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Best Moments in Bills History, No. 23: Miami Turns Down Ralph Wilson

This is part of our countdown of the 25 best moments in Buffalo Bills history. Check out the complete list, as well as the 25 worst moments in team history, right here.

On a list of "most important moments in Bills history", this moment would probably be at or near the top. Even in this countdown, this moment isn't technically "in" Bills history, as it pre-dates the franchise's founding.

The AFL had six owners when Ralph Wilson decided he'd give up his minority stake in the NFL's Lions to be the sole owner of an AFL franchise. Knowing he couldn't place an AFL team in his hometown of Detroit, he first settled on a city where many of his business dealing were. Miami had the Orange Bowl, a growing population, and no NFL franchise.

I spoke with Ange Coniglio of about why Miami turned down Wilson and the AFL. Miami's Orange Bowl was the only site capable of holding an AFL franchise, and had previously been used by the AAFC's Miami Seahawks.

"I think the problem was pro teams were not allowed in college stadiums there, which were the only ones available at the time," said Coniglio.

Wilson again looked to his business dealings to find a home for his team.

"Wilson had business associates from Buffalo who told him what a great All-America Football Conference town it had been, so he put his franchise here," added Coniglio.

In September of 1959, Wilson sent a telegram to AFL founder Lamar Hunt with the words, "Count me in with Buffalo." In October, the Buffalo Bills were announced as the seventh team in the American Football League.

When the AFL was looking to expand about five years later, Atlanta was the first choice for the new franchise - but when the NFL offered the city a franchise in their league, Atlanta switched affiliations. Joe Robbie wanted to place a team in Philadelphia, but then-AFL Commisioner Joe Foss suggested Miami for the same reasons Ralph Wilson wanted his franchise there: good climate, growing population, and no competition from the NFL.

Using the Orange Bowl only seven years after Miami turned down Ralph Wilson, the Miami Dolphins began playing games in 1966.