American Football League
The American Football League (AFL) was a major American Professional Football league that operated from 1960 until 1969, when it merged with the National Football League (NFL). The upstart AFL operated in direct competition with the more established NFL throughout its existence.
The AFL was created by a number of owners who had been refused NFL expansion franchises or had minor shares of NFL franchises. The AFL's original lineup saw an Eastern division of the New York Titans, Boston Patriots, Buffalo Bills and the Houston Oilers along with a Western division of the Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, and Dallas Texans. The league first gained attention by signing 75% of the NFL's first-round draft choices in 1960, including Houston's successful signing of All-American Billy Cannon.
While the first years of the AFL saw uneven competition and low attendance, the league was buttressed by a generous television contract with ABC that broadcast the more offense oriented football league nationwide. Continuing to attract top talent from colleges and the NFL by the mid-1960s, as well as successful franchise shifts to San Diego (from LA) and Kansas City (from Dallas), the AFL established a dedicated following. The transformation of the lowly Titans into the New York Jets under new ownership further solidified the league's reputation amongst the major media.
As fierce competition made player salaries skyrocket in both leagues, especially after a series of "raids," the leagues agreed to a merger in 1966. Among the conditions was a common draft and a championship game played between the two league champions, which would eventually become the Super Bowl.
The AFL and NFL operated as separate leagues until 1970, with separate regular season and playoff schedules except for the championship game. During this time the AFL added the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals. After losses by Kansas City and Oakland in the first two AFL-NFL Championship Games to the Green Bay Packers, the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowls III and IV, cementing the league's claim to being an equal to the NFL.
In 1970, the AFL was absorbed into the NFL, and the ten AFL franchises along with the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers became the American Football Conference.
Read more about American Football League: League History, AFL 50th Anniversary Celebration, AFL Franchises, AFL Playoffs, AFL Championship Games, AFL All-Star Games, All-Time AFL Team, AFL Records, Players, Coaches, and Contributors
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