American Football League (1944)
|No. of teams||8|
|Last champion(s)||Hollywood Rangers|
The Northwest War Industries League, later renamed the American Football League, was a professional football league based on the West Coast of the United States that played for two nonconsecutive seasons during World War II.
The Northwest Industries league began play in 1942, with the Seattle Bombers, Portland Rockets, and teams in Spokane, Washington and Vancouver, Washington. Information on this league has mostly been lost to time, as the records of this league are incomplete. What is known is that only Seattle played in 1943, and that plans to append to the Pacific Coast Professional Football League as a semiautonomous Northern Division fell through.
In 1944, Portland returned to play. Meanwhile, the league received a significant overhaul: the Pacific Coast Professional Football League revoked the membership of the Los Angeles Mustangs to protest owner Bill Freelove’s raiding of Jerry Corcoran’s Los Angeles Bulldogs roster. Freelove responded by reorganizing the old Northwest Industries league into a "new" league, the American Football League (with famous Hollywood lawyer Jerry Giesler as president). In 1944, an unprecedented five Los Angeles area teams were competing in either of the rival leagues.
Both leagues had undefeated champions (the PCPFL Bombers had won their third consecutive title). AFL members San Diego Gunners, Los Angeles Wildcats (no relation to the 1926 AFL team), and Oakland Hornets folded before the end of the season. All three San Francisco Clippers losses were to the Rangers.
On December 21, 1944, PCPFL league president J. Rufus Klawans announced a merger between the two leagues. Immediately afterward, the AFL champion Hollywood Rangers and PCPFL champion San Diego Bombers scheduled two games, one at each team’s home, to decide the “unified” Pacific Coast championship. Hollywood swept San Diego, winning 42-7 and 21-10, for the bragging rights.
However, what was trumpeted as a merger was in fact not much of a merger at all. Seattle and Portland, the two teams that had formed the basis of the original league on which the AFL had been built, declined to play in the new league. The PCPFL also demanded that the Rangers merge with the PCPFL's Hollywood Bears, something the Rangers were unwilling to do since the Bears hadn't even played football in two years. Nonetheless, the Bears ended up restocking themselves mostly on the Rangers' players. One major point of contention between the two leagues went unaddressed: even though the leagues had agreed on a merger, they again refused entry to the Los Angeles Mustangs. In the end, of the five teams in the AFL at the end of the season, only one team ever played in the PCPFL, the San Francisco Clippers. The Rangers and Mustangs, having their league (that they organized) ripped out from under them, continued play as independents for 1945 and quietly folded.
1944 AFL Standings
|San Francisco Clippers||7||3||0||.700||193||120|
|Los Angeles Wildcats||2||4||2||.333||133||171|
|San Diego Gunners||2||4||1||.333||42||161|
|Los Angeles Mustangs||3||7||0||.300||105||201|