Al Davis , byname of Allen Davis (born July 4, 1929, Brockton, Massachusetts, U.S.—died October 8, 2011, Oakland, California), American gridiron football coach and executive who, as commissioner of the American Football League (AFL), was a key actor in the merger of the AFL with the National Football League (NFL) and was either a part owner or principal owner of the Oakland Raiders football franchise (1966–2011).
Davis was raised in Brooklyn, New York, where his disciplinarian parents instilled a highly competitive disposition in him. After graduating from Syracuse University in 1950, he talked his way—despite having had no previous coaching experience—into an assistant coach position at Adelphi College (now Adelphi University), which he then parlayed into a job as the head coach of the U.S. Army football team based at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, in 1952. He made his first foray into the NFL in 1954 as a scout for the Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts before returning to college football as an assistant coach at The Citadel and at the University of Southern California.
In 1960 Davis was hired as an assistant coach for the AFL’s Los Angeles (later San Diego) Chargers, and three years later he became the head coach and general manager of the Oakland Raiders. In his first season he led the Raiders to a 10–4 record one year after the team had finished 1–13, and he was named the AFL’s Coach of the Year. He became AFL commissioner in April 1966, and, per Davis’s instructions, AFL teams immediately began signing away some of the NFL’s star players. Davis believed that the AFL was a better product than the NFL and could stand on its own, and his aggressive approach forced the NFL to recognize the growing influence of the younger league. Unbeknownst to Davis, the NFL and a number of AFL owners agreed to merge the two leagues just two months after Davis’s reign as commissioner began. Unhappy with the merged league, he resigned his post in July 1966 and became the Raiders’ director of football operations as well as a