The AFL: The League that changed NFL Lore Forever
From 1960 to 1970, there was a league called the American Football League. Here are questions when looking at the History of the AFL, What is the AFL? How was the AFL founded? What Teams played in the AFL? Does the League still exist?
What is the AFL?
The AFL was known as the American Football League. Originally the AFL was made up of eight teams. Those eight teams were the Houston Oilers, Buffalo Bills, Dallas Texans, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Titans, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, and Boston Patriots. All those teams are still in operation today in one form or another. This would be the third time the American Football League would be used, this edition of the name would have a say in NFL lore.
How was the AFL founded?
During the 1950s, the NFL rose in popularity in the United States. However, the Bidwell family owned the MLB’s Chicago Cardinals. They did not appreciate the rise of the NFL. The rise of pro football led to the Chicago Bears being the top pro sports team in the Chicago sports market. The Bidwells attempted to move the Cardinals to St. Louis. But, the move failed because the Bidwells could not come to terms with the MLB (the team would move to St. Louis in 1960, where they currently preside). After the attempt, the Bidwells explored potentially selling the team to its investors.
One of these investors was a man named Lamar Hunt group of businessmen who were rich enough to buy an NFL franchise at the time. Hunt planned to move the team to Dallas, Texas, where he grew up. Negiotns between Hunt and the Bidwells led to nothing because the Bidwells were unwilling to move the team to Dallas. Other investors, Bud Adams, Bob Hawsam, and Max Winter made similar offers for the team but to no avail. These four men came up with the idea to own an NFL franchise.
Eventually, they would approach the NFL commissioner at the time Bert Bell about the idea of an expansion franchise. Bell rejected the offer because expanding at the time was too risky for the League’s newfound success. Hunt and the other investors had the money to start a pro league. Hunt reached out to Winter’s business partner Bill Boyer to gauge interest in starting a league. Boyer was interested in the idea.
Hunt agreed with Bud Adams that Adams would own a team in Houston, Texas called the Houston Oilers. Next was an agreement for Bob Hawsam to own a team that would operate a franchise in Denver, Colorado, called the Denver Broncos. Winter and Boyer hoped to manage a team in Seattle. That did not work due to the Husky Stadium (where the University of Washington plays) not being secured as a venue, (although pro football would come to Seattle in 1976 with the Seattle Seahawks). Hunt looked to have teams in Los Angeles, Buffalo, New York City, and other places.
In July 1959, the formation of the AFL was announced. Hunt looked for the NFL to partner with the AFL and not to be a rival league, Needless to say, that did not work out. The AFL would become a direct competitor to the NFL
The next month the league had its first meeting, in which the New York Titans, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis-Saint Paul. The league undermined the league at first but, they offered AFL owners a stake in new NFL franchises. Minneapolis-Saint Paul was the only franchise to accept these terms leading to the Minnesota Vikings joining the NFL in 1961.
What happened to the AFL?
The AFL would be so successful that in 1966 the NFL was in negotiations as to what would happen in 1970. In 1967 a game would be held between the champion of the NFL and AFL that game was called the “AFL-NFL World Championship Game.”, Later on, Lamar Hunt proposed the name Super Bowl because he saw his kids playing with Super Ball toys.
In 1970, all ten teams from the AFL would merch into the NFL and not fold. When it first happened the AFL teams were seen as a lower level competition. However, in Super Bowl III the New York Jets won putting the AFL teams on the map.
Does the League still exist?
Yes, the AFL is still technically around today with the American Athletic Conference. The AFC championship trophy was named the Lamar Hunt trophy in honor of the last owner.
There were nine original teams in the AFL. Those teams were the Houston Oilers (Tennesee Titans), Buffalo Bills, Dallas Texans (Kanas City Chiefs), Los Angeles Chargers, New York Titans (New York Jets), Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders (Las Vegas Raiders), Boston Patriots (New England Patriots), and the Minnesota Vikings. However, the Minnesota Vikings were absorbed by the NFL in 1961.
All those teams would join the NFL eventually with most of them making the AFC. The Dallas Texans now the Kanas City Chiefs just won the latest Super Bowl the 27th time the AFC has won a Superbowl.