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This week in Raiders History: Al Davis drives 1966 AFL-NFL merger

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Fifty years ago this week, Al Davis was the driving force behind the AFL-NFL merger.

In 1966, Al Davis forced an AFL-NFL merger with his role as AFL Commissioner. His legacy is honored by the lighting of the eternal flame.
In 1966, Al Davis forced an AFL-NFL merger with his role as AFL Commissioner. His legacy is honored by the lighting of the eternal flame.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

On June 8, 1966, The AFL-NFL merger takes place after a short-lived battle led by AFL Commissioner Al Davis.

The AFL owners had implored a reluctant Davis to lead the charge against the more established rival NFL. A gentlemen's agreement was said to have been broken by the NY Giants, who signed kicker Pete Gogolak at the conclusion of his contract with the Buffalo Bills.

The 36-year-old Davis took the reins in April, 1966, and started a bidding war over high profile players. Franchise quarterback Roman Gabriel was set to finish his contract at the end of the 1965 season with the L.A. Rams. Davis had him poised to make the jump to the AFL. Gabriel was guaranteed a $100,000 signing bonus. Davis also had contracts in hand for NFL star tight end Mike Ditka and 49ers quarterback John Brodie.

Contrary to popular belief, the NFL and not the Davis-led AFL opened settlement discussions. Small-market NFL teams feared Davis' aggressive business acumen and the potential for rising player salaries. Unfortunately, while he was waging a war, AFL owners were more interested in forcing a peace. Dallas Cowboys owner Tex Schramm secretly contacted Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt without Davis' knowledge and a merger agreement was announced June 8, 1966, in New York.

Under the agreement, the Jets and Raiders would pay "indemnities" to the Giants and 49ers, respectively, for establishing franchises in their territory. The new 24-team league would hold a common draft in 1967 and expand to 26 teams by 1969.

Davis believed the move was not in the best interest of the AFL. Pete Rozelle remained NFL commissioner after the merger, a position Davis sought. He would later return to the Raiders as a partial owner.

Handing Rozelle the post and the double dealings by Hunt would lay the foundation for long lasting feuds between the Oakland Raiders, the league and the Chiefs.