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Will the CoFL's Alabama Hawks move to Birmingham?

October 10, 1969
      Continental Football League logo
   
In a desperate need of more fans and money, the Huntsville-based Alabama Hawks ownership and management decide to play their last three home games in other cities.

Hawks general manager Earl Dotson made the announcement that the team was moving two of its final three scheduled home games to Birmingham. “We had hoped to retain the franchise in North Alabama, but there seems to be no one interested in football here.”

The other "home" game would be played in Orlando, where the Panthers always drew well at the Tangerine Bowl.

Of the three regular season games played in Huntsville's Milton Frank Stadium, the Hawks have averaged 5,469 in the stands. The first game brought out a respectable 8,300 fans, but each game has drawn considerably less and less.

Fair Park Stadium, part of the Alabama State Fairgrounds, will be the site of the games in Birmingham. This venue has a football field inside an automobile racetrack, which is known as Birmingham International Raceway. Racing legend Bobby Allison is a fixture at this track, along with his brother Donnie Allison and friend Red Farmer.

     Photograph
  Alabama Hawks come to Birmingham to meet the media
(back L to R): Louis Thompson and head coach Dave Sington
(front L to R): Tom Bryan, Mike Hall, and Paul Ragland
   
The Hawks joined the Continental Football League last year, moving from the Professional Football League of America. Prior to joining the CoFL, the Hawks were known as the Huntsville Rockets, and they played for the PFLA championship in 1967 but lost to the Joliet Chargers. Prior to their only year in the PFLA, the Rockets were members of other minor league circuits; the Southern Football League (1963 to 1964) and the North American Football League (1965 to 1966).

The Hawks were an unofficial minor league affiliate of the National Football League's Atlanta Falcons. In August of this year, the Falcons went to Huntsville to play an exhibition game against the Hawks. The Falcons team was mostly comprised of rookies, and they easily defeated the Hawks, 55-0. This contest marked the only time an NFL team played a CoFL team, and the last time an NFL team played a minor league team.

The Continental Football League began play in 1965 and was primarily formed from teams in the United Football League and Atlantic Coast Football League. 

In February 1965, Alex Schoenbaum, owner of the Charleston, West Virginia, franchise boasted, “This will not be a minor league, this will be a major league. Ours will be a league stretching from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. We are throwing away salary restrictions and plan to go big time all the way. We are dealing with men able to finance big budgets, such as those in the National and American leagues. We’ll bid for top player talent. We’ll go for big crowds and national television.”

While not quite living up to that plan, the league has grown steadily each year.

Despite reports of increased ticket sales for 1969, it doesn't appear the league and teams have sufficient funding to offset the continued absence of a television agreement. Without TV, the league's situation is becoming dire.

Continental Football League logo 1969                          
Continental Football League                          
xx   xx   xx   xx   xx   xx
  Alabama Hawks logo   Arkansas Diamonds logo   Chicago Owls logo   Dallas Rockets logo   Fort Worth Braves logo  
  Alabama Hawks   Arkansas Diamonds   Chicago Owls   Dallas Rockets   Fort Worth Braves  
                     
  Indianapolis Capitols logo   Jersey Jays logo   Las Vegas Cowboys logo   Mexico Golden Aztecs logo   Norfolk Neptunes logo  
  Indianapolis Capitols
Champion
  Jersey Jays   Las Vegas Cowboys   Mexico Golden Aztecs   Norfolk Neptunes  
                     
  Ohio Valley Ironmen logo   Oklahoma Thunderbirds logo   Omaha Mustangs logo   Orlando Panthers logo   Portland Loggers logo  
  Ohio Valley Ironmen   Oklahoma Thunderbirds   Omaha Mustangs   Orlando Panthers   Portland Loggers  
                     
  Sacramento Capitols logo   San Antonio Toros logo   Seattle Rangers logo   Spokane Shockers logo   Texarkana Titans logo  
  Sacramento Capitols   San Antonio Toros   Seattle Rangers   Spokane Shockers   Texarkana Titans  
                     
  Tri-City Apollos logo   West Texas Rufneks logo              
  Tri-City Apollo   West Texas Rufneks              
                     

1969
Continental Football League
Pacific
Division
Texas - West
Division
Texas - East
Division
Central
Division
Atlantic
Division
  Las Vegas Cowboys   Mexico Golden Aztecs     Dallas Rockets   Chicago Owls   Alabama Hawks
  Portland Loggers   San Antonio Toros   Fort Worth Braves   Indianapolis Capitols     Arkansas Diamonds  
  Sacramento Capitols     West Texas Rufneks   Oklahoma Thunderbirds     Ohio Valley Ironmen   Jersey Jays
  Seattle Rangers     Texarkana Titans   Omaha Mustangs   Norfolk Neptunes
  Spokane Shockers       Tri-City Apollos   Orlando Panthers

