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In the United Staes and Canada, the term professional football includes the professional forms of American and Canadian gridiron football. In common usage, it refers to former and existing major football leagues in either country. Currently (2009), there are multiple professional football leagues in North America: the two best known are the National Football League (NFL) in the U.S. and the Canadian Football League (CFL) in Canada. The NFL has existed continuously since being so named in 1922.


U.S. professional football history


The first professional football player

The first record of an American football player receiving "pay for play" came in 1892 with William "Pudge" Heffelfinger's $500 contract to play in a game for the Allegheny Athletic Association against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. For several years afterwards, individual players and sometimes entire teams received compensation to play in "barnstorming" type games without rigid schedules and against a variety of opponents.

Early leagues ~ 1903-1919

Independent teams of post-collegiate football players began playing for shares of gates collected from spectators at sandlot games. As early as 1903, some formed 'leagues', informal associations with loose schedules in which several teams played one another during a 'season', after which the team with the best record was declared the league champion. Players were signed to contracts based on their actual or perceived abilities, and teams had rights to them only to the extent that individual contracts stated. Early teams included the Canton Bulldogs, the first Professional Football team, and the Massillon Tigers of the Ohio League; the Rochester Jeffersons (independent); and the Buffalo Prospects and All-Tonawanda Lumberjacks of the Buffalo Semi Pro Football League. What is believed to be the first Professional Football playoff system was played between the Prospects, the Lumberjacks and the Jeffersons in 1919, with Buffalo winning.

American Professional Football League/Association ~ 1920-1921

A year after the Buffalo Prospects won the first Professional Football championship game, the Ohio League became the American Professional Football League in 1920. One month later, the league added the Buffalo Prospects and the Rochester Jeffersons, and changed its name to the American Professional Football Association (APFA). The league did not have a championship game. The Akron Pros had the best record in 1920, and the Chicago Staleys were the 1921 "champions".

National Football League ~ 1922-1932

In 1922, the APFA changed its name to the National Football League. From 1922 through 1932, it still declared as champions the team with the best record. There were no set schedules, and each team did not play the same number of games: some teams played against college or other amateur teams. The confusion reached a peak in 1925, when the Pottsville Maroons were hailed as the NFL champions by several newspapers after Pottsville defeated the Chicago Cardinals on December 6, even though there were still two weeks left in the season. This led to other teams scrambling to add extra games, including the Chicago Cardinals, who won two 'extra' games and claimed the championship. In the melee, the league cancelled games and suspended Pottsville's franchise. This portion of the NFL's existence saw the admission of the Boston Braves, owned by George Preston Marshall who was to exert major positive and negative influences on the league.

First American Football League ~ 1926

In 1926, teams from nine cities ranging from the New York Yankees to the Chicago Bulls to the Los Angeles Wildcats (actually based in Chicago) formed the first American Football League in competition with the NFL. Because of the 1925 shenanigans, the NFL's Rock Island Independents left the seven-year-old league to join the AFL. The major attraction of the new league was Red Grange of the Yankees, but the league folded after just one year, with the Yankees being absorbed into the NFL.

National Football League ~ 1933-1945

In 1933, the league divided into the Eastern and Western divisions, and finally instituted a championship game between the division winners. Each team played from 10 to 13 games per season during this period, and by 1945, the league had two five-team divisions, with each team playing a 10-game regular season schedule. In 1936, to select and assign graduating college players to particular Pro teams, the first Professional Football 'entry draft' was held. The University of Chicago's Heisman Trophy-winning running back Jay Berwanger was selected first overall by the Philadelphia Eagles. However, Berwanger chose not to play Professional Football. The league was dominated by the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, and New York Giants, with stars like quarterback Sid Luckman (Bears); and fullbacks Tuffy Leemans (Giants) and Clarke Hinkle (Packers). Even with the stellar fullback Cliff Battles, Marshall's team, now called the Redskins, was driven out of Boston in 1936 by a competing league, and he moved his franchise to Washington, DC as the Washington Redskins. Marshall introduced the marching band and a team song to Professional Football, along with other promotional efforts. However, he also refused to have black players on his team, and his influence resulted in the entire NFL excluding blacks after 1934. In 1939, NBC broadcast the first-ever televised Professional Football game from Ebbets Field, an October 22 contest between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Eagles. There were two fixed monochrome iconoscope cameras and a single play-by-play commentator, Skip Walz.

