The AAFC was founded by
Chicago Tribune sports editor
Arch Ward on June 4, 1944. Ward was also the originator of baseball's
All-Star Game and football's
College All-Star Game.
Ward brought together a number of wealthy pro football enthusiasts, some of whom had previously attempted to purchase NFL franchises. Ward had previously encouraged the NFL to expand, but now he hoped to bring about a permanent second league and a championship game with the NFL, similar to baseball's
On November 21, 1944, the AAFC chose
Jim Crowley, one of the "
", as its commissioner. Not coincidentally, the NFL commissioner at this time was
Elmer Layden, another of
Knute Rockne's legendary
" Fighting Irish" backfield at the
University of Notre Dame.
During the next months, the AAFC's plans solidified. The league initially issued franchises for
New York, and
Miami were later added. A group representing
Baltimore was considered for admission, but could not secure a stadium, (even though a large municipal bowl seating 100,000 for college/university games built in 1922 existed). The league planned to begin play in 1945, but postponed its opening for a year as
World War II continued towards an obvious victorious end.
As the eight franchises built their teams, no move was more far-reaching than Cleveland's choice of
Paul Brown as its head coach. Brown had won six
Ohio state championships in nine years at
Massillon High School and the 1942
national championship at
with the "Buckeyes", and had also coached successfully at the military's
Great Lakes Naval Station. As coach of the new Cleveland franchise, Brown would become one of American football's greatest innovators and eventually have the team later named for him.