Many people might be unaware that the Oakland Raiders — who visit the Vikings in a preseason game Saturday — wouldn’t have had the start they did as a franchise if it hadn’t been for a group of owners in Minnesota that included Bill Boyer, H.P. Skoglund, Max Winter and Bernie Ridder. They withdrew from being one of the original members of the American Football League in 1959 and instead waited to join the National Football League as an expansion franchise.
The Vikings were going to be one of the original eight charter teams in the AFL, along with Boston, Buffalo, New York, Houston, Dallas, Denver and Los Angeles.
A big luncheon was held at the old Nicollet Hotel celebrating pro football coming to the Twin Cities, a scouting staff headed by Joe Thomas was hired to scout players, and offices were rented along with everything necessary to run a pro football team.
At the time I had a great relationship with George Halas, owner and coach of the Chicago Bears. Halas wanted the local owners to withdraw from the AFL and wait for an NFL franchise, but couldn’t personally contact them for fear of a lawsuit — which later was filed after the local group did withdraw — so I was his go-between.
In fact, somewhere in my home I have copies of Halas’ testimony after my involvement in the withdrawal was brought up at the trial.
The owners of the local AFL franchise, except for Winter, were satisfied to stay in the AFL, but Winter finally convinced his partners to have a final meeting to decide whether to stay or wait for an NFL franchise.
The meeting was held at Skoglund’s insurance office and it wasn’t until 4 a.m. that Winter finally convinced the group to withdraw. I was there with promises from Halas to eventually get an NFL franchise for the Twin Cities.
The AFL was extremely upset about Minnesota backing out of the deal and the league had to look elsewhere for a franchise. One of the original owners in the AFL was Barron Hilton, the son of hotel magnate Conrad Hilton and the eventual owner of the San Diego Chargers, who at the time were the Los Angeles Chargers. Hilton wanted there to be another franchise in California to help with operating costs, and that’s how the AFL ended up with Oakland as the replacement location for the now-open Vikings franchise. One of the reasons the Raiders were so terrible in their early years in the AFL was because the 1960 draft had taken place with the Minnesota group as owners, but once they backed out, other teams began signing their draft picks as free agents.
One way the AFL got even with the NFL was to sign a lot of the top available players, and the Vikings lost out on Gophers linebacker Bobby Bell when Kansas City outbid Minnesota for his contract.
When Oakland was announced as a new franchise, the league also held an allocation draft, and most of the other franchises didn’t make star players available to them. One good pick the Raiders made was grabbing center Jim Otto out of Wausau, Wis. He became a Hall of Famer.
Eventually, in 1966 the NFL and AFL announced their plan to merge. But if it wasn’t for a last-minute decision in Minnesota, who knows how the courses of the two franchises’ history might have changed?
Tice, Del Rio return
When the Raiders made Jack Del Rio their new head coach this offseason, the first hire he made was former Vikings coach Mike Tice, taking him from Atlanta to be his offensive line coach.
Del Rio and Tice have a long history, including three years of playing together with the Vikings in 1992, ’93 and ’95.
In ’92 the team finished 11-5, won the division and reached the playoffs, and both players had good seasons. Del Rio, a linebacker, led the team in tackles with 153, and also had one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and two interceptions, including one for a touchdown. Tice started nine games at tight end and finished the year with five receptions for 65 yards and one touchdown.
In ’93 the Vikings went 9-7, finished second and once again made the playoffs. Tice started 12 games that year and played in 16, he caught six passes for 39 yards and a touchdown. Del Rio again led the team in tackles with 169, had four interceptions and a forced fumble.
Tice was out of the league in ’94 but he and Del Rio again played together in ’95 when Tice appeared in three games and started one, grabbing three receptions for 22 yards. It would be his last season as a player. Del Rio started nine games that year, totaling 32 tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery.
In their three years together with the Vikings, the team finished 27-21. Del Rio and Tice would work again when Del Rio was coach in Jacksonville from 2003 to ’11. Tice was Jaguars assistant head coach from 2006 to ’09 and worked with the tight ends, as well.
• The NFL owners met recently to talk about the possibility of the San Diego and Oakland franchises moving into a $1.7 billion stadium that will be built in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson, Calif., and they will have another session in September to talk about the subject. There is no doubt that, had the Vikings stadium not been built, the Wilfs would have been asked by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to be considered as one of two teams that will definitely move to the Los Angeles area. The television networks are pushing hard for the NFL to be represented in Los Angeles.
• At this point, the escalators have not been built in the new stadium. One wonders if the escalators are one of the items for which Mortenson Construction is seeking additional money, part of the $15 million cost overruns in dispute.
• Gophers football coach Jerry Kill had good luck recruiting in Alabama when he was at Northern Illinois and that is continuing. Kill was able to recruit Jerry Gibson of Theodore, Ala. — a tight end who was also targeted by South Carolina among other big schools — and now the Gophers continue to work Alabama with a chance to recruit another athlete from that area.
• There is a good chance that Louisville, coached by Rick Pitino, and the Gophers, coached by his son Richard Pitino, will play home-and-home nonconference games in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons.
• Patrick Casey, grandson of Bob Casey, the longtime public address announcer for the Twins, is an assistant coach with the Gophers baseball team.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com