1969
Alabama Hawks Roster
  No.   Name   Position   College
    Jim Anderson C   Jackson State
    Amos Ayers CB   Arkansas-Pine Bluff
    Terry Belvin DT   -none-
    Eddie Bolden OG   Tennessee State
    Tom Bryan RB   Auburn
    Henry Burnette OT   Lincoln (Missouri)
    Bob Byrd LB   Jacksonville State
    Mac Byrd LB   Southern California
    Tyrone Caldwell DT   South Carolina State
    Jim Callahan WR   Temple
    Joe Cooper FL   Tennessee State
    Ken Corbin LB   Miami
    Ken Deckard FL   McMurry
    Chuck Detwiler S   Utah State
    Woodrow Dixon CB   Stillman
    Jimmy Dye DB   Miami
    Eddie Edwards RB   Lincoln (Missouri)
    Don Fitzgerald RB   Kent State
    Ted Franklin RB   Alabama A&M
    Frank Fuder T   Memphis
    Allen Green K   Mississippi
    Larry Groce LB   Troy
    Andy Gross OG   Auburn
    Mike Hall LB   Alabama
    Doyle Hill QB   North Alabama
    Fred Hubbs OT   Miami
    Eddie Hughes RB   Texas Southern
    Onree Jackson QB   Alabama A&M
    Ray Jeffords TE   Georgia
    Jim Judd TE   Missouri
    Ricky Lindsey WR   North Alabama
    Dean Lotz C   Memphis
    Bobby Lowery SE   New Mexico State
    Garth Morgan DB   Montana
    Gene Mosley TE   Jackson State
    Mike O'Dell DT   Memphis
    Wally Oyler P-S   Louisville
    Lonnie Paige DT   North Carolina Central  
    Tony Pleviak DT   Illinois
    H. K. Reeves T   Arkansas State
    Denver Samples DE   Texas-El Paso
    Greg Soulds DB   Utah
    Terry Southall QB   Baylor
    Lynn Swinford DB   Jacksonville State
    Louie Thompson DE   Alabama
    Hank Urbanowicz DT   Miami
    Jeff Van Note C   Kentucky
    Rod Verkey LB   Cortland State
    Ray Vinson S   Jacksonville State
    Roger Whitehead   LB   South Carolina State
    Paul Williams WR   California

1969
Alabama Hawks Schedule
Date Opponent   Result     Score  
  Preseason
  08/02/1969     Atlanta Falcons (rookies)
    National Football League
L 55-0
08/16/1969   Indianapolis Capitols L 33-21
  Regular Season
08/30/1969   at Tri-Cities Apollos W 31-17
09/07/1969   Chicago Owls W 28-26
09/13/1969   at Omaha Mustangs W 31-7
09/21/1969   Norfolk Neptunes L 20-7
09/28/1969   Tri-Cities Apollos W 17-13
10/05/1969   at Orlando Panthers L 49-10
10/11/1969   at Arkansas Diamonds L 31-28
10/19/1969   at Orlando Panthers L 7-3
10/25/1969   Arkansas Diamonds (in Birmingham)   W 21-7
11/01/1969   at Norfolk Neptunes L 24-7
11/08/1969   Omaha Mustangs (in Birmingham) W 32-10
11/14/1969   at Jersey Jays L 35-6
  Final Season Results: 6-6
  The Indianapolis Capitols are the 1969 Continental Football
  League champions.

Epilogue
     Photograph
  The Alabama Hawks' Jeff Van Note
went on to play for the NFL's
Atlanta Falcons from 1969 to 1986
   
After a slow trickle of teams folding or leaving to play in other leagues during the off-season, the Continental Football League decided to fold in August of 1970.

The CoFL bucked the odds and played for five complete seasons. This is a feat that many minor league organizations had not done, or have not done since, regardless of sport.

At its zenith, many considered the CoFL to be the best minor football league ever formed.


Alabama Hawks owner Jimmy Lane was disappointed the team and league had come to an end. "I don't regret anything about it, except for the fact that we had to fold. I'm proud we made the effort. In the beginning, I figured it would take five years for it to become successful in a space-oriented town and for us to begin attracting people from a 50-mile radius. Economically, it could've meant a lot to the city. But..."

Eventually Birmingham would get a professional football team, but it wouldn't be for another five years.

In 1974 the World Football League's Birmingham Americans made their debut and went on to win the first, and only, WFL Championship.
 
Continental Football League logo
Alternative logo used by many teams
 
 
 
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Last update: December 06, 2019