In another stunning reversal, the AFL awarded the eighth and final franchise to the city of Oakland. Much of the credit for the change went to Chargers owner Barron Hilton. Hilton, who had been out of town for previous votes, made a strong plea upon his return for choosing Oakland. And on the league’s fifth ballot, the California city was chosen unanimously. Commissioner Joe Foss gave three reasons for the decision: the creation of a west coast rival for Los Angeles, the Oakland community’s strong show of interest, and better geographic balance than would have been provided by a team in Atlanta. Foss also credited a strong presentation by Chet Soda, Wayne Valley, and in particular, Robert Osborne.
Developments in the Oakland ownership derby became more muddled. One of the potential bidders, Bill Jackson, had flown to Dallas to make a presentation, but after witnessing Chet Soda’s pitch, Jackson withdrew from the process, saying Soda had done a great job. However, back in the Bay Area, a fourth group emerged. This one was led by George McKeon, son of a local construction firm owner, and Kezar Stadium concessionaire Bernard Hagen. McKeon and Hagen had sent a telegram to the league asking for consideration of their bid for a team representing San Francisco.
In Dallas, the AFL continued to weigh their options. Observers thought Oakland now had the inside track and that the San Francisco bid seemed unlikely to get much support. These sources pointed out that the AFL had already invaded two NFL cities, New York and Los Angeles, and even a third, if Dallas counted. But the league was still clearly undecided. Bud Adams of Houston and Ralph Wilson of Buffalo were said to favor Atlanta, while Dallas’s Lamar Hunt and Barron Hilton in Los Angeles were Oakland backers. Aiding the Oakland position was confirmation by the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Commission that Kezar Stadium and Candlestick Park would be available as long as a team’s needs didn’t conflict with those of the Giants and 49ers.
Ownership group machinations continued. Yet another potential set of investors emerged, this one headed by a pair of Oakland auto dealers: Bill Jackson and Ed Goldie. The Jackson/Goldie group also included Stanford graduate and NFL great, Ernie Nevers, who was thought to be a general manager candidate. A plan developed to merge the Jackson/Goldie group with Ted Harrer’s group. The Jackson/Goldie team claimed to have raised $500,000 among ten investors while Harrer said his group had come up with $350,000 so far. Barron Hilton thought the team would need a minimum of $250,000 ready cash to survive the first year.
A first meeting to plan strategy for an Oakland bid was convened by Barron Hilton in San Francisco. Among the attendees were Oakland Tribune assistant publisher William Knowland, chairman of the Oakland sports stadium committee George Jacopetti, Oakland city councilmen Robert Osborne and Dan Marovich, Oakland city manager Wayne Thompson, Berkeley city assemblyman Don Mulford, Oakland Chamber of Commerce president William Sparling, Robert Lurie, Hal Schoener, a former San Francisco 49er player representing local magnate Ted Harrer, and AFL leader Lamar Hunt. Hunt pointed out again that time was of the essence and that a local bid had to be put together as quickly as possible. For most of the meeting the focus was on getting a stadium. Of primary concern was the possibility that East Bay fans would not support a team playing in San Francisco, even under the Oakland name. A faint hope was held out that the team could convince the University of California to allow the team to play in 80,000 seat Memorial Stadium until an Oakland stadium could be built, but a long-standing university rule against allowing professional sports to use school facilities stood in the way. There was also a rumor that the city of Hayward, just south of Oakland, was considering building a stadium and trying to land the team.
Some negotiating among the potential owners leaked from the meeting as well. Osborne indicated he would be willing to invest up to $200,000 as part of an East Bay ownership group. Jacopetti also identified himself as a possible investor. Schoener said Harrer would be in, but wanted 51 percent ownership of the team as a condition of his investment.
Frank Leahy, the Chargers general manager, was also at the meeting to assist Hilton, and explained that a draft pool would be created from players let go by the other seven teams and that, in the interest of league competitive balance, efforts would be made to ensure that the pool did not consist solely of scrubs. Leahy thought each team would take about 60 players to training camp in the summer, with roster limits to be set at 33 by the first week of the regular season. Initially, the league was planning to start play the weekend of September 18.
Los Angeles Chargers owner Barron Hilton asserted that Oakland was “almost a unanimous choice” among league owners, but that the stadium and financing questions would need to be answered as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, a conference of the thirteen Alameda County mayors unanimously approved a resolution to support the pursuit of a franchise. Oakland city manager Wayne Thompson suggested that the potential financial benefits to the area were too great not to try, citing some $15,000,000 in additional revenues that had come in to San Francisco since the arrival of the baseball Giants from New York in 1958
Barron Hilton began to search for financial backing in Oakland and pointed out that a league decision on a site would be forthcoming in about three weeks. Robert Lurie, son of a local banker, was one of those approached early on by Hilton.
Jacksonville and Oakland emerged as additional possible sites for the last AFL franchise. Oakland was promoted as a possibility by Barron Hilton, owner of the Los Angeles Chargers, who wanted a West Coast rival. AFL founder Lamar Hunt was thought to prefer Miami. Numerous East Bay boosters stepped forward to add their support, including Oakland mayor Clifford Rishell and Berkeley city assemblyman Don Mulford. A playing site would be a problem as there were no existing facilities in the city of Oakland that were suitable. The San Francisco Giants’ new home, Candlestick Park, was mentioned as a temporary possibility pending the construction of a stadium in Oakland. Robert Moore, secretary of the San Francisco Parks and Recreation department, was interested in adding tenants, but pointed out that the Giants’ lease required the turf to be in excellent condition, something that would be a problem sharing the field with a football team. Mayor Rishell reluctantly offered his support to such a plan, but only if the team’s stay in San Francisco was temporary and short.
Former Naval Academy head coach Eddie Erdelatz confirmed that he had been offered the Los Angeles job by Barron Hilton, but said he had turned it down and was prepared “to sit out the season and see what happens.” He did say that he could be swayed by an unusually generous offer.
In other news, NFL commissioner Bert Bell died while attending a game. Bell had taken a relatively benign attitude toward the new league and his death seemed to offer the potential for a more adversarial stance toward the AFL.
The AFL completed a two-day meeting of team owners during with they discussed a variety of topics. Barron Hilton confirmed that he had offered a contract for the head coaching spot to Eddie Erdelatz and had approached former Notre Dame head coach Frank Leahy to be the general manager. Bud Adams of Houston said he had talked with a pair of men, former Washington Redskins quarterback Sammy Baugh and current Navy coach George Sauer, about coaching his team.
Lamar Hunt announced the league’s intention to field eight teams playing a 14-game home-and-home round robin schedule. He added that the field of potential cities for the two remaining spots had been winnowed to Buffalo, Kansas City, Louisville, Miami, San Diego, and San Francisco. Observers believed that at least one of the two California cities had an inside track, as Hilton was lobbying hard to get another West Coast team to pair with his in Los Angeles.
New York owner Harry Wismer announced that he had put together a deal for his team to play in the Polo Grounds.
A rumor appeared in print that Los Angeles owner Barron Hilton had offered his team’s head coaching position to former Naval Academy head coach Eddie Erdelatz. Erdelatz, who had played end for St Mary’s in the 1930s, had led Navy to two bowl victories in the 1950s, compiling a 50-26-8 record during his tenure with the Midshipmen.