The Continental Football League (COFL) was a professional American football league that operated in North America from 1965 through 1969. It was established following the collapse of the original United Football League, and hoped to become the major force in professional football outside 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 (but never played a single game).
Four Continental Football League contributors are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the most of any league not considered a major league: coach Bill Walsh, quarterback Ken Stabler, Doak Walker and Steve Van Buren (the last two of whom were inducted as players but were coaches in this league). Sam Wyche, Bob Kuechenberg, Garo Yepremian and Otis Sistrunk were among the other players and coaches who would later gain fame in the NFL, while a few others, such as Don Jonas and Tom Wilkinson, would emerge as stars in the Canadian Football League.
|Continental Football League|
|No. of teams||22|
|Most titles||Orlando Panthers (2)|
The formation of the Continental Football League (CFL) was announced on February 6, 1965. The league was primarily formed by minor-league teams that had played in the United Football League and Atlantic Coast Football League.
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, which was not part of the NFL during the regular season at that time.
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 CFL 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.
In 1966, the league began abandoning the "league autonomy" posture by striving to establish working relationships with NFL and AFL clubs. Commissioner Chandler, charging that the league was altering the terms under which he had accepted the position, resigned on January 20, 1966. He was replaced by CFL Secretary Sol Rosen, owner of the Newark Bears. Rosen sold the Bears to Tom Granatell, who promptly moved the team to Orlando.
The league engaged in some unsuccessful preseason negotiations with the Empire Sports Network to obtain a television broadcasting agreement. However, it was able to get ABC to broadcast the championship game on the Wide World of Sports; ABC paid the league $500 for the rights to the game.
The Brooklyn Dodgers, although under the general managership of baseball Dodgers player Jackie Robinson, failed to attract at the gate. Part of the problem was that they were playing nowhere near Brooklyn: their home games were at Downing Stadium on Randall's Island.
Evidently, the Dodgers had trouble securing home dates at Downing; a season-ticket application showed only five home games in a fourteen-game schedule. In any event, small crowds (only 29,500 combined for four games, including 12,000 for an exhibition contest) caused the franchise to become a league-operated "road club" in October; one home game against Hartford was moved to Connecticut, and their final "home" contest was shifted to Memorial Stadium in Mount Vernon, New York.
The CFL 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, California and Victoria, B.C., left the league after the season. The Toronto Rifles actually folded midseason, under unusual circumstances: the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League raided the Rifles roster and signed away the Rifles head coach, starting quarterback and starting running back, leaving the team unable to continue.
The remnants of the Brooklyn Dodgers were sold to Frank Hurn, who moved the team to Akron, Ohio as the Akron Vulcans. Hurn used only $2,000 of his own money and $50,000 of Chicago Outfit funding to buy the team and swindled numerous businessmen into providing lavish benefits for his team for which he would never pay. Under Hurn, the team lost $100,000 after just three weeks of play, forcing his big-budget head coaches, Doak Walker and Lou Rymkus, to front their own money to keep the team afloat; Hurn never paid the either the coaches or players for their services, and the Wheeling Ironmen ended up paying the Vulcans' salaries for what would be the Vulcans' fourth and final game in order to avoid a strike. Hurn would later amass a long track record of criminal activity after his time in Akron.
Such instability marked the season for the CFL, 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 it was supposed to broadcast, leaving the CFL without a television partner yet again.
In February 1968, the CFL merged with 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 CFL commissioner. Hill established a weekly payroll ceiling of $200 per player and $5,000 per team.
Ken Stabler played two games for the Spokane Shockers in 1968. Stabler later became the Continental league's first Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee as a player through his work with the Oakland Raiders of the NFL.
The Michigan Arrows began their season with a soccer-style kicker named Garo Yepremian, who had played the previous season with the Detroit Lions but had found himself out of work because of military service. Yepremian later found Super Bowl fame in the NFL as a member of the Miami Dolphins.
The Orange County Ramblers were featured in the 1968 film Skidoo, in a credited role as stand-ins for a nude Green Bay Packers team. The Ramblers offense is seen, from behind, wearing nothing but helmets, during a scene in which a security guard is hallucinating due to the effects of LSD.
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 (whose owner, Red McCombs, would later buy the NFL's Minnesota Vikings). Midway through the season, the Hawaii franchise moved to Portland, Oregon.
