American Football Association (1977–1983)

The American Football Association (AFA) was a professional American football league that operated from 1977 to 1983.

The AFA was concentrated in the southern United States and served as the second tier of professional football between the World Football League, which folded in 1975, and the United States Football League, which began play in 1983. Unlike the WFL or USFL, the AFA always fashioned itself as a minor league, and never planned to rival the National Football League for "major league" status.[1] Players were paid one percent of gross gate revenue, which often meant players were paid only menial sums for their service (often comparable to minimum wage for three hours of work), and the league struggled to acquire recognizable players.[2]

The league played its games on Saturday nights[1] in the summer (beginning its season Memorial Day weekend and ending in August) to avoid direct competition against other football in the fall, a move that foreshadowed the USFL's similar spring football schedule. The AFA ended operations in 1983, unable to take advantage of the strike that hit the NFL the year prior or weather the competition from the USFL.

Teams and cities representedEdit

State City Team(s)
Oklahoma Tulsa Oklahoma Thunder
Tulsa Mustangs [3]
Alabama Birmingham Alabama Vulcans
Alabama Magic [4]
Kentucky Louisville Kentucky Trackers
Florida Jacksonville Jacksonville Firebirds
Jacksonville Sunbirds
Orlando Orlando Americans
North Carolina Charlotte Carolina Chargers [a]
Texas San Antonio San Antonio Charros
Austin Austin Texans
Dallas Dallas Wranglers
Burleson Fort Worth Wranglers
Houston Houston Hotshots
Houston Armadillos
Arkansas Little Rock Arkansas Diamonds
Mississippi Jackson Mississippi Stars
Virginia Norfolk Virginia Hunters
Louisiana Shreveport Shreveport Steamers [b]
West Virginia Charleston West Virginia Rockets [c]
Illinois Chicago [d] Chicago Fire [e]

Many nicknames came from previous leagues, with minor alterations to avoid trademark disputes: the Steamers, Vulcans and Fire all took their names from WFL teams, while the Rockets borrowed their moniker from a Continental Football League and United Football League team of the same name.

The operations were often fly-by-night, with most teams lasting only one season (or less) before folding, and players played for a paycheck equal to one percent of the net gate receipts after expenses (In August 1980, Shreveport Times sports reporter Ron Higgins estimated the average Steamer game check to be about $35 per man).

Despite its minor-league status, the league's teams often were able to secure leases for unusually large stadiums, often those used by the WFL and the USFL: the Orlando Americans, in their lone season, played in the 70,000-seat Citrus Bowl, while the Vulcans and Magic played at similarly-sized Legion Field, Houston played at 73,000 seat Rice Stadium, and the Fire played at Soldier Field.[9] The Mustangs played at 30,000-seat Skelly Stadium. The Jacksonville Firebirds played in the Gator Bowl.

HistoryEdit

The AFA was founded in May 1977 and began to play that summer. It was formed to take advantage of the places where the WFL was the most popular, while avoiding the overspending that led to that league's demise.[1]

Billy Kilmer, the former NFL quarterback (and coach of the AFA's Shreveport Steamers in 1979),[10] was named commissioner in 1981. Kilmer lasted one season as commissioner, working unpaid, during which he encountered numerous problems in the AFA, including a scandal in San Antonio which a player named Robert Lee Johnson misrepresented himself as former NFL offensive lineman Randy Johnson. The Carolina Chargers, one of the league's more successful and stable teams, dropped out of the league mid-season but re-emerged in 1982 under new ownership as the Carolina Storm.[11]

In 1982, with former San Antonio Wings executive Roger Gill at the helm, the league attempted to expand northward by absorbing other semi-pro teams in Buffalo, New York, Racine, Wisconsin and Canton, Ohio.[9]

The USFL's securing of a TV contract, especially after the AFA had failed to do so (the AFA was only able to get a few of its teams onto local cable stations, still a nascent technology at the time), led to the AFA eventually declining into semi-pro status and folding after its 1983 season.[2]

The AFA lasted six seasons, one of the longest runs of a minor professional football organization in the sport's history, and considered the strongest league in the era between the WFL and the USFL.[12] The development of arena football and its numerous imitators has effectively reduced most outdoor leagues to amateur or semi-pro status.

The modern American Football Association, a sanctioning body for semi-pro and amateur football, is unrelated to the former AFA.

1977Edit

Harry Lander and Roger Gill, from the existing San Antonio Charros amateur club, decided to create a new minor league football league and attract local investors. Five other clubs from Houston, Fort Worth, Austin, Wichita Falls, and Oklahoma City joined the Charros to establish the AFA.[13]

The plan was to play two exhibition games, and then each team would play twelve regular-season games beginning on July 2. The players were promised 1% of each game's gate receipts.

After three games (including two preseason) where they failed to score any points, the Fort Worth Stars were forced out of the league, while the Houston franchise—which had failed to secure a home stadium, pay their league dues, or secure medical insurance for their players—folded mid-August.

