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Top 50 Moments: Paul Brown Names Team the Bengals

Posted Nov 14, 2017

The American Football League’s newest team won’t be the Buckeyes even though head coach and general manager Paul Brown coached Ohio State to a national title. Brown opts for “Bengals,” because it has animation and is the name of Cincinnati’s pro football team that played on the fringes of the NFL from 1937-41.

The American Football League’s newest team won’t be the Buckeyes even though head coach and general manager Paul Brown coached Ohio State to a national title and it is the most popular nickname culled from newspaper coupons made available in The Cincinnati Post Times-Star. “That name is already used by Ohio State,” says Brown at the Oct. 27, 1967 news conference at the Hotel Sheraton Gibson unveiling the name “Bengals.” “I also feel we are part of a four-state area, not just one state.” A committee of the club’s directors, which consists of Brown, John Sawyer, and Dave Gamble, is also presented with names like “Romans,” “Celtics,” and “Krauts.” But Brown says the team wants to be “a part of all groups.” He says the committee opts for “Bengals,” because it has animation and is the name of Cincinnati’s pro football team that played on the fringes of the NFL from 1937-41. Brown later writes in his 1980 autobiography that since Sawyer and Gamble are both Princeton products he suggests “Tigers.” They like the idea, but are looking for something less mundane. What about Bengal tigers or just Bengals?

Brown invites three former Bengals to the news conference, including Hal Pennington, his opposite number as coach and GM. Brown notes the AFL’s Buffalo Bills, the NFL’s Baltimore Colts, and major league baseball’s Baltimore Orioles “are revivals of famous old names.” He also announces the color scheme of orange, black, and white, and he’ll be second-guessed for years about copying the uniforms of the NFL’s Browns he formed 20 years ago in Cleveland. But Brown later disputes it in his book: “(The colors) are representative of our symbol, the Bengal tiger, while the Browns’ colors are orange, brown, and white.”

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