CONTINENTAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
VOLUME 1 NUMBER 5
After the 1968 season, the Texas Professional Football League had proven itself in both league play and head-to-head exhibition games with the Continental Football League, that it could indeed compete on the next level. Its commissioner, George Schepps, had guided the league from 1966 through 1968 with a steady and professional manner, that brought his league to the brink of major league caliber. Negotiations brought the Texas Football League into the Continental Football League in 1969 as the new Texas Division as part of the expanded Western Conference.
The new Texas Division would retain two divisions within itself, now noted as sections, Eastern and Western. The Eastern would find the Dallas Rockets, Fort Worth Braves, Texarkana Titans, and the Tulsa Thunderbirds. The Western Section was to have the El Paso Jets, Mexico Golden Aztecs ( which had been the Beaumont Golden Vikings in 1968 ). San Antonio Toros, and the West Texas Rufneks ( based dually in Odessa and Midland, Texas ). The winner of each section would have a play off to determine the Texas Division representative for the Western Conference Championship.
The other part of the Western Cobference was the Pacific Division which begam as the expanded Western Division of 1967. The survivors were now the Hawaii Warriors, Las Vegas Cowboys, Sacramento Capitols, Seattle Rangers, and the Spokane Shockers.
The Eastern Conference again had two divisions in the Central and the Atlantic. The Central Division was comprised of the Chicago Owls, Indianapolis Capitols, Ohio Valley Ironmen ( Wheeling ), Omaha Mustangs, and the Tri-City Apollos based in Midland also representing Bay City and Saginaw, formerly the 1968 Michigan Arrows. In the Atlantic Division were the Alabama Hawks based in Huntsville, the Arkansas Diamonds based in Little Rock, the New Jersey Jays ( formerly the Charleston Rockets and popularly called the Jersey Jays ), the Norfolk Neptunes, and the Orlando Panthers.
The league headquarters was moved once again this time to Indianapolis, Indiana under James Dunn, actually down the hallway from the offices of the Indianapolis Capitols. The location of the league office had begun in 1965 in Lexington, Kentucky under the league's first Commissioner, Albert "Happy" Chandler, then to New York City for two years under Sol Rosen in the United Nations Plaza, and in 1968 under Acting Commissioner Danny Hill in San Jose, California, who had been the executive director of the expanded Western Division of 1967.
Optimism was overflowing throughout the league and the teams that had now made it a truly nation al league in scope. Once again, discussion of achieving finally a television contract circulated around North America. Not only was there now a team in Honolulu, something that had been absent since the days of the Pacific Coast Football League; but, the league had returned to its original design be incorporating once again a team outside the U.S. borders in Mexico encompassing an International membership.
The closer it got to the pre-season, it became evident, the funds were just not available to the level needed to have a team in Honolulu. The franchise once again was on the move and settled into the Northwest of the United States as the Portland ( Oregon ) Loggers. The Texas Division saw the El Paso Jets suspend operations for a year to plan to field a team in 1970. Problems developed for the Mexico Golden Aztecs as negotiations for the huge Mexico City Olympic Stadium broke down, The site for the new home base was found at Monterrey, Neuvo Leon, Mexico. Things settled down once again for awhile.
Pre-season attendance for the league was once again up, and the support for the Mxico Golden Aztecs in Monterrey was sensational. Each division was detined to be a horse race, and only Orlando by habit was picked to win its division, and all others were a toss-up. If San Antonio had not lost so many key veterans to the Golden Aztecs via Head Coach Duncan McCauley, a former Toro head Mentor, the Toros would have been considered a cinch to repeat as the Texas Champs.
Things began to unravel in Mxico as the principal owner of the Aztecs B.J. McCombs had a run in with the local politicians. This was a huge "no-no," as the politicians pressured the fans of Monterrey to avoid the team like a plague. The handwriting was on the wall, and after just five games into the season, the team was disbanded and the players were for the most part picked up by mostly other Texas Division teams. What should have taken place in hing sight was that the entire team should have merged with the Dallas Rockets who were outclassed ni depth by all other teams of the league. This would have made it a sold contender and the division could have been realigned similarly as to what had taken place in the East of the 1967 CFL. As a result, Dallas remained the league doormat recording only one win by a Mexico forfeit until late in the season. San Antonio and West Texas fought to the very end for the Western Section Title, with San Antonio finally prevailing by taking the back end of a home and home late season series from the Rufneks. Ted Dawson had taken over from Lou Rhymkus who just could not get the team to play for him. In the Eastern Section, the Tulsa Thunderbirds were forced out of the use of Skelly Stadium in Tulsa, and nearly could not find a home until part way in the pre-season and set up home at Bartlesville, Oklahome, thus becoming the Oklahoma Thunderbirds ( but, for the home fans, the Bartlesville Thunderbirds ).Art Ramage, the Head Coach held the team together like glue and despite heart wrenching injuries, the team lost the sectional title in the last minute of play from the Texarkana Titans when Arkansas gave up a game ending score in Texarkana. Bob Naponic was exceptional for Oklahoma as was Johnny Johnson for Texarkana. Fort Worth was supposed to take the Eastern Section, as it had a great running game led by 1,000 yarder James Walker and All-American UT-Austin, Chris Gilbert. Defensively, the team held its own, but, the horrible season Donnie Gibbs had as quarterback, playing ahead of J.D.McMahon cost the Braves the title, and Heach Coach John Hatley his job. Joe Verret and Bob Jackson's Dallas Rockers had never recovered from the defections to the Fort Worth Braves a couple of years before, but, revenge finally came when the Rockets upset the Braves late in the season for its only on field win in 1969.