Team W L T Pct. PF PA Notes
San Antonio Charros 8 0 0 1.000 329 81 Champions
Oklahoma City Warriors 4 3 0 .571 192 73
Austin Texans 4 4 0 .500 168 177
Wichita Falls Steelers 2 5 0 .285 74 162
Houston Seagulls 0 5 0 .000 38 183 Folded mid-season
Fort Worth Stars 0 1 0 - 0 77 Forced out of the league

The San Antonio Charros finished undefeated in the regular season and were declared league champions.

1978Edit

The AFA entered an agreement for a loose affiliation with the California Football League for the 1978 season, that both leagues will play their normal league schedules, and at the end of the season the champions of each league will play in the "King Kong Bowl" to determine the "national champion".[12][14][15]

Team W L T Pct. PF PA
Shreveport Steamer 9 1 0 .900 375 161
San Antonio Charros 6 4 0 .600 235 185
Houston Titans 6 4 0 .600 226 206
Oklahoma City Stampede 6 4 0 .600 263 185
Wichita Falls Roughnecks 2 8 0 .200 101 300
Austin Texans 1 9 0 .100 158 273

PlayoffsEdit

Semi-finals
September 2
American Bowl I
September 16
      
1 Shreveport 14
4 Oklahoma City 0
1 Shreveport 17*
2 San Antonio 14
2 San Antonio 25
3 Houston 7

* Indicates overtime victory.

King Kong Bowl
(September 30 at State Fair Stadium)
San Jose Tigers 32 vs. Shreveport Steamer 6

1979Edit

The league grow to nine teams and had plans to divide to Eastern and Western divisions, but after Tulsa Mustangs folded the remaining teams has gone from two divisions format to one, with the top four teams making the playoffs.[12][16]

Team W L T Pct. PF PA
Alabama Vulcans 13 5 0 .722 406 220
San Antonio Charros 10 4 0 .714 405 301
Carolina Chargers 12 5 0 .705 457 277
Jacksonville Firebirds 11 5 0 .687 497 277
Shreveport Steamer 9 7 0 .562 387 279
Mississippi Stars 5 11 0 .312 220 386
Kentucky Trackers 4 12 0 .250 342 544
Tulsa Mustangs 1 4 0 .250 39 120
Arkansas Champs 2 14 0 .125 138 503

PlayoffsEdit

Semi-finals
September 15
American Bowl II
September 29
      
1 Alabama 21
4 Jacksonville 28
4 Jacksonville 27
3 Carolina 7
2 San Antonio 21
3 Carolina 28

1980Edit

The AFA started the season with eight teams and split up to Eastern and Western divisions. The league revoked Kentucky Trackers license after several cases of misconduct with four remaining weeks in the regular season. The Trackers' remaining games was filled with semi-pro teams from the Atlantic Coast League and the Dixie League, but those games did not count in AFA standings.[12][17]

Eastern Division
Team W L T Pct. PF PA
Carolina Chargers 10 3 0 .769 315 231
West Virginia Rockets 9 4 0 .692 294 183
Jacksonville Firebirds 8 5 0 .615 306 225
Kentucky Trackers 0 13 0 .000 135 248
Western Division
Team W L T Pct. PF PA
Shreveport Steamer 9 1 0 .900 265 122
San Antonio Charros 6 4 0 .600 227 179
Austin Texans 4 6 0 .400 189 245
Fort Worth Wranglers 0 10 0 .000 85 307

PlayoffsEdit

Semi-finals
August 30
American Bowl III
September 7
      
1 Carolina 36
4 San Antonio 20
1 Carolina 18
3 West Virginia 42
2 Shreveport 17
3 West Virginia 21

1981Edit

Billy Kilmer was introduced as the first full-time commissioner of the American Football Association. Also, for the first time, the league expended behind southern United States, when they add the Chicago Fire.The Chargers players voted to walk out on the team four games into the season, while both Shreveport Steamer and Austin Texans folded before season end, resulting in Kilmer resignation before the American Bowl. He was replaced by AFA president Roger Gill.[12]

During the season a member of the Orlando Americans admits he impersonated former NFL guard Randy Johnson to make the team. He was discovered when he couldn't crack the starting lineup.[18]

Eastern Division
Team W L T Pct. PF PA
West Virginia Rockets 11 1 0 .916 307 144
Jacksonville Firebirds 8 4 0 .666 228 206
Virginia Hunters 7 5 0 .583 187 210
Orlando Americans 5 7 0 .416 229 202
Carolina Chargers 2 10 0 .166 102 117
Western Division
Team W L T Pct. PF PA
Chicago Fire 8 4 0 .666 311 223
San Antonio Charros 6 6 0 .500 276 297
Shreveport Steamer 6 6 0 .500 169 182
Texas Wranglers 5 7 0 .416 149 237
Austin Texans 2 10 0 .166 184 324

* Includes forfeit games.

