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American Football League (1940)

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Title: American Football League (1940)  
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Subject: Columbus Bullies, Midwest Football League (1935–40), Cincinnati Bengals (1937–41), Pacific Coast Professional Football League, American Football League (1936)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

American Football League (1940)

American Football League (1940)
Sport American football
Founded 1940
Claim to fame 3rd competitor of National Football League
Inaugural season 1940
No. of teams 6 (1940) 5 (1941)
Country United States
Ceased 1941
Last champion(s) Columbus Bullies

American Football League, also known retrospectively as the AFL III to distinguish it from earlier organizations of that name,[1] was a major professional American football league that operated from 1940-1941. It was created when three teams, the original Cincinnati Bengals, the Columbus Bullies, and the Milwaukee Chiefs, were lured away from the minor-league American Professional Football Association and joined three new franchises in Boston, Buffalo, and New York City in a new league. It competed against the National Football League (NFL), the oldest existing professional football league.

The organization was the third major league to bear the name double round robin schedule (five home games and five away games). However, it folded after the end of the 1941 season.


Although the third American Football League was not directly connected to any previous American football leagues of the same name, its formation was at the cost of an already-existing minor football league of the same name.

By the spring of 1940, the former American Professional Football Association announced intentions of turning itself into a major league with the addition of a Milwaukee team for the upcoming season over the protests of the Green Bay Packers. As the teams prepared for the upcoming season, the announcement of a rival major league resulted in the fracturing of this edition of the American Football League.

On July 14, 1940, a press conference introduced a new American Football League, not a continuation of the former minor league, but a new one with franchises in [2][3]

The group of businessmen based on the American East Coast behind the formation of the new league had resorted to a trick done by the first two AFLs: they raided the established minor league by enticing APFA members Cincinnati, Columbus, and the new Milwaukee team to join their circuit.[4] The move fractured the APFA as two of its members decided not to field teams for 1940, one (the Los Angeles Bulldogs) had already left the league, and there were only three left with only two months to go before the start of the new season. As the Kenosha Cardinals and St. Louis Gunners applied to join the new league (and were subsequently denied), the APFA went out of business.[4]

After a 30-hour-long meeting of the owners (and other representatives) of the six invited teams in Buffalo's Hotel Lafayette, the bylaws and officials of the new league were determined. Each team was scheduled to play a double round robin schedule (five home games, five away games), with games on either Sunday or Wednesday to reduce the likelihood of conflicts with baseball teams sharing the stadium in five of the six AFL cities (all except Buffalo).[5] The agreement was signed by the team owners, Oct 5, 1940.

While Bill Edwards did not take over the league as previously announced (that job eventually went to former [2][6]



Buffalo Indians. Became the Buffalo Tigers for the 1941 season after a change in ownership.

Cincinnati Bengals. Previously a member of the second AFL, and the American Professional Football Association, the "original Bengals" joined the third AFL with traditional rival Columbus Bullies.[7]


Milwaukee Chiefs. Former APFA member joined the AFL without being in an official APFA contest.[7]


League standings and All-League teams

Final 1940 standings

Team W L T Pct. PF PA
Columbus Bullies 8 1 1 .889 134 69
Milwaukee Chiefs 7 2 0 .778 180 59
Boston Bears 5 4 1 .556 120 79
New York Yankees 4 5 0 .444 138 138
Buffalo Indians 2 8 0 .200 45 138
Cincinnati Bengals 1 7 0 .125 53 187

1940 All-League Team

Sherman Barnes, Milwaukee (end)
Ed Karp, Buffalo (tackle)
Jim Karcher, Columbus (guard)
Joe Alexus, Columbus (center)
Alex Drobnitch, Buffalo (guard)
Bob Eckl, Milwaukee (tackle)
Harlan Gustafson, New York (end)
Andy Karpuls, Boston (quarterback)
Bill Hutchinson, New York (halfback)
Nelson Peterson, Columbus (halfback)
Al Novakofski, Milwaukee (fullback)

Final 1941 standings

Team W L T Pct. Off. Def.
Columbus Bullies 5 1 2 .833 142 55
New York Americans 5 2 1 .714 116 73
Milwaukee Chiefs 4 3 1 .571 105 84
Buffalo Tigers 2 6 0 .250 72 172
Cincinnati Bengals 1 5 2 .167 69 120

Encouraged by the success of the New York and Columbus franchises, Detroit, Baltimore, and Philadelphia apply to join the league for the 1941 season. While the Detroit application was accepted for play in 1942, the latter two are turned down by a league that is not interested in further expansion.[6]

Promoter Douglas Grant Hertz purchases the New York Yankees, changes their name to the New York Americans, and then announces (in August) the team's withdrawal from the league.[3] The league refuses to acknowledge the "withdrawal." Boston folds before the start of the 1941 season. Buffalo changes the team name upon new ownership assuming control of the team. New York Americans president William B. Cox becomes new AFL league president in 1941.[3]

1941 All-League Team

Earl Ohlgren, Milwaukee (end)
Alec Shellogg, Buffalo (tackle)
Ted Livinston, Columbus (guard)
Paul Humphrey, Milwaukee (center)
Tex Akin, Milwaukee (guard)
Bob Eckl, Milwaukee (tackle)
Joe Kruse, Cincinnati (end)
Bob Davis, Columbus (quarterback)
Charlie Armstrong, New York (halfback)
Bill McGannon, Cincinnati (halfback)
John Kimbrough, New York (fullback)

Columbus was league champion again in 1941, with a final record of 5-1-2.

Demise of the third major league AFL

Although the AFL lost the Boston Bears franchise prior to the beginning of the 1941 season, its owners were optimistic about the league's long-term future. Although the league's average attendance was less than that of the more-established NFL, the AFL seemed to be on as firm a financial footing as the older league. By the end of the 1941 season, a new franchise was awarded to Detroit for the 1942 season. The league was the first major football league to complete a double round robin schedule, in which each team played each other twice.

All the plans for 1942 came to a sudden stop upon the Japanese [2]

On September 2, 1942, AFL president [2][8]

We do not have the time to go into the football business this fall. I want to stress that there is no financial problem involved. Each team definitely has enough finances to continue.
— William B. Cox, September 2, 1942

The league did not return. The NFL was without a competitor until the formation of the [2]


  1. ^ Frank P. Josza and John J. Guthrie, Relocating Teams and Expanding Leagues in Professional Sports (Greenwood Publishing Group 1999) ISBN 1-56720-193-8
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h George Gipe, The Great American Sports Book (Doubleday 1978) ISBN 0-385-13091-0
  3. ^ a b c d NFL Competitors: 1926-1975
  4. ^ a b Kenosha Cardinals:Life on the Fringe (1983)
  5. ^ Indians Occupy Faded Spot in Buffalo’s Football Scrapbook – Joe Marren, Professional Football Research Association (1997)
  6. ^ a b Bob Carroll, Michael Gershman, David Neft, and John Thorn, Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (HarperCollins 1999) ISBN 0-06-039232-0
  7. ^ a b Kenosha Cardinals: Life on the Fringe (1983)
  8. ^ David L. Porter, ed., Biographical Dictionary of American Sports: Football (Greenwood Press 1987) ISBN 0-313-25771-X, p. 142
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