All-America Football Conference

All-America Football Conference
All-America Football Conference (logo).png
SportAmerican football
Founded1944
Inaugural season1946
Ceased1949
No. of teams8
CountryUnited States
Last
champion(s)
Cleveland Browns

The All-America Football Conference (AAFC) was a professional American football league that challenged the established National Football League (NFL) from 1946 to 1949. One of the NFL's most formidable challengers, the AAFC attracted many of the nation's best players, and introduced many lasting innovations to the game. However, the AAFC was ultimately unable to sustain itself in competition with the NFL. After its folding, three of its teams were admitted to the NFL: the San Francisco 49ers, the Cleveland Browns and the original Baltimore Colts (not to be confused with the later Baltimore Colts team, now the Indianapolis Colts).

The AAFC was the second American professional sports league (the first being the third American Football League of 1940–1941) to have its teams play in a double round robin format in the regular season: each team had a home game and an away game with each of the other AAFC teams.

The Cleveland Browns were the AAFC's most successful club, winning every annual championship in the league's four years of operation.

Founding

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 World Series.

On November 21, 1944, the AAFC chose Jim Crowley, one of the "Four Horsemen of Notre Dame", as its commissioner. Not coincidentally, the NFL commissioner at this time was Elmer Layden, another of Knute Rockne's legendary 1924 " Fighting Irish" backfield at the University of Notre Dame.

During the next months, the AAFC's plans solidified. The league initially issued franchises for Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. Brooklyn and Miami were later added. A group representing Baltimore was considered for admission, but could not secure use of Baltimore's stadium. The league planned to begin play in 1945, but postponed its opening for a year as World War II continued towards a 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 Ohio State, and had also coached successfully at the military's Naval Station Great Lakes. 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.