The 1965 Season, Part 1

More on the Merry-go-round of Misery

By ED WETTERMAN

To cap off the dismal 1964 season, Oilers Head Coach Sammy Baugh tended his resignation after signing an extension with owner Bud Adams only five weeks earlier.

“Bottom-Line Bud” promised to conduct an exhaustive search for the next Oiler head coach.

That search lasted for a whopping five days before Adams settled on Baugh’s friend and Oilers assistant coach Hugh “Bones” Taylor.
Taylor became the third Oiler coach in just six months and the franchise’s fifth head coach in its six-year history.

Adams promised not to interfere in Taylor hiring his own coaches, then immediately hired Walt Schlinkman, to whom he had offered the head coaching job to before hiring Taylor.

In a very ironic twist for an offensive line coach, Adams also hired Lou Rymkus, the first head coach in Oiler history who won the inaugural AFL championship 1960, but whom Adams had fired in 1961 after a 1-3-1 start.

In an even more ironic twist, Taylor then hired his old friend and former boss Baugh back to the Oiler fold as an assistant.

As Oiler Blues author John Pirkle put it, Taylor was put in the “unusual position of having two former [Oiler] head coaches as his assistants and a third who had been offered the job twice before.”

The Oilers hadn’t even strapped on a helmet to practice for the 1965 campaign, and the dysfunction was already palpable.

1965 was the year that the Harris County Domed Stadium, billed as the Eighth Wonder of the World and later known as the Astrodome, was opened for baseball by the Houston Sports Authority, led by Judge Roy Hofheinz.

As part of an expansion agreement with Major League Baseball, the world’s only indoor stadium had been constructed to house the young Houston Colt .45s franchise, which changed its nickname to the Houston Astros for the occasion.

In December 1964, Houston newspapers reported a lease had been signed between the Houston Sports Authority and Adams’ Oilers.

This meant air conditioning for fans used to 90-degree heat and 90% humidity in the early fall, and Oiler season ticket sales boomed despite the terrible football played in 1964.

However, Adams balked at the terms of the lease, especially the splits of parking receipts, concessions, and exhibition games, so he broke off negotiations in June 1965.

Ready to leave the unfriendly confines of Jeppesen Stadium, Adams worked to negotiate a deal for the Oilers to play at Rice University.

Adams reportedly told Houston authorities that he’d considered moving the team to Atlanta if he could not get the lease (already the second such threat since he placed the Oilers in Houston).

Houston voters, who had passed the proposed bond to build the Dome as a multi-sport stadium, were incensed by the situation and would be forced to return to the heat, humidity, and horrific football in 1965.

Furthermore, the AFL had planned to use the new Astrodome to increase interest in its product and were also very upset by Adams’ tactics.

Sensing a possible opportunity to undercut the Oilers, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, who still wanted to bury Adams and the new league, sent NFL officials to scout the Astrodome as possibly a new home for a new NFL franchise.

Fortunately, thanks to its new television contract with NBC, the AFL was growing in nationwide popularity and was more economically sound than ever.

The league even grew in 1965 with the addition of the Miami Dolphins as an expansion franchise, owned by celebrity actor Danny Thomas and attorney/politician Joe Robbie.

Much more rapidly than anyone could have guessed, AFL players were closing the talent gap with their NFL counterparts.

AFL cuts were even beginning to make some NFL rosters.

Times were changing in the sport of football, and nearby at the University of Houston, Head Coach Bill Yeoman hired a young defensive coach named Oail A. Phillips, better known as “Bum,” who would take the Oiler reins as head coach in just 10 short years.

Meanwhile, though, the glory days were a decade away, and more futility lay in store for the Oilers and their fans.

Ed Wetterman is a native Houstonian and lifelong Oiler fan/historian. He is a teacher, genealogist, game creator, and writer who lived and died on Sundays with the Oilers. Ed has created many games such as “East Texas University: Degrees of Horror” and written short stories such as “HellFighter,” published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Football has always been one of his greatest passions. He experienced the highs and the lows of being an Oiler fan, and like many others, he was crushed when the Oilers left Houston. Writing for Miss Ya Blue! gives him an outlet for his Columbia Blue love.

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