In the Pacific Division, the much travled Portland Loggers resembled only slightly the great team it had been as the Orange County Ramblers in 1967-1968. After reaching a midseason 3-3 mark, it completely fell apart losing its final six games. Las Vegas was the most remarkable team in the league having been a very weak club in 1968. Management went to work perfoming mircales, but, the best stroke of luck came when Dewey Warren walked out of the Cincinnati Bengals camp after an argument with Paul Brown, and took charge of the team's offense the moment he signed with the Cowboys. The team got off to a quick 7-1 mark, and everyone else in the division tried to play catch up. Despite Seattle defeating Las vegas twice, it could not get closer than one game behind by season's end. Sacramento finally tied the Cowboys before the play-off weeks. Spokane did not solidify until mid-season, by then it was too late to vie for the title, but, it took no prisoners along the way upsetting Chicago, Seattle, Sacramento, and crushing Portland after the half-way mark.
The Atlantic Division began predictable, with Orlando, Norfolk, and Alabama getting off to a quick start. New Jersey fought its way back to contention, and Arkansas pulled a few upsets along the way knocking off Alabama, Chicago, Texarkana, Omaha, and crushing Dallas avenging a pre-season loss from 1968. Alabama had a very strange exhibition loss to the NFL Atlanit Falcons who were mostly made up of former and reunited Alabama Hawk players, in other words its eventual first string team. It was actually a P.R. game rather than a real Falcon team. It brought in a big crowd to Huntsville but was truly an unusual exhibition game rather than a serious contest. The real Hawks took the field by the beginning of the season, and the handsome job begun in mid-season by Head Coach Dave Sington continued to pay dividends on the field. It was the off the field problems that tormented the franchise. Without television money, the Capitol to sustain the team through tiny Milton Frank Stadium was just not enough. Late in trhe seaosn,, the decision to relocate the team to Birmingham for its last two regular season games did bring in some more money, but, the move came way too late. Even its home game against Orlando was moved to the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando. New Jersey got off to a slow start and two incredible events that took place that hampered the off field operations. The brand new stadium it was to use, Ironbound Stadium was found to have been built on top of a toxic waste dump. After the season, public officials of Newark City, including the mayor were found guilty of this crime and served time along with those of the Jays' team that were also involved with the stadium construction. Racial tensions also hurt the fan support as players were forced during the week to live in an almost fortified compound. The team did climb back into contention, and nearly upset Orlando twice finishiong a strong third place. The Norfolk Neptunes had co-head coaches in George Hughes and Gary Glick. These two had worked together for years in realted positions, and nearly took the Atlantic crown, losing a chance for a play-off only by the last regualr season game. Orlabndo did repeat as Atlantic Champs, but had to win many key late seaosn game to get their including wins over Ohio valley and Norfolk both at home before large crowds. Arkansas went from one stadium at home to another one, even got the backing of the Governmor to try and save the franchise. Tommy Overton literally took over the front offcie from his P.R. position in an effort to save the team.
In the Central Division. Omaha came out of the shute so fast, all the other teams played catch-up. Chicago was expected to be a strong challenger with the reuniting of the running tandem of Blakely and Williams who both gained over a 1,000 yards in the 1966 Continental. An early season injury to Williams derailed the entire team, and it never got back to .500 by the end of the season. Ohio Valley and Indianapolis were on a roller coaster the entire season. Each team shared a peice of the division leaghue at one time, but, it was not until Head Coach Ken Carpenter of the 'Caps that did his team finally jell after he promoted rookie sensation, Johnny Wlton to be the first strong QB. Walton led the 'Caps to great season ending wins, and assured the team's repeat as Central Division Champions. Tri-City had enormous lines on offense and defense, comparable to the lineman of presxent day. Its only problem was not a lack of talen, just that the team was so young and inexperienced. Late season wins over both Ohio Valley and Chicago showed of what the future could be for the franchise. Attendnace was not decent in the Bay Area though. Omaha lost its last four regular season games when the meat of the schedule caught up to the team finishing in two-way second place tie with Ohio Valley.
In the Texas Division, the Championship was a repeat between Texarkana and San Antonio. San Antonio had been greatly re-inforced with the previous Mexico Golden Aztec defectors returning to the fold. Texarkana fought bravely at home to a SRO crowd, but the Toros prevailed 20-7. The Pacific Division was forcd to have its own play-off as Sacramento and Las vegas finished in a two way-tie just ahead of Seattle. Sacramento had a huge crowd for the play-off only to be sent away empty with a 31-0 loss to Las Vegas at home. The same team it had defeated only a few weeks before 31-10 and defeated San Antonio in Texas 38-28! Anything and everything went wrong for the Captiols that day.
In the Alamo Stadium before another good crowd, the Toros avenged an early season loss at Las Vegas taking the Western Conference title 21-17. It took a gallant late game stand by the Toros' defense to preserve the win.
The Eastern Conference Championship was once again a rematch between the Indianapolis Capitols and the Orlando Panthers. This time around the game was to be played in Indy. No one except the fans of the Captiols and its players thought an upset would take place. The fans turned out in cold weather for the game of their dreams, as the Indianapolis Capitols defeated the Panthers for the first time since 1966 in the Tangerine Bowl with a 27-7 punishing win in Own J. Bush Stadium.
One week later, the World Championship of the Continental Football League for 1969 was held at Owen J. Bush Stadium. A great crowd came in frigid weather to see their Capitols win in sudden death overtime 41-35 with every conceiveable form of scroing accomplished in the game. No one knew at that time, it was the last game ever to be played by the Continental Football League. Exhibition games were supposed to be held between the Canadian Football League and the Continental Football League Champions, but, the Canadian teams backed out knowing they had no possible chance to defeat a Continetal team by any system of rules.