court, what will become the legacy of the USFL? Opinions vary.

Former Breakers president Randy Vataha: "I know when people talk about the World Football League, they talk about Csonka, Kiick and Warfield. Maybe they'll remember Doug Flutie and Herschel Walker from the USFL. Also, that it was a spring league."

Bernhard: "There was the spirit of being willing to go up against the mountain. Maybe the legacy is that we tried, but couldn't do it."

Coury: "What will be remembered is, 'Why didn't they stay with their original idea?' "

Usher: "I hope what stands out is that it was a bold experiment that provided a period of competition that was fun for the fans and everyone involved."

The Federals' Myers: "Locally, it kind of showed that this is a Redskins town and the Redskins have had such excellence over the last few years, anything less will not be tolerated around here."

Peter Hadhazy of the USFL office: "The legacy is that, against all odds, we built a league, played very good football, and that can never be taken from us. . . . If we had not crashed the fall party, I think we would have been invited."

The Saints' Hebert: "Frankly, they won't remember much. It's here and gone."