Al Davis, the longtime owner, general manager, and Rebel-in-Chief of the Oakland Raiders, has died at age 82.
In looking over his obituaries, we were having a hard time tracking his pre-Raiders chronology. So we were glad to see the NY Times lay it out today:
1950-51: Adelphi College, offensive line coach
1953-56: The Citadel, offensive line coach
1957-59: University of Southern California, offensive line coach
1960-62: Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers, offensive end coach
1963-65: Oakland Raiders, head coach and general manager
1966: American Football League commissioner
1966-71: Oakland Raiders, general manager, minority-stake owner
1972-2011: Oakland/LA Raiders, managing general partner, owner
Adelphi is a small college on Long Island. The Citadel is a public military college in South Carolina. The Los Angeles Chargers moved in 1961 and became today’s San Diego Chargers.
Davis attended both Wittenberg University, a Lutheran school in Ohio, and Syracuse, from which he graduated with a degree in English in 1950. Wittenberg doesn’t mention him anywhere on its site, but the Raiders Encylopedia by Richard Shmelter says Davis stayed only one semester at Wittenberg before transferring to Syracuse.
The Current Biography Yearbook (1985) has a slightly different tale:
“After spending a year at Syracuse University, in 1947 Davis attended Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio on an athletic scholarship. Still dissatisfied, he then transferred to Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, but after only two weeks there he returned to Syracuse University, where he earned an A.B. degree in English.”
We’ll have to write to the Raiders PR team for more detail on that point. Everyone agrees Davis graduated from Syracuse, which gave him a nice write-up after his death:
“Davis’ journey began as an Orange scholar-athlete playing for the junior varsity football, basketball and baseball teams while pursuing a degree in English. Davis tenaciously studied the game of football by attending practices and sitting at the top of Hendricks Hill overlooking Archbold Stadium every Saturday. He tracked each play the Orange ran. Following every game, he and Syracuse head coach Ben Schwartzwalder compared notes.”
Davis was cut from the varsity football team before he could suit up, it seems, but Syracuse is too polite to mention that. The school honored him anyway in 1985 as a “Letterman of Distinction.”
During that gap from 1951-53, Al Davis was in the U.S. Army. The LA Times says he was drafted in 1951 and “took over as the head coach of a military football team at Fort Belvoir, Va., that would lose only two games during his two-year tenure.” (A two-year hitch after being drafted was not unusual in those days. Wikipedia notes, “Congress passed the Universal Military Training and Service Act in 1951 to meet the demands of the [Korean War]. It lowered the induction age to 18½ and extended active-duty service commitments to 24 months.”)
Finally, that weird stretch as AFL commissioner in 1966. The league was founded in 1959 as a direct competitor to the NFL; the AFL played its first games in 1960, and that’s the year Davis started with the Chargers. (The Raiders, Patriots, and Broncos were among the original eight AFL teams.)
Al Davis became commissioner of the league in April of 1966 (replacing World War II flying ace Joe Foss.) Not long after Davis took the job, AFL owners made a deal with the NFL to merge — with the agreement that NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle would be commissioner of the combined leagues once the deal was done.
Davis wasn’t a fan of the deal, and so he resigned in July of 1966 after just a few months on the job. He went back to the Raiders, where he bought a minority ownership stake and remained for the rest of his life.
Finally, a note on Davis’s family life: he married his wife, Carol, in the 1950s, though most sources don’t report the date. They had one son, Mark.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Carol and Mark Davis will retain ownership of the Raiders, and says that Mark Davis is 56 years old and graduated from Chico State University. That would make Mark’s birthdate either 1954 or 1955.
Again, the Current Biography Yearbook to the rescue:
“[Davis] and Carol Segall, whom he married on July 11, 1954, have one son, Mark, the namesake of General Mark Clark, the former president of The Citadel.”
So we’re betting on 1955 as Mark’s year of birth.
(Photo: Sylvia Allen/NFL)