NFL and AFL Announce Merger, June 8, 1966

Created by Bob Helmbrecht, collection development librarian

On June 8, 1966, the National Football League (NFL) and American Football League (AFL) announced they would be merging their operations. It would take several years for them to completely integrate their operations. In 1970, the AFL’s teams would be incorporated into the NFL. The existing AFL teams, along with the NFL’s Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers would now be the American Football Conference, while the remaining NFL franchises would compose the National Football Conference.

The first AFL-NFL World Championship Game, later to be called Super Bowl I, would be held just seven months after the announced merger, in January 1967. The NFL team would easily defeat the AFL team in this championship and the next. The AFC’s New York Jets, led by Joe Namath, would defeat the NFC champion Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, however, in one of the greatest upsets in sports history. In the 55 years since, the championships have been very evenly divided, with the NFL and NFC teams having won 28 times, and the AFL and AFC teams winning 27.

If you’re interested in reading more about the history of football, the Library has many great books available. Explore a few selections:

Celebrates the NFL’s centennial, bringing together colorful memories, insights, and personal experiences and observations from the heroes, losers, innovators, and defining legends who have played the game at its highest level. 

Recreates the drama of Johnny Unitas’s heroics in the 1958 sudden-death classic between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants. A brilliant portrait of how a single game changed the history of American sport.

Describes the earlier years of the NFL, when players hitchhiked to practice and stayed in fleabag motels, and how the organization transformed into the corporate, scripted multibillion-dollar spectacle it is today.

The epic tale of the five owners who shepherded the NFL through its tumultuous early decades and built the most popular sport in America.

Many know the story of Jackie Robinson integrating major league baseball in 1947. But few know that the NFL integrated a year earlier, when Kenny Washington stepped on the field for the Los Angeles Rams. He wasn’t the only one. Four men broke pro football’s color line in 1946, Kenny Washington and Woody Strode with the Los Angeles Rams and Bill Willis and Marion Motley with the Cleveland Browns.

From the executive director of the NFL Hall of Fame comes a sweeping and lively history of the NFL, timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary season. Compelling, eye-opening, and authoritative, it is a must-read for NFL fans and anyone who loves the game of football.

This book tells the story of professional football in the 1950s and 60s through the words of the players themselves. The chapters are full of anecdotes and reflections on the best and toughest players of the era, while two additional chapters include humorous quotes and the players’ thoughts on how the game has changed since their heyday.