Jim Foster (American football)

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James F. Foster is the founder and first commissioner of the Arena Football League.[1] He is also a former NFL[2] and USFL executive and was later the principal owner of both the Iowa Barnstormers and the AF2's Quad City Steamwheelers.

Born and raised in Iowa City, Iowa, Foster graduated from the University of Iowa in 1972 with a BGS in Advertising/Marketing and Broadcast Journalism and lettered in football and track. He was the founder in 1974 and Managing Director of the Newton Nite Hawks minor league football team of the Northern States Football League. The Nite Hawks organized and introduced the sport of American (pro level) football to Europe during a 5-game exhibition tour in 1977 with the Chicago Lions of major European cities, including Paris and Frankfurt. While Promotion Manager of NFL Properties, he invented the game of Arena football while watching the Major Indoor Soccer League All-Star game being played at Madison Square Garden[1] on February 11, 1981. He drew out a diagram and rules on the back of a 9" x 12" manila envelope.[1] In late 1985, Foster began working full-time on fully testing and researching the game he invented before he launched the Arena Football League, starting play in 1987. Foster served as President/Commissioner from 1985-1992, at which time he began the development of the Iowa Barnstormers AFL team, serving as its Managing Owner through 2001. In 1999 he co-founded and helped organize the AFL's developmental league, af2, in addition to founding and organizing the Quad City Steamwheelers af2 team in 1999 and serving as Managing 0wner until 2006. In 1990, Foster was granted a US patent on the game of Arena Football and the equipment unique to it, particularly the end zone Goalside Rebound Nets and padded Sideline Barriers, meaning that other indoor football leagues not affiliated with the Arena organization were forced to play by at least somewhat different rules than the ones the AFL uses until the patent expired in September 2007.

When Foster lived in Des Moines during his Iowa Barnstormer ownership days, he served as a member of the board of directors for Jazz Partnerz (Kurt Bowermaster, president), the non-profit group that planned and organized the former Greater Des Moines Good Times Jazz Festival. He also served on the Iowa State Historical Society Foundation board while living in Des Moines.

Jim Foster was inducted into the American Football Association's Semi Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982, The Arena Football League Hall of Fame Inaugural Class in 1996 and the af2, (arena football2 league) Hall of Fame class of 2009. Foster is an Adjunct Professor in the Tippie College of Business Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, teaching Pro Sports Management, in addition to continuing his sports consulting work through Fostering Sports, Inc.


  1. ^ a b c Wallace, William N. (May 9, 1988). "Improvisation Lies at the Heart of Arena Football". The New York Times. Retrieved July 15, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Blanchette .You Like Shock? Then Thank This Guy Saturday". The Spokesman-Review. May 26, 2006. Retrieved July 15, 2010.