The CFL entered the 1969 season with high hopes. That optimism was exemplified by the Orlando Panthers' bidding for the services of the 1968 Heisman Trophy winner, halfback O.J. Simpson of the University of Southern California (USC). The Panthers made an offer of $400,000 (nearly double the entire team's salary) for Simpson to play for the Panthers if his negotiations with the Buffalo Bills fell through; they did not, and Simpson signed with Buffalo for the 1969 season.
But CFL 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 CFL champion Capitols and the Canadian Football League champion Ottawa Rough Riders had been laid, but the Rough Riders backed out.
The Alabama Hawks played a pre-season game against the NFL's Atlanta Falcons rookies, losing 55–0.
The Indianapolis Capitols featured a rookie quarterback named Johnnie Walton during the 1969 season. Walton would become a regular in second-tier professional football; after several failed attempts to get onto an NFL roster in the early 1970s, Walton got his break in the World Football League, starting for the San Antonio Wings in 1975. Walton would spend the 1976–79 seasons as an NFL backup, then came out of retirement in 1983 to lead the Boston Breakers of the United States Football League.
CFL's alum Don Jonas did not reach the NFL, but instead chose to play in Canada after the 1969 season. As Orlando Panthers quarterback, he played four seasons before joining the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League (CFL). Jonas led Orlando to the 1967 and 1968 CFL 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 CFL semifinal game in 1969. Don was inducted into the American Football Association's Semi Pro Hall of Fame in 1983.
Obert "Butch" Logan, a receiver, defensive back and player-coach, played his penultimate season in professional football with the Continental league's San Antonio Toros. Logan is notable for being the last professional football player to wear the singular jersey number zero (two others, Ken Burrough and Jim Otto, would wear a double zero, 00, into the 1970s).
A number of franchises folded or defected during and after the conclusion of the 1969 season, making the end of the COFL all but inevitable.
On March 10, 1970, COFL commissioner James Dunn announced his resignation effective the end of that month. No replacement was ever found, and there was never any announcement of the league's cessation.
|Season||Date||Winning Team||Score||Losing Team||MVP||Venue||Attendance|
|1965||November 28, 1965||Charleston Rockets||24–7||Toronto Rifles||n/a||Laidley Field||7,100|
|1966||December 4, 1966||Philadelphia Bulldogs||10–3 (OT)||Orlando Panthers||n/a||Temple Stadium||5,226|
|1967||December 10, 1967||Orlando Panthers||38-14||Orange County Ramblers||n/a||Anaheim Stadium||8,730|
|1968||November 30, 1968||Orlando Panthers||51–10||Orange County Ramblers||n/a||Tangerine Bowl||10,134|
|1969||December 13, 1969||Indianapolis Capitols||44-38 (OT)||San Antonio Toros||n/a||Bush Stadium||7,019|
HIRED: JACKIE ROBINSON, 47, former Brooklyn Dodger baseball star, as general manager of the new Brooklyn Dodger professional football team of the Continental League.
The 1965 CFL season was the first season of the Continental Football League (CFL). The CFL entered its inaugural season with franchises in Philadelphia, Springfield, Massachusetts, Newark, New Jersey, Toronto, Wheeling, West Virginia, Richmond, Virginia, Charleston, West Virginia, Hartford, Connecticut, Providence, Rhode Island, and Fort Wayne, Indiana.Bob Gaiters
Robert James Gaiters (born February 26, 1938) is an American former National Football League player.
