Dr. James Ailinger
Professional Football Player, Official
The oldest alumnus of the National Football League and a charter member of the Athletic Hall of Fame at the University at Buffalo, Dr. James Ailinger has spent an amazