On November 1, 1966, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle announced that New Orleans would be home to the NFL’s 16th franchise.
Fittingly, the announcement came on All Saints Day, at a news conference in the patio room of the Pontchartrain Hotel on St. Charles Avenue.
Dave Dixon, who was lovingly dubbed as “the founding father of the Saints” had been working for years to have a professional football team in New Orleans, either with the NFL or its then-competitor the American Football League.
“I can remember my dad sitting in the bedroom writing letters to Rozelle and (AFL commissioner) Joe Foss,” Dixon’s son Frank said in a 2016 article on the New Orleans Saints official website. “Once every six weeks, he flew to New York to explain why New Orleans needed a franchise and how great it would be.”
The NFL planned to merge with the AFL in 1966, and the leagues needed to procure an antitrust exemption for the deal. A Congressional push by Louisiana’s political powerhouses — U.S. Sen. Russell Long and U.S. Rep. Hale Boggs — helped the NFL get an antitrust exemption, but with a sweetener for their home state.
Boggs’ daughter, famed journalist Cokie Roberts, a co-founder of National Public Radio who died in 2019, recalled how her father, who was on the House Ways and Means Committee and Long, who was on the Senate Finance Committee, helped land the political touchdown that brought football to New Orleans.
“They worked out a deal to push through the (NFL’s) antitrust request if the new expansion team would come to New Orleans,” Roberts said.
On Dec. 27, 1966, Tom Fears was named head coach of the new NFL franchise. The team would be named the Saints.The team kicked off its first game on September 17, 1967, against the Los Angeles Rams. The Saints won 27-13. The team won their first and only Super Bowl on Feb. 7, 2010, beating the Indianapolis Colts.
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