Gaiters attended Santa Ana Junior College, and transferred to New Mexico State University in 1959. He was a star player on its Aggies football team. A fast tailback weighing over two hundred pounds, Gaiters helped lead the Aggies during their undefeated season in 1960, and claimed the collegiate national championships in rushing and scoring.He was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 1961 American Football League Draft and by the New York Giants in the 1961 NFL Draft. He played two seasons in the NFL, spending time with the Giants and San Francisco 49ers. Gaiters spent the 1963 season with the Broncos of the AFL. He then played for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League in 1964.Gaiters finished his career in the Continental Football League where he played for the Newark Bears in 1965, the Hartford Charter Oaks in 1966 and the Orange County Ramblers in 1967.Brooklyn Dodgers (Continental Football League)
The Brooklyn Dodgers were a football team that played one season in the minor Continental Football League in 1966. They were not related to the former National Football League or All-America Football Conference clubs of that name.Charlie Brandon
Charlie Brandon is a former award-winning, all-star and Grey Cup champion lineman in the Canadian Football League playing 7 seasons with the Ottawa Rough Riders.A graduate of Shaw University, Brandon started his career playing one game for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1967. He then spent 3 seasons in the Continental Football League playing for the semi-pro Norfolk Neptunes. He returned to Canada and began a 7-year stay in Ottawa, where he was a part of the feared "Capital Punishment" defensive unit. He won two Grey Cups and in his final season switched to offensive guard, and was an all-star. He was the Grey Cup Most Valuable Player in 1973.City Stadium (Richmond)
City Stadium is a sports stadium in Richmond, Virginia. It is owned by the City of Richmond and is located south of the Carytown district off the Downtown Expressway. The stadium was built in 1929 and seats approximately 22,000 people. It has been used by the Richmond Kickers of the United Soccer League since 1995.The stadium was used by the University of Richmond for American football from 1929 to 2009. The University of Richmond's final home football game at the stadium was played on December 5, 2009 against Appalachian State University in the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
From 1964 through 1967, the stadium was home to the Richmond Rebels of the Atlantic Coast Football League and the Continental Football League. The Rebels left the Continental Football League in 1967 to become the Richmond Mustangs of the United American Football League.University of Richmond Stadium served as the site of the NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Championship from 1995 to 1998, in which it broke an attendance record when 22,512 visited a soccer match at the venue, between the St. Louis Billikens and SIU Edwardsville. For a time in the mid-2000s, the stadium also hosted Virginia's high school football state championship games.Don Jonas
Donald Walter Jonas (born December 3, 1938) is a former American football player and coach. Jonas played in the American minor leagues (semi-pro) and the Canadian Football League. He was also the first head coach of the UCF Knights (1979–1981).George Haffner
George Haffner is a former American football player and coach.
Born in Chicago, Haffner prepped at football powerhouse Mount Carmel High School. While at the University of Notre Dame in 1960, Haffner was awarded the starting quarterback job by head coach Joe Kuharich. His first game was an impressive 21–17 victory over California. However, the team finished the season with 2–8 record, and after losing the starting job to Daryle Lamonica, Haffner transferred to McNeese State University.
Following his graduation, Haffner was selected by the Baltimore Colts with the final pick in the 1965 NFL Draft. His professional career ended with the Norfolk Neptunes of the Continental Football League, after which he returned to the college ranks as a coach.
Haffner spent 31 years on various coaching staffs at NCAA Division I schools including 22 years as an offensive coordinator under such renowned head coaches as Bobby Bowden, Johnny Majors and Vince Dooley. While at the University of Georgia, he won a national championship and three conference championships and coached Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker. During his career, he coached at Iowa State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Florida State University, Texas A&M University, Georgia, Louisiana State University (LSU), the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), and the University of Mary Hardin–Baylor. He retired as the offensive coordinator Mary Hardin–Baylor on February 1, 2006.Hartford Charter Oaks
The Hartford Charter Oaks were a professional American football team based in Hartford, Connecticut. They began play in 1964 as a member of the Atlantic Coast Football League, replacing the Ansonia Black Knights. In 1965 the Charter Oaks were one of several ACFL franchises to join the new Continental Football League, where they finished in last place in their division.After cancelling a few games in 1968 due to financial difficulty, the Charter Oaks announced they were ceasing operations in March 1968. The team cited losses of approximately $250,000. The Atlantic Coast Football League immediately established the Hartford Knights to replace the Charter Oaks in the market, and by at least one player's account (that of eventual Pro Bowl fullback Marv Hubbard), the Knights were still known as the Charter Oaks for at least their first season. The Knights would play for the next six seasons, winning the ACFL title in 1968, appearing in but losing the title games every year from 1969 to 1971, and winning the Seaboard Football League in 1972.Indianapolis Capitols
The Indianapolis Capitols were a professional American football team based in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Capitols started play in 1968 as members of the Continental Football League and played their home games at Bush Stadium. The team won the CFL championship in 1969, the final season of the league. On April 4, 1970, with the future of the CFL uncertain, the Capitols moved to the rival Atlantic Coast Football League.After just one season in the ACFL, Indianapolis announced that it was ceasing operations due to a lack of fan support and adequate playing facilities.A reconstituted version of the Indianapolis Capitols started play in the Midwest Football League in 1972.Jeff Van Note
Jeffrey Aloysius Van Note (born February 7, 1946) is a former American football center who played for the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League (NFL) during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. He played college football for the University of Kentucky. The Atlanta Falcons picked him in the eleventh round of the 1969 NFL Draft.Lee Grosscup
Clyde Lee Edward Grosscup (born December 27, 1936) is a former American football player and broadcaster.List of Continental Football League teams
The Continental Football League was an American football league that operated in North America from 1965 through 1969. The league was primarily formed by minor-league teams that had played in the United and Atlantic Coast football leagues. In February 1968, the ContFL merged with the Professional Football League of America (PFLA), in order to expand into the midwestern United States. In 1969, 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.Mack Reynolds (American football)
Mack Charles "M.C." Reynolds (February 11, 1935 – September 8, 1991) was an American football quarterback in the National Football League for the Chicago Cardinals and the Washington Redskins. Reynolds also played in the American Football League for the Buffalo Bills and the Oakland Raiders. In five seasons, he played 39 games and had 2,932 passing yards.Reynolds played college football at Louisiana State University.Montreal Beavers
The Montreal Beavers were a professional American football team based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The franchise began as the Indianapolis Warriors of the United Football League in 1961, where they played for four seasons. During that time the Warriors made the UFL playoffs three times, and advanced to the league championship in 1964. The team moved to Fort Wayne in January 1965, and became a charter member of the Continental Football League when it was formed the next month.