PlayoffsEdit

Semi-finals
August 23
American Bowl IV
August 30
      
1 West Virginia 42
4 San Antonio 12
1 West Virginia 29
2 Chicago 21
2 Chicago 24
3 Jacksonville 17

1982Edit

The AFA expended to 18 teams, and split up to three divisions, while two teams (Florida Sun and Roanoke Valley Express) folded mid-season.[12][19]

Southeastern Division
Team W L T Pct. PF PA
Carolina Storm 10 0 0 1.000 339 89
Georgia Pride 6 4 0 .600 178 179
Alabama Magic 6 4 0 .600 209 138
Tallahassee Statesmen 5 5 0 .500 120 178
Jacksonville Sunbirds 3 7 0 .300 136 225
Florida Sun* 0 10 0 .000 7 141
Southwestern Division
Team W L T Pct. PF PA
Shreveport Americans 8 2 0 .800 291 124
Oklahoma Thunder 8 2 0 .800 308 125
Texas Wranglers 8 2 0 .800 291 124
San Antonio Bulls 4 6 0 .400 203 195
Houston Armadillos 2 8 0 .200 54 308
Austin Texans 0 10 0 .000 113 345
Northern Division
Team W L T Pct. PF PA
Racine Gladiators 10 0 0 1.000 309 88
West Virginia Rockets 7 3 0 .700 363 121
Akron Bulldogs 6 4 0 .600 229 98
Roanoke Valley Express* 3 7 0 .300 63 106
Buffalo Geminis 3 7 0 .300 93 294
Virginia Chargers 1 9 0 .100 27 410

* Includes forfeit games.

PlayoffsEdit

First Round (August 7):
Racine 44 vs. Akron 6
Carolina 61 vs. West Virginia 18
Texas 17 vs. Oklahoma 14
Shreveport 42 vs. Georgia 35

Semi-finals
August 15
American Bowl V
August 21
      
Carolina 35
Racine 8
Carolina 46
Shreveport 22
Shreveport 30
Texas 27

1983Edit

It was the seventh and final year of the AFA. The United Football Teams of America league champion - Oklahoma City Drillers - joined the league but later announced that they would play the season as a travelling team before folding altogether after two weeks. The majority of the teams followed, and the league decided that division champions Carolina and San Antonio would meet in the final American Bowl.[12]

The Bulls knew before season's end that they would join the United States Football League as an expansion team for the 1984 season, where they played as the San Antonio Gunslingers (as the Jacksonville Bulls had already claimed rights to the "Bulls" name).[20]

Eastern Division
Team W L T Pct. PF PA
Carolina Storm 6 0 0 1.000 289 44
Canton Bulldogs 4 1 0 .800 87 77
Charleston Rockets 1 3 0 .250 108 81
Pittsburgh Colts 1 5 0 .166 80 236
Western Division
Team W L T Pct. PF PA
San Antonio Bulls 6 1 0 .857 276 58
Shreveport Americans 5 2 0 .714 237 113
Baton Rouge Red Wings 2 3 0 .400 43 224
Dallas Wranglers 2 4 0 .333 115 137
Houston Mustangs 0 4 0 .000 45 159
Oklahoma City Drillers 0 2 0 .000 7 96

PlayoffsEdit

Semi-finals American Bowl VI
July 23
      
Carolina
Canceled
Carolina 39
San Antonio 0
San Antonio
Canceled

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Also known as the Carolina Storm. The Chargers/Storm were by far the most successful club in AFA history, playing in four of the league's six championship games (losing in 1979 and 1980, winning in 1982 and 1983; Charlotte was also undefeated in the latter two years).[5]
  2. ^ Later merged with Orlando as the "Shreveport Americans".
  3. ^ 1980 and 1981 champions.[6][7]
  4. ^ the AFA's largest market, and the only one in the northern US.
  5. ^ Not to be confused with the WFL team, or the current MLS franchise.[8]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c "The Tuscaloosa News - Google News Archive Search".
  2. ^ a b "Ocala Star-Banner - Google News Archive Search".
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-10-18. Retrieved 2010-06-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ http://www.birminghamprosports.com/
  5. ^ "The Dispatch - Google News Archive Search".
  6. ^ "Williamson Daily News - Google News Archive Search".
  7. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=WFRJAAAAIBAJ&sjid=8AkNAAAAIBAJ&pg=1074,2572680&dq=american-football-association&hl=en[dead link]
  8. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=GIdQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=HRIEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5542,2014363&dq=american-football-association&hl=en[dead link]
  9. ^ a b "The Milwaukee Sentinel - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Archived from the original on 2015-09-26.
  10. ^ "Sarasota Herald-Tribune - Google News Archive Search".
  11. ^ "The Evening Independent - Google News Archive Search".
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Bob Gill, with Tod Maher. Outsiders II: Minor League And Independent Football, 1951-1985, p. vii. St. Johann Press, 2010. ISBN 1878282654
  13. ^ "1977 AFA Timeline".
  14. ^ "1978-1981 Shreveport Steamer". 6 May 2018.
  15. ^ "1978 AFA Timeline".
  16. ^ "1979 AFA Timeline".
  17. ^ "1980 AFA Timeline".
  18. ^ "1981 AFA Timeline".
  19. ^ "1982 AFA Timeline".
  20. ^ "1983 AFA Timeline".

External linksEdit