Several leagues have been formed in hopes to become a developmental league for the National Football League (NFL). One of the first leagues to do this was the Continental Football League (CFL) which was formed in 1965 with the merger of several regional minor leagues. In the beginning, teams were averaging nearly 15,000 per game. The Norfolk Neptunes led the league and had a single-game record of 22,050 fans.
The league lasted from 1965-1969. In 1967, the league was troubled with instability as several teams moved or folded.
During their existence, the league did stay true to their “continental” name with franchises in Canada (Montreal, Toronto) and Mexico (Monterrey) as well as teams spread throughout the United States. The league had 22 teams during their five years of existence. The most successful teams were the Norfolk Neptunes, Orlando Panthers, Charleston Rockets and Indianapolis Capitols.
The league was never able to become the “farm system” for the NFL-AFL. With the eventual merger between them NFL and AFL, the league was not able to remain stable. The Indianapolis Captiols tried to bid for the services of O.J. Simpson but there was little financial strength left for the league to survive.
Some of the league’s most notable players and coaches were:
- Bill Walsh coached the San Jose Apaches in 1967.
- Ken Stabler was the quarterback for the Spokane Shockers in 1968.
- Coy Bacon played for the Charleston Rockets in 1965-67.
- Otis Sistrunk played for the Norfolk Neptunes in 1969.
- Sam Wyche played quarterback for the Wheeling Ironmen in 1966.
- Kicker Garo Yepremian played for the Michigan Arrows in 1968.
Championship Game Results:
- 1965 – Charleston Rockets 24, Toronto Rifles 7
- 1966 – Philadelphia Bulldogs 10, Orlando Panthers 3 (ot)
- 1967 – Orlando Panthers 38, Orange County Ramblers 14
- 1968 – Orlando Panthers 51, Orange County Ramblers 10
- 1969 – Indianapolis Capitols 44, San Antonio Toros 38 (ot)
In 1969 the Alabama Hawks played a pre-season game against the Atlanta Falcons’ rookies and lost 55-0.