Unable to find financial success in Indiana, team owner Al Savill sold the Warriors to a group from Montreal led by construction magnate, and former Montreal Alouette, Johnny Newman in March 1966. Led by former South Carolina head coach Marvin Bass, the Beavers finished with a 7-7 record in 1966 and a 4-8 mark in 1967. The team denied rumors of a sale in early 1968, but nevertheless folded before the season began.Orange/Newark Tornadoes
The Orange Tornadoes and Newark Tornadoes were two manifestations of a long-lived professional American football franchise that existed in some form from 1887 to 1941 and from 1958 to 1970, having played in the National Football League from 1929 to 1930, the American Association from 1936 to 1941, the Atlantic Coast Football League from 1963 to 1964 and 1970, and the Continental Football League from 1965 to 1969. The team was based for most of its history in Orange, New Jersey, with many of its later years in Newark. Its last five seasons of existence were as the Orlando Panthers, when the team was based in Orlando, Florida. The NFL franchise was sold back to the league in October 1930. The team had four head coaches in its two years in the NFL – Jack Depler in Orange, and Jack Fish, Al McGall and Andy Salata in Newark.Orange County Ramblers
The Orange County Ramblers were a professional football team that competed in the Continental Football League from 1967 to 1968. The Ramblers played their home games in Santa Ana, California and Anaheim, California. The team was coached both seasons by Homer Beatty, who had won a small college national title at Santa Ana College in 1962.Otis Sistrunk
Otis Sistrunk (born September 18, 1946 in Columbus, Georgia) is a former professional football player who played seven seasons as a defensive lineman, from 1972 to 1978. He played his entire National Football League (NFL) career with the Oakland Raiders. Sistrunk later became a professional wrestler in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA).Richmond Rebels (Continental Football League)
The Richmond Rebels were a professional American football team based in Richmond, Virginia. They began play in 1964 as a member of the Atlantic Coast Football League. The Rebels became a charter member of the Continental Football League in 1965. The team consistently lost money for its owners, so after the 1966 CFL season the franchise was first put up for sale and then returned to the league. When new ownership could not be found the team's players were offered in a dispersal draft, putting an end to the franchise.Toronto Rifles
The Toronto Rifles were a minor-league professional American football team active between 1964 and 1967. It was based in Toronto, Ontario. The team's home fields were Maple Leaf Stadium (1965) and Varsity Stadium from 1966 to 1967. The team was owned by Montreal businessman Johnny Newman.
As the Quebec Rifles, the team was the first professional American football team to be based in Canada. It played the 1964 season in Montreal, Quebec in the original United Football League. When the Continental Football League (COFL) was established for the 1965 season with former UFL teams, the Quebec Rifles were admitted and transferred to Toronto to become the Toronto Rifles due to the lack of a suitable facility in Montreal. The Rifles competed in the Continental League from 1965–67, but the owners pulled out in the middle of their final season after having lost a reported $400,000 in their final full season. The league took over the club and planned to have it play all of its games on the road, but several weeks later the team folded after having played only four games.The team finished second in the league in 1965, losing to the Charleston Rockets in the league championship. In 1967, however, the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts signed away the Rifles' head coach, Leo Cahill, quarterback Tom Wilkinson and running back Joe Williams. Meanwhile, Alan Eagleson took over the franchise. The team declared bankruptcy four games into the 1967 season and the league folded the franchise at the same time as the Akron Vulcans.
The Rifles had a Canadian-based rival, the Montreal Beavers, when in the Continental Football League.
Continental Football League
Professional gridiron football leagues in North America