Second American Football League ~ 1936-1937

In 1936, a second American Football League of six teams was formed to challenge the NFL. It included another New York Yankees team, as well as the Cleveland Rams, the predecessor to today's St. Louis Rams. Future American Football League (1960-1969) coach and Hall of Famer Sid Gillman played his only year of Professional Football with the Rams. Before this AFL's second year, the Rams jumped to the NFL and were replaced by the first Professional Football team to actually play its home games on the West Coast, the Los Angeles Bulldogs, who had several stars including quarterback Harry Newman and end Bill Moore. The Boston Shamrocks, with all-star end Bill Fleming, outdrew the NFL's Redskins in 1936, causing George Preston Marshall to move the team to Washington. However the league as a whole could not compete, and folded after the 1937 season.

Also in 1936, the American Association was founded as a minor league. It played for five seasons, suspending operations for World War II, and returned under the "American Football League" name in 1946 before sputtering to a collapse in 1950.

Third American Football League ~ 1940-1941

Still another try at an American Football League was made in 1940, with five franchises, including a third New York Yankees team. The league was the first major Professional Football league to complete a double round robin schedule, in which each team played each other twice. The onset of World War II and the resultant draft dried up the source of players for professional football and the new league did not have enough resources to continue.

All-America Football Conference ~ 1946-1949

A year after World War II, another new Professional Football league was formed - the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). It attracted some of the nation's best football players and posed a serious challenge to the NFL. Like the pre-war AFL, it used a double round robin schedule. The league was dominated by a franchise owned and coached by Paul Brown: the Cleveland Browns, a team that would win the league's championship every year of its existence. The Browns featured players such as fullback Marion Motley, quarterback Otto Graham and kicker Lou Groza, while the San Francisco 49ers had running back Elroy 'Crazylegs' Hirsch and the Baltimore Colts (not related to today's Indianapolis Colts, which began play in Baltimore in 1953) fielded quarterback Y.A. Tittle.

Paul Brown made many innovations to the game on and off the field, including year-round coaching staffs, precision pass patterns, face masks, and the use of “messenger guards”. He was the first coach to film the opposition and break down those game films in a classroom setting, also attributed to him. While the NFL was still segregated, the AAFC's Browns became the first modern Professional Football team to sign black players.

Although many of its teams outdrew NFL teams, by 1949 the AAFC's costs had risen so steeply that the league agreed to a 'merger' with the NFL. It was more of a 'swallowing' of the AAFC, with only the Browns, 49ers, and Colts being admitted to the established league, even though the Buffalo Bills drew good crowds and raised funds from citizens to back the franchise. Players from the Bills and the other AAFC teams not 'merged' were distributed among the NFL teams. Motley, Graham, Groza, Hirsch and Tittle all starred in the NFL after the 'merger'.

Of the three AAFC teams that joined the NFL:

  • The Colts lasted only one year in the NFL; the second Baltimore Colts were officially a new franchise launched in 1953, though tracing their history through a series of teams dating back to 1919, before the formation of the NFL.
  • The Browns remained in Cleveland until their controversial move to Baltimore, becoming the Baltimore Ravens, for the 1996 season. The controversy was ultimately settled by granting Cleveland a new franchise, which began play in 1999, that took the Browns name and official lineage.
  • The 49ers have remained in the NFL and San Francisco since their admission to the league.

