"The oldest football league of it's kind in the nation."
The following is a brief history of flag football as it is presently played in Buffalo, New York.
Currently most outdoor and tournament eligible teams in the Buffalo area play their games under the guidelines / rules of the United States Flag League (USFTL, Mike Cihon, Director) out of Mentor, Ohio. There are also other well established and well run leagues around the area such as the Rock League (Doug Braun), the Christian League, and at least two indoor leagues with similar but markedly different playing formats. There are likewise very good leagues in Jamestown NY, Rochester NY and points east. The roots of flag football in the Buffalo area go back to the year 1990 when 3 teams from the JFK Touch Football League of Buffalo went to Albany New York to play in a 40 team flag football tournament sponsored by the American Flag and Touch League (AFTL , George Higgins , Director). At the end of the weekend of the four teams left in the tournament three were from Buffalo. One of the Buffalo teams emerged as the winner that one being the JFK League Bengals quarterbacked by John Augustine. And so the seeds of competitive flag football had taken root. What followed is a well documented pathway of how flag football evolved to what it is today in the Buffalo area.
The John F Kennedy Football League of Buffalo NY has been and continues to be a full contact touch football league. It has provided the opportunity to play the game of full contact touch football at the highest level for the past 50 years. This is not to say that it does not embrace the flag game. It has and continues to do so. Proof of that can be found in the historical record. It was in 1991 that the JFK League approached Mike Cihon and the USFTL about doing an Invitational tournament in Buffalo. The venue took place at the UB Flint artificial surface field (which was at the time very new and a novelty to play on). The problem was costs and how to pay for it. Tournament fees were not going to cover it and Mike Cihon was opposed to paying anything (he still to this day pays very little for playing fields and it shows). The going rate at the time for the all weather UB field was $32.00 / hour and it didn’t take long to run the bill. Notwithstanding the JFK League stepped up to the plate and provided the necessary funding to make the tournament happen. It was composed of mostly local teams but there were a few out of area teams including the 7 time multi style national champions Gibbs Team. The tournament was a rousing success and everyone was impressed with the format and the surroundings. And so we had our first flag football tournament in Buffalo. What followed was a Invitational tournament in 1992 and 1993 at UB. The expenses to host these tournaments grew and the JFK League continued to subsidize them. Based on the success of the overall tournaments and the playing field conditions the USFTL pitched the Buffalo area and as a result Buffalo hosted the 1994 and 1995 USFTL Nationals here on both Thanksgiving weekends at UB (27 fields) (since that time have been held in Orlando FL). The USFTL benefited greatly from having the Nationals for two years in Buffalo (how much they benefited we will save for another day). Suffice it to say that it was a sweet deal for the USFTL. The JFK League was never compensated for underwriting the Invitational’s leading up to the Nationals but thinks fondly of those early years and was thankful for the opportunity to do its part to establish the flag game in the Buffalo area.
The flag football style of play continues to flourish in Buffalo. Teams are growing with it. Tournament play long sought after by the JFK League in the early days has become the norm with a number of teams from the Western New York Flag Football League (WNYFFL) routinely travelling to out of town tournaments including the USFTL Nationals in Orlando every January. They have done an admirable job of representing the Buffalo area. The JFK League shares the vision.