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.

Championship gamesEdit


1965 seasonEdit

The formation of the Continental Football League (ContFL) was announced on February 6, 1965. The league was primarily formed by minor-league teams that had played in the United and Atlantic Coast football leagues.[3]

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 August 14, 1965. Before the season began, the Springfield, Massachusetts, franchise moved to Norfolk, Virginia. 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 1960s and 1970s.

1966 seasonEdit

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. However, it was able to get American Broadcasting Company to broadcast the championship game-- for a mere $500 rights fee.[4]

The Brooklyn Dodgers, although under the general managership of the baseball Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson,[5] 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.

The league also established farm team relationships with semi-pro clubs (for instance, the Dodgers affiliated with the Liberty Football Conference's Long Island Jets in 1966).[6]

1967 seasonEdit



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, Oregon, 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 league's breakthrough television contract with the upstart United Network was another: the network ended up folding prior to the 1967 season, leaving the ContFL without a television partner yet again.[4][7][8]

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 seasonEdit

In February 1968, the ContFL merged with the Professional Football League of America (PFLA), in order to expand into the midwestern United States.[9] 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 seasonEdit

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, Oregon

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 5,700 spectators per game (the top attended team, Norfolk, had 13,000), 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 an interleague exhibition between the ContFL champion Capitols and the Canadian Football League champion Ottawa Rough Riders had been laid, but the Rough Riders backed out.

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.

After the league disbanded, Indianapolis, Jersey, Norfolk and Orlando moved to the Atlantic Coast Football League. All four franchises folded in 1971.

References Edit

  1. "A Roundup Of The Sports Information Of The Week". Sports Illustrated. December 12, 1966. Retrieved January 8, 2011. "Jamie Caleb kicked a 10-yard field goal after 9:15 of sudden-death overtime to give the PHILADELPHIA BULLDOGS a 20-17 victory over the Orlando Panthers in the league's championship game."
  2. "Pro Football On A Shoestring". Sports Illustrated. December 15, 1968. Retrieved January 8, 2011.
  3. "A Roundup Of The Sports Information Of The Week". Sports Illustrated. February 15, 1965. Retrieved January 8, 2011. "MILEPOSTS—LAUNCHED: The Continental League, a 10-team professional football league to be made up mostly of bits and pieces from the Atlantic Coast and United (now defunct) Football Leagues."
  4. 4.0 4.1
  5. "A Roundup Of The Sports Information Of The Week". Sports Illustrated. May 9, 1966. Retrieved January 8, 2011. "HIRED: JACKIE ROBINSON, 47, former Brooklyn Dodger baseball star, as general manager of the new Brooklyn Dodger professional football team of the Continental League."
  7. "The Fourth Steps Forth". Sports Illustrated. August 15, 1966. Retrieved January 8, 2011.
  8. "New TV Chain Gets Continental League". Fresno Bee. Associated Press. November 23, 1966.
  9. "Continental, Professional Leagues Join". Chicago Tribune: p. C2. February 5, 1968.

See alsoEdit

External links Edit

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