National Football League ~ 1946-1959

After twelve years without black players in the NFL, the Los Angeles Rams added them in 1946, as they were required by their stadium lease to integrate the team. The league had two five-team divisions, each team playing an unwieldy 11-game schedule, with some teams playing more home games than others. They increased to twelve games the following year, partly because of the success of the rival AAFC's 14-game format. After the AAFC folded, the NFL added three of its teams, for a total of thirteen, but maintained the 14-game format. The first year after admitting the Cleveland Browns, the NFL was humbled by having the Browns, a team from what it had ridiculed as an inferior league, win its championship. The Browns went on to be NFL champions in three of their first six years in the league. In 1958, the Baltimore Colts defeated the New York Giants 10-3 in professional football's first sudden-death championship game, and repeated the victory against the same team in the 1959 NFL title game, this time by a score of 31-16. The Colts had folded after the 1950 season and from 1951 through 1959 the NFL had twelve teams, six each in the East and West conferences. The league during this period featured not only star players absorbed from the AAFC 'merger' but others such as halfback Frank Gifford (New York Giants); the Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback Norm Van Brocklin and receiver Tommy McDonald; and the Colts' quarterback Johnny Unitas and running back Lenny Moore. Television coverage of the league was spotty, with some teams starting in 1950 to have individual arrangements with the Dumont Network and NBC. CBS began to televise selected NFL regular season games in 1956, but there was no league-wide, national television (the Browns, for instance, held out and syndicated games themselves until the early 1960s when a league-wide contract was imposed).

Fourth American Football League ~ 1960-1969

By the start of the 1960s, the NFL was complacent in its dominance of the market for Professional Football fans, and had little incentive to expand that market. The AAFC was history, and the NFL had chosen not to capitalize on the boost it had received from the 1958 Colts-Giants sudden-death game. It was content with a 12-team league playing a 12-game schedule and featured "ball-control" football. When Texas oilmen Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams tried to purchase existing NFL franchises to move to Texas, or to establish new NFL franchises there, they were told that the conservative NFL was not interested. The result was that Hunt and Adams joined with six other businessmen to form the fourth American Football League (1960-1969). The league started out by signing half of the NFL's 1960 first-round draft choices including the Houston Oilers' Billy Cannon, and never slowed down. With future Hall of Fame Coaches Hank Stram (Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs) and Sid Gillman (LA/San Diego Chargers) as well as others like the Buffalo Bills' Lou Saban, the league offered a more risk-oriented on-field approach that appealed to fans. The AFL also actively recruited from predominantly black colleges and other small colleges, a source the NFL virtually ignored. This led to a higher percentage of minority players, as well as several firsts, such as the first black number one draft choice (Buck Buchanan, Chiefs); the first black middle linebacker, Willie Lanier, Chiefs; and the first modern black starting quarterback (Marlin Briscoe, Broncos).

The AFL was similar to the AAFC in that it offered innovations, like a return to the double round robin schedule introduced by the earlier league and had eight teams in two divisions like the AAFC. The AFL also introduced official scoreboard clocks, player names on jerseys, the two-point PAT conversion and important off-the field elements such as gate and TV revenue-sharing and national TV contracts. The AFL developed the first ever cooperative television plan for professional football, in which the proceeds of the contract were divided equally among member clubs. ABC and the AFL also introduced moving, on-field cameras (as opposed to the fixed midfield cameras of CBS and the NFL), and were the first to have players "miked" during broadcast games.

But the American Football League was different from the AAFC in its overall competitive balance. While the Browns-dominated AAFC had had the same champion every year, six out of the Original Eight AFL teams won at least one AFL championship, and all but one played in at least one post-season game. In addition to traditional eastern cities, it placed teams in Texas, in the West with the Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders and the Chargers, and eventually in the Midwest Kansas City and the deep South Miami. The league forced a merger with its rival, and made possible the Super Bowl. Although it lost the first two, by its demise it had beaten two NFL teams proclaimed as "the best in history" to win the final two World Championship games between two Professional Football league champions. The decade ended with the AFL retaining its original franchises, plus two expansion teams, and those ten teams represented the first time a major sports league had merged with another without losing a franchise.

National Football League ~ 1960-1969

After the sudden death of commissioner Bert Bell in 1959, Pete Rozelle was named his replacement.

