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Pats' Past: The Bay State Patriots

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Before they became the New England Patriots, they were known by two other names – one more established than the other.

NE Patriots > BS Patriots.
NE Patriots > BS Patriots.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

1970 was a tumultuous year for the Boston Patriots. Their league – the upstart American Football League – and the National Football League merged to play their first season together. Everything became new in the land of football and the Patriots wanted to be a part of this change to modernism.

It all started with the stadium. Since their first season in 1960, the team has played its home games in four different venues around Boston: Nickerson Field (1960-1962), Fenway Park (1963-1968), Boston College's Alumni Stadium (1969) and Harvard Stadium (1970). Owner Billy Sullivan did not want his franchise to be the new NFL's equivalent to a traveling circus. He wanted a permanent stadium for his franchise.

However, Boston's city council was unwilling to help financing a new stadium within the city's borders. After being rejected one final time in 1970, the owner began looking for help outside the city and found it in Foxborough, 20 miles southwest of Boston. The town was home to the Bay State Raceway and its owners donated some of their land to Sullivan in order to keep a professional football franchise in New England.

In September 1970, the construction of Schaefer Stadium (later known as Foxboro Stadium) began and the team started playing on its new home-turf by 1971.

With the Patriots leaving the City of Boston to settle in a suburban area, Sullivan also wanted his franchise's name to reflect a more regional influence (his son, Pat Sullivan, later said that his father also wanted to extract some revenge on the city council by taking "Boston" out of the team's name).

A new name was needed and it was found in February 1971: Bay State Patriots.

The team held a press conference to announce the new name and made a press release (albeit in "Boston Patriots football club" envelopes). There were two problems. First, the NFL did initially not approve the name change and second, in order to fit the new name into headlines, it had to be abbreviated – to "BS Patriots".

"The first day I came here for my press conference I picked up one of the papers and right there on the front page it said, 'BS Patriots to hire Bell'", remembers former general manager Upton Bell in Michael Felger's book Tales from the Patriots Sideline (p.25, Sports Publishing L.L.C.). "Every writer in town was having a field day. The bullshit Patriots. So one of my first moves was to ask Billy if we could change the name to the 'New England' Patriots."

Sullivan and the Patriots board of directors eventually agreed to change the name and on March 22, 1971, the New England Patriots were born.