AHSMUN IV: AFL-NFL Speak, Write, and Research Engage in substantive debate Become a global citizen
Chairs: Joseph Weisberg and Matthew Kirchmier AMERICAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE (AFL) & NATIONAL CORPORATE FOOTBALL LEAGUE (NFL) MERGER
Many factors were at play in the 1960s as two professional football leagues started a duel for America’s viewership. The American Football League (AFL), founded in 1959, challenged the established National Football League (NFL) for viewership and fan loyalty. Riding on popular rules that promoted scoring, racial diversity, and robust personalities, the AFL’s success escalated tensions between the two leagues. As player values continued to rise, Pete Rozelle, Tex Schramm, and Lamar Hunt initiated a secret negotiation process that later came to involve all owners.
In 1959, Lamar Hunt formed the AFL after the NFL rejected his desire for an expansion team. In its inaugural season, the AFL featured 8 teams: the Boston Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Houston Oilers, New York Titans, Dallas Texans, Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers, and Oakland Raiders. Eventually, the AFL expanded to include the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals.
From the onset, the NFL sought to undermine the newly formed American League. In 1959, Hunt had agreed with an ownership group led by Max Winter to place an AFL franchise in the Twin Cities. Despite its public policy that it would not expand, the NFL offered the ownership group an expansion team in the older, more prestigious National Football League. To further subvert the new league, the NFL expanded to Dallas, which eventually prompted Lamar Hunt to move his Dallas Texans to their current home in Kansas City.
The expansion war between the leagues continued to rage in 1965. After agreeing with to bring professional football to Atlanta for $7.5 million as a part of the American Football League, Rankin M. Smith Sr. received an offer to bring an NFL team to city for $8.5 million. After Smith accepted the NFL’s offer, the AFL searched for an alternative, eventually agreeing with Joe Robbie to bring the Miami Dolphins into the AFL.
Despite the NFL’s efforts, the AFL thrived. In 1965, the AFL cashed in on its success by signing a $36 million regular season television deal with the NBC. With this deal, it became increasingly evident that American Football League was a serious alternative to the NFL. In 1965, secretive talks between Kansas City Chiefs owner, Lamar Hunt, and Dallas Cowboys general manager, Tex Schramm, had begun the workings of what would eventually merge the two leagues. As negotiations started to progress in 1966, Giants owner, Wellington Mara, announced at the annual NFL meetings that he had shattered the unwritten rule governing the two leagues since the AFL’s first season in 1960. The Giants had signed Pete Gogolak off of the Buffalo Bills roster and into the NFL. Mara’s actions prompted Bud Adams and other AFL owners to subvert the NFL and sign players off of NFL rosters. Most notably, future Hall of Famer Mike Ditka agreed to terms to leave the Chicago Bears and play with the Oilers. As this war over players escalated, the reality of a merger between the leagues became more realistic.
As tension between the two leagues started to escalate, AFL owners sought a more fiery commissioner to lead the battle against the NFL. When the AFL’s first commissioner, Joe Foss, resigned in 1966, AFL owners elected Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders to serve as the AFL’s second commissioner. Known for his brash style and dedication to winning at all costs, Davis fit the mold.
As committee begins, Wellington Mara has just ignited the war between leagues. Your job is to negotiate the terms of a merger, if any is to even take place, between the leagues. As you prepare for committee, please consider your character’s specific position regarding the merger.
● What terms of a merger are acceptable? Is a merger even necessary? ● How and by whom would a merged league be administered? ● How would the leagues’ finances merge? ● What rules should govern football from the two leagues? ● Does the number of teams need to increase or expand before or after a merger? ● How should television coverage and contracts change with a merger between the AFL and NFL?
● Primary Source Account of the merger Sports Illustrated ● Remember the AFL on Lamar Hunt ● NFL Network Video on the AFLNFL Merger Merger ● NFL Network Video on the AFL’s First TV Contract and Experience ● ESPN on Pete Rozelle’s Impact on the NFL ● The New York Times on Al Davis