The 1960 NFL had ten teams, only one south of Washington, DC and west of Chicago (the Los Angeles Rams), and none in the Southern United States, where college football still dominated. Though it had rebuffed efforts to move or expand, it immediately was put on the defensive by the new AFL, first causing the owners of the proposed Minnesota franchise in that league to renege for an NFL franchise to start in 1961, and immediately establishing the Cowboys in previously rejected Dallas, as competition to Hunt's Dallas Texans. Later, it impeded the AFL's planned expansion to Atlanta by offering that city's investor the Falcons' NFL franchise. Ironically, the Falcons' replacement in the AFL were the Miami Dolphins who have appered in seven Super Bowls, winning two, while the Falcons were losers in their one appearance. Star NFL players during this period included the Browns' fullback Jim Brown; the Green Bay Packers' quarterback Bart Starr, fullback Jim Taylor and halfback Paul Hornung; halfback Gale Sayers of the Chicago Bears; Cowboys receiver Bob Hayes; the Philadelphia Eagles' and the Redskins' Charley Taylor. The AFL's influence on the NFL was evident in several ways: in 1962, the NFL emulated the junior league by arranging its own league-wide national television contract, with CBS; and late in the 'sixties, the NFL began recognizing the wide talent pool the AFL had tapped in small and predominantly black colleges, and it, too, started scouting and signing from those schools.

Tired of raids on players and escalating salaries, in the mid-1960s, certain NFL owners secretly approached AFL principals, seeking a merger of the two leagues. The merger was agreed to in 1966, with a championship game to be played between the league titlists, and a merged schedule beginning with the 1970 season, when existing TV contracts could be re-worked. The decade was dominated in the NFL by the Packers, who won four NFL titles, and by the mid-to late 1960s their head coach Vince Lombardi had fashioned a team that, with its ball-control style, would overpower the NFL and carry on to defeat AFL opponents in the first two AFL-NFL Championship Games after the 1966 and 1967 Professional Football seasons. The NFL champions in 1968, the Colts, and in 1969 the Minnesota Vikings, were each in turn considered to be "the best team in the history of the NFL." By 1969, the NFL had grown to 16 teams, with four teams directly attributable to the existence of the AFL: the Vikings, Cowboys, and Falcons, added to compete with the AFL, and the New Orleans Saints, who were added as a reward to Louisiana federal legislators for their support of PL 89-800, which permitted the merger..

Minor Leagues ~ 1961 to 1973

Concurrently with the AFL and NFL rivalry, several minor leagues thrived in this era as well. The United Football League lasted from 1961 to 1964 and was concentrated in the midwest. However, in 1962 it was quickly eclipsed by the Atlantic Coast Football League, which was run by the same people (the Rosentover family) as the previous American Association of the 1930s. When the UFL folded, and the Newark Bears of the ACFL unsuccessfully applied to join the AFL, two new leagues formed: the Professional Football League of America (PFLA), which ran from 1965 to 1967, and the more prominent Continental Football League (ContFL), which ran from 1965 to 1969. The ACFL lost three of its best teams to the ContFL, but survived. The ContFL and ACFL had different strategies: the ContFL had major-league aspirations, while the ACFL was happy as a developmental league and (like previous leagues run by the Rosentovers) allowed its teams to become farm teams to the AFL and NFL teams (for instance, the Hartford Knights were a farm team to the AFL's Buffalo Bills). The ContFL arguably had better talent that went on to NFL and CFL stardom (Ken Stabler, Don Jonas, and Sam Wyche), but folded after 1969, and plans to take on the CFL head-to-head were abandoned. The ACFL also produced some significant talent (e.g. Marvin Hubbard) and lasted longer, through 1971, with a return season in 1973. The attempted major World Football League sapped the ACFL of most of its talent, and forced it to fold prior to the 1974 season.

National Football League ~ 1970-1975

In 1970, the NFL realigned into two conferences, with the Browns, Steelers and Colts joining the ten former American Football League teams in the American Football Conference and the remaining NFL teams forming the National Football Conference. The AFL's official scoreboard clock and jersey-back player names were adopted by the merged league, but the two-point PAT conversion was not adopted until 1994.

The AFL-NFL merger also led to the creation of a weekly showcase game: Monday Night Football. Originally broadcast on ABC beginning with the 1970 season, it moved to ESPN in 2006.

All American Football League records and statistics were accepted by the merged league as equivalent to pre-merger NFL records and statistics. Thus, a yard gained in the AFL in 1960 is as valid as a yard gained in the NFL in 1960. AFL All-Star Game selections and appearances are equivalent to NFL 'Pro Bowl' choices. They are equivalent, but, however, not identical, and this has caused errors in reporting by some sources. For example, John Hadl is listed in most on-line records as having been selected for the 1970 Pro Bowl, played after the 1969 Professional Football season. However, in 1970, there were both an NFL Pro Bowl and an AFL All-Star Game. Hadl, of the San Diego Chargers was MVP of the January 1970 AFL All-Star Game. The January 1970 NFL Pro Bowl was a different game, featuring only NFL players. Similar errors are made when players like the Oakland Raiders' Jim Otto are cited as having "fifteen years of NFL experience." In fact, Otto had ten years of AFL experience and five years of NFL experience, or fifteen years of Professional Football experience.

