AFL Memories: The Houston Oilers

This year, pro football is celebrating the creation of the American Football League some 50 seasons ago. Over the rest of the year, we will bring you some moments from the AFL’s history book

On August 3, 1959, Lamar Hunt announced he had a playmate for his new football league.

In Houston, Hunt was joined by K.S. “Bud” Adams for a Monday night announcement of the second franchise in the American Football League. The event was held in the board room of Adam’s Ada Oil Company.

In fact, it was at this announcement that the league was called the American Football League for the first time.

Adams was 36 years old but he was easily the oldest owner in the new league, since Hunt had just turned 27 the day before the Houston announcement.

The path both men took to the NFL was very similar. In 1959, Adams tried to buy the struggling Chicago Cardinals franchise and he planned to move them to Houston. When that effort failed, Adams tried to get an NFL expansion team. He was turned down. A few days after that brush off by the established league, Adams got a call from Hunt who wanted to speak to him about a new football league. They met several times in the spring of ‘59 and Adams agreed to join Hunt.

A graduate of the University of Kansas, Adams was the president of Ada Oil and he was the son of H.S. Adams, who at the time was chairman of the board of the Phillips Petroleum Company. He said that night that he was going to seek use of the 70,000-seat Rice Stadium for the 1960 season. Adams expected a new stadium to be completed in Harris County for the 1961 season.

Rice University ultimately refused Adams’ request to use their building and the Oilers ended up playing in Jeppesen Stadium, a small stadium that was on the grounds of the University of Houston, but was used at that time only by the Houston Independent School District. Adams leased the stadium from the school district and financed numerous improvements, including expanding seat capacity to 36,000.

The Oilers played at Jeppesen Stadium through the 1964 season. That included the overtime AFL Championship Game in December 1962 when the Texans beat the Oilers for the title.

All that was nothing more than dreams for a couple of oil kids on that night in 1959. Hunt told the folks in Houston at the announcement: “This definitely will not be a rebel league, nor a minor league. We will be full-time big league professional football.”

He also announced that within 30 days owners of teams in Los Angeles, New York, Denver and Minneapolis would be announced.

4 Responses to “AFL Memories: The Houston Oilers”

  • August 3, 2009  - Rin Tin Tin says:

    Long live the AFL - a time when pro football really mattered!


  • August 4, 2009  - jimbo says:

    Great article Bob,
    A little history on the birth of the AFL is always interesting. I’m beginning to realize that a wealthy 27 yr. old from Texas was not only a dreamer, but also a mover & shaker.
    Lamar was indeed the integral hub of the wheel, that became the NFL as we know it today. I’m admiring & respecting the late Mr Hunt more on a daily basis. In the beginning it had to have been a lonely place for him.
    I’m still in shock that the NFL did not feature the Chiefs in a primetime AFL throwback game.
    Lamar deserves more respect than that. Only God knows what his family must be feeling.
    Greed… pure a simple…

  • August 5, 2009  - Mark says:

    Thank Herm for getting s off prime time. The only thing worse than a losing team is a boring offense losing team, and that’s what Herm was all about. We have to earn our way back to network primetime, but we have the Head Coach and GM in place to do so now.
    Loved the Oilers. After the Chiefs, they were my favorite team. Great Unis, Hoyle Granger, Dan Pastorini, Bum Phillips, MNF when the “sleeping” Oiler fan gave Howard and ABC the We’re #1 salute, etc, etc. Always a fun team.

  • August 5, 2009  - Rin Tin Tin says:

    Herm Edwards would have been a great coach in the AFL too just as he’s been in the NFL!


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Photos by Hank Young


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