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Continental Football League
Continentalfoyujtr.png
Continental Football League
Sport American football
Founded 1965
No. of teams 22
Country(ies) United States
Canada
Mexico
Ceased 1969

The Continental Football League was an American football league that operated in North America from 1965 through 1969. It was established as a minor league. It had hoped to be the "major force" in professional football outside of the National Football League (NFL) and the American Football League (AFL). It owed its name, at least in part, to the Continental League, a proposed third Major League Baseball organization that influenced MLB significantly.

Bill Walsh, Ken Stabler, Sam Wyche and Otis Sistrunk were among a few players and coaches who would later gain fame in the NFL.

Contents

Championship games

1965 Season

The formation of the Continental Football League (ContFL) was announced on Feb. 6, 1965. The league was primarily formed by minor-league teams that had played in the United and Atlantic Coast football leagues.

A.B. "Happy" Chandler, former Kentucky governor and retired Major League Baseball commissioner, was named ContFL commissioner on March 17, 1965.

The league originally adopted a "professional" appearance. Teams were sorted into two divisions and each team had a 36-man roster with a five-man "taxi" squad. The rules were primarily those of the NFL except that a "sudden death" overtime period was employed to break ties.

To reinforce an image of league autonomy, teams were restricted from loaning players to, or receiving optioned players from, the NFL or AFL.

The first ContFL season opened with three games played on Aug. 14, 1965. Before the season began, the Springfield, Mass. franchise moved to Norfolk, Va. The Norfolk club went on to become the most successful team in the league at the box office and held several minor league attendance records throughout the 60s and 70s.

1966 Season

In 1966, the league began abandoning the "league autonomy" posture by striving to establish working relationships with NFL and AFL clubs. Chandler, charging that the league was altering the terms under which he had accepted the position, resigned on Jan. 20, 1966. He was replaced by ContFL Secretary Sol Rosen, owner of the Newark Bears.

The league engaged in some futile preseason negotiations with the Empire Sports Network to obtain a television broadcasting agreement.

The Brooklyn Dodgers, although under the general managership of the baseball Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson, failed to attract at the gates. The franchise became a league-operated "road club" early in the season.

Charleston's Coy Bacon, 1966 ContFL All-Star end, went on to play for the NFL's Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins.

1967 Season

EASTERN DIVISION

WESTERN DIVISION

  • Eugene Bombers
  • Long Beach Admirals
  • Orange County Ramblers (Anaheim, Calif.)
  • Sacramento Buccaneers
  • San Jose Apaches
  • Seattle Rangers
  • Victoria Steelers

The ContFL added a Western Division for the 1967 season. The division comprised established minor-league teams in British Columbia, California, Oregon and Washington. But four small western franchises, in Eugene, Ore., Long Beach and San Jose, Calif. and Victoria, B.C., left the league after the season.

Such instability marked the season for the ContFL, particularly because the league could not improve upon its overall "semi-pro" public image. Inability to establish working relationships with NFL and AFL teams was a contributing factor.

The San Jose Apaches in 1967 were coached by Bill Walsh, who later achieved great success as the three-time Super Bowl-winning coach of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers.

1968 Season

In 1968, the ContFL absorbed the Professional Football League of America (PFLA), in order to expand into the midwestern United States. The Quad Cities franchise moved to Las Vegas midway through the 1968 season.

Danny Hill succeeded Rosen as ContFL commissioner. Hill established a weekly payroll ceiling of $200 per player and $5,000 per team.

The Spokane Shockers started the 1968 season with a young quarterback named Ken Stabler, who later achieved great success with the Oakland Raiders of the NFL.

The Michigan Arrows began their season with a soccer-style kicker named Garo Yepremian, who later found Super Bowl fame in the NFL as a member of the Miami Dolphins.

1969 Season

Jim Dunn replaced Hill as league commissioner for the 1969 season.

The league expanded into Texas by absorbing the Texas Football League, which also brought the first (and, to date, only) team from Mexico to play in a professional American football league, the Mexico Golden Aztecs. Midway through the season, the Hawaii franchise moved to Portland, Ore.

The ContFL entered the 1969 season with high hopes. That optimism was exemplified by the Indianapolis Capitols' bidding for the services of the 1968 Heisman Trophy winner, halfback O.J. Simpson of the University of Southern California (USC).

But ContFL attendance averaged approximately 5,000 spectators per game, insufficient to offset the lack of a TV contract. These economics contributed to the ultimate demise of the league after the 1969 season. Plans for interleague matchups between the ContFL and the Canadian Football League (similar to those attempted by the NFL, AFL and the Canadian league in the late 1950s and early 1960s) were ultimately abandoned.

The ContFL's most illustrious alumnus didn't make his mark in the NFL, but instead chose to play in Canada after the 1969 season. Don Jonas, Orlando Panthers quarterback, was a dominant force in the ContFL for four seasons before joining the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League (CFL).

Jonas led Orlando to the 1967 and 1968 ContFL championships, and was named the league's Most Valuable Player for each season. He also paced the Panthers to the 1966 championship game, which they lost to Philadelphia in overtime; and to the ContFL semifinal game in 1969.

A few remaining ContFL teams moved to Joe Rosentover's Atlantic Coast Football League.

See also

External links

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