In 1974, the rival World Football League successfully lured several NFL stars to its upstart league, but collapsed midway through the 1975 season due to financial problems. The Memphis Southmen made an unsuccessful bid to join the NFL, even going as far as to file a lawsuit to attempt to force it, and the Birmingham Vulcans also raised ticket funds to attempt to do the same, but never got as far as Memphis. Neither city has an NFL franchise.

Also in 1974, the NFL, after over four decades of having its goal posts on the goal line (as Canadian football does), finally moved its goalposts back to the end line, as is the norm in high school and college football in the United States.

National Football League ~ 1976-1994

In 1976, the NFL added the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the NFL.

The NFL began experiencing problems in the 1980s. Labor stoppages in 1982 (which led to the NFL season being cut and half) and 1987 (resulting in the league using replacement players for three games), combined with Al Davis winning a lawsuit to allow his team, the Raiders, to move from Oakland to Los Angeles against league wishes, forced NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle into retirement. Paul Tagliabue was named his replacement.

The NFL backed the minor-league World League of American Football, a league based in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, which ran for two seasons. After its suspension, two American teams jumped to the Canadian Football League, though only one (the Sacramento franchise) would play in that league.

United States Football League ~ 1983-1985

The United States Football League was the most significant challenger to the NFL since the American Football League, and the last of any significance to date. The USFL's gimmick was to avoid direct head-to-head competition with the NFL and college ball, and play in the spring. Originally intended as a minor league, this ended when several deep pocketed owners began luring top talent such as Herschel Walker to the USFL with high salaries.

The groundwork for what eventually led to the demise of the USFL was set mainly by Donald Trump, owner of the New Jersey Generals and a vocal opponent of the league's spring football concept, who led a coalition that sought to take the NFL on head-to-head with a fall schedule and later force a merger. This was a major problem for several teams, who were ill-prepared to face the NFL juggernaut, and fans quickly walked away from these lame-duck franchises when it became clear the USFL was done with spring football. The USFL pinned its hopes on an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL; though the USFL won the case, it was a Pyrrhic victory, as the jury only awarded damages of US$3.

The USFL's biggest legacy was the fact that it helped develop some of the best quarterbacks in professional football during the 1990s. Many members of the prolific draft classes of 1983 through 1985 played in the USFL and went on to have strong careers in the NFL and CFL, including Steve Young, Jim Kelly and Doug Flutie.

Arena Football ~ 1987-present

Immediately after the USFL suspended operations in 1986, USFL executive James F. "Jim" Foster began work on a brand new variant of football. Known as "arena football," the sport was played on a much shorter 50-yard field and was built heavily on a high-scoring offensive game. After two test games, he launched a professional league, the Arena Football League, in 1987. The Arena Football League played for 22 seasons, from 1987 to 2008, before going bankrupt in 2009. The AFL also had a minor league, AF2, which ran for 10 seasons, from 2000 to 2009, before disbanding. Many of the AFL and AF2 teams broke from their respective leagues in 2009 to form Arena Football 1, which is set to begin play in 2010.

The success of arena football led to a revival of interest in indoor football, particularly beginning in the late 1990s. As of 2009, two other national leagues (the American Indoor Football Association and Indoor Football League) and three regional leagues play professional indoor football.

National Football League ~ 1995–2001

The USFL's impact was not limited to players, however. The USFL apparently established Oakland, Baltimore, Jacksonville and Arizona as viable markets for professional football. As such, the St. Louis Cardinals moved to Phoenix, Arizona to become the Arizona Cardinals in 1988.

