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The shaky new league
Tex Maule
January 25, 1960
Texan millions are behind the American Football League but may not keep it going for long
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January 25, 1960

The Shaky New League

Texan millions are behind the American Football League but may not keep it going for long

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OWNER AND MGR.: Kenneth S. (Bud) Adams Jr. COACH: Lou Rymkus

Jeppesen Stadium (38,000)

51, including Jack Lee (Cincinnati), Billy Cannon (LSU), Bob White (Ohio State)


OWNERS: Howsam Family. MGR.: Dean Griffith COACH: Frank Filchock

Bears Stadium (30,000)

13, including Bob Stransky (Canadian football), Bob Dougherty (LA Rams)


OWNERS: Barron & Conrad Hilton, Pat J. Frawley. MGR.: Frank Leahy. COACH: Sid Gillman

Los Angeles Coliseum or Rose Bowl (100,000)

37, including Ron Mix (USC), Ron Waller (LA Rams), Charlie Flowers (Mississippi)


OWNER: Lamar Hunt. MGR.: Don Rossi. COACH: Hank Stram

Cotton Bowl (75,504)

50, including Jack Spikes (TCU), Johnny Robinson (LSU), Chris Burford (Stanford)


OWNER: Ralph C. Wilson Jr. MGR.: Dick Gallagher. COACH: Buster Ramsey

Civic Stadium (38,000)

35, including Richie Lucas (Penn St.), Harold Olson (Clemson), Billy Kinnard (Cleveland Browns)

BOSTON (to be named)

OWNERS: William H. Sullivan Jr., plus nine not named. MGR.: Ed McKeever. COACH: To be named

Not decided

7, including Ger Schwedes (Syracuse), Bob Yates (Syracuse), Tom Greene (Holy Cross)


OWNERS: Harry Wismer, Joseph P. Arcuni. MGR.: Steve Sebo. COACH: Sammy Baugh

Polo Grounds (48,000)

40, including Blanche Mar-tin(Mich. St.), Bob Colburn (Bowling Green), Frank Kremblas (Ohio St.)

For two good reasons, there will be a second professional football league in operation this year. One reason is fairly obvious: the National Football League in 1959 drew 3,140,409 paying customers, setting an attendance record for the eighth consecutive season, and amassed profits which have naturally stirred envy. The less obvious reason has to do with the inability of two rich young Texans to buy a controlling interest in the Chicago Cardinals, the only really anemic franchise in the NFL.

The Texans are Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams. Hunt, 27, is the son of H. L. Hunt, who is one of the four or five richest men in the U.S. K. S. (Bud) Adams Jr., 37, is the son of the chairman of the board of the giant Phillips Petroleum Co. and, as owner of the Ada Oil Co., is as well heeled as a Texas boot. Both men have almost exactly the same background, and are good friends. Nevertheless, it would be difficult to imagine two more disparate personalities.

Hunt, owner of the Dallas franchise in the American Football League, is a quiet man. He says very little, but he means what he says. He is so unlike the popular conception of a brash Texas zillionaire that he could double for TV's Wally Cox in his Mr. Peepers characterization. He played what he calls "the varsity bench" on the Southern Methodist football team while taking a degree in geology. Since he played behind three ends who later made pro teams, the fact that he hung on as an overshadowed substitute is a tribute to his tenacity rather than a reflection on his ability.

Hunt Senior wanted his boy to know the value of a dollar. In college, Lamar Hunt had no more spending money than most other students. At one point, his father gave him a vacant lot and told him to put a business on it to finance his college education. Lamar cleaned and graded the lot himself, then put up a baseball batting game which promptly failed. Once he came to football practice wearing his mother's raincoat because his own was worn out. He now has something like $50 million in his own name, and he is not throwing any of it away. He went to lunch the other day in a summer suit, trudging three blocks through a cold rain. "I've been on a diet," he explained. "My winter suits don't fit me any more."

Bud Adams, who owns the Houston Oilers in the new league, is a pudgy young man who has not been on a diet, but who obviously would have a tailor standing by to renew his wardrobe pound by pound if he did decide to diet. He inhabits one of the biggest offices in a business known for offices the size of football fields. He is as voluble as Hunt is quiet; indeed, he is so quick on the drawl that he has been called the fastest mouth in Texas. His Ada Oil Co. services some 600 stations. Adams played football in prep school and at the University of Kansas, where he was a blocking back during the two years he attended college.

It is primarily upon the cash, character and acuity of Hunt and Adams that the American Football League must rest its hopes of survival. Hunt was the prime mover in the organization of the league and he found a willing ally in Adams. They got together in February after each had failed to buy the Cardinals. Adams, by his own admission, may have come closest to owning the team.

"We valued the club at a million and a half bucks," Adams said the other day. He was sitting in his vast office behind a black desk the size of a billiard table, dressed in a blue Ivy League suit—and a red vest, blue shirt with a white collar and a blue tie. "One per cent of a million and a half is...what? Let's see...15 thousand. We came that close. In a hotel in Miami. I was willing to settle for 50% of the club, but Violet Wolfner [the Cardinals' owner] didn't want to sell more than 49% and the deal fell through."

When negotiations collapsed, the American Football League was born. "Lamar came through Houston and dropped in to see me," Adams said. "I didn't know him but we had dinner together and in the course of the conversation we reminisced about trying to buy the Cardinals. Just before he left for the airport I told Lamar, 'Maybe we ought to start our own league.' The next time I saw him, maybe three months later, he had lined up four other franchises besides his own hometown Dallas club and he asked me if I wanted in. I said, 'Hell, yes!' "

Hunt had approached the other franchise owners through personal contacts and through the good offices of Harry Wismer. Wismer, who owns 25% of the Washington Redskins and who for several years has fought a running battle over operation of the club with Redskin Owner George Preston Marshall, was ripe for a proposition to start a new league. Wismer, of course, has been one of the top sports announcers for some 20-odd years, and has had interests in professional football nearly as long.

Wismer formed the New York Titans with backing from two Midland, Texas oilmen and from Joseph Arcuni, a former intercollegiate tennis player who now owns a large textile business in New York. It was Wismer who brought in Ralph C. Wilson Jr., who now holds the Buffalo franchise. Wilson is a 41-year-old Detroiter who owns a small interest in the Detroit Lions. His father made a fortune hauling automobiles, and Wilson has a considerable chunk of that fortune along with his own successful insurance business. When he heard of the new league, he called Wismer and said, "Count me in. I'll take a franchise anywhere you suggest."

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