In 1993, the NFL began exploring expansion, eying one former NFL market (St. Louis), three USFL markets (Memphis, Baltimore, Jacksonville) and one former World Football League market (Carolina). The "Carolina Cougars" (later renamed Carolina Panthers) and Jacksonville Jaguars received franchises to begin play in 1995. At the same time, Al Davis, frustrated with Los Angeles, moved back to Oakland (another former USFL market), and Georgia Frontiere concurrently moved her Rams franchise to St. Louis, leaving Los Angeles with no NFL franchises for the 1995 season. Memphis did not receive a permanent franchise, and their proposal moved to the CFL, where it played for one year. Tennessee, however, did not end up empty-handed; the Houston Oilers moved to Nashville beginning in 1997, becoming the Tennessee Titans.

It was not until after the 1995 season, after Baltimore's CFL team won the Grey Cup, that Baltimore got a second look, this time from Art Modell, who took the core of his Cleveland Browns team to Baltimore to found the expansion Baltimore Ravens. The effort effectively killed the CFL's American expansion. The Browns returned, restocked with new players and with new ownership, in 1999.

Also borrowed from the USFL was the two-point conversion, which the NFL adopted in 1994.

Strained relations between the NFL and its players' union quieted down significantly in the 1990s, and the development of free agency as well as a salary cap led to peaceful relations between the two entities for over a decade. This was helped by new television contracts: in 1994, Fox Broadcasting Company set the tone for broadcast rights to the NFL when it outbid CBS for the right to air NFC games with an unheard-of bid of US$395,000,000. This brought total broadcast rights fees for the league to over US$1,000,000,000. In 1998, when CBS outbid NBC for the rights to the AFC, the total rights fees doubled to over US$2,000,000,000. This is in addition to the rights fee for NFL Sunday Ticket, a package offered exclusively to the DirecTV satellite television service, that began in the mid-1990s.

National Football League ~ 2002-2009

The Houston Texans were added to the league in 2002 to replace the Oilers, bringing the league to an even 32 teams.

Also during this era, the league began expanding its influence overseas. Fútbol Americano, a one-off game in Mexico City, was the first regular-season game held outside the United States in 2005; it was followed by the NFL International Series, an annual game held in London on the last week of October since 2007. In an unrelated move, the Buffalo Bills began their Bills Toronto Series, playing an annual December game in Canada, in 2008. The Toronto series will run through 2012.

In 2003, the NFL launched its own in-house network, NFL Network. Beginning in 2006, at the end of the previous broadcast contract, the NFL launched an eight-game late season package specifically for the network. The 2006 television contract expanded total broadcast rights to over US$3,000,000,000.

United Football League ~ 2009

The United Football League played its inaugural season with 4 teams in 4 cities. The United Football League marked the first professional fall league other than the National Football League to play in the United States since the World Football League in the mid 1970's. All UFL games aired on Versus and HDnet, every game was also webcast.

Canadian Professional Football history

Canadian football was, prior to the 1950s, dominated by three amateur organizations: the Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU), the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union (IRFU), and the Western Interprovincial Football Union (WIFU). By 1954, the IRFU and WIFU had gone professional, and in that year the ORFU dropped out of competition for the decades-old Grey Cup, the championship of Canadian football. This is generally recognized as the moment that began the modern era of Canadian professional football. The WIFU and IRFU formalized an agreement creating the Canadian Football League in 1958, though inter-divisional play did not happen until 1961.

The CFL has been, at various times in its history, competitive with the NFL in terms of being able to acquire talent, though the league's self-imposed rule changes have hampered that in recent years (for instance, the marquee player exemption to the salary cap that once allowed CFL teams to sign one top-level player is no longer there, and the league has banned signing suspended NFL players). It has not been competitive on a team level with the NFL, as evidenced by the fact that in a series of interleague matchups between the IRFU and the NFL in the 1950s and 1960s, the NFL won all six matches. (The Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the best team in the IRFU at the time, did win one game against an American pro team in 1961, but it was an American Football League team, not an NFL team.)

The league attempted an American expansion in 1993, using a mix of a former World League team (Sacramento/San Antonio), a rejected proposed NFL franchise (Memphis), a spin-off of a Canadian team (Shreveport), and new expansion teams (Baltimore, Birmingham, Las Vegas), mostly based in the southern and western United States. Of the teams, only the Baltimore Stallions were both financially and competitively successful, and they were retconned into the Montreal Alouettes in 1996, while all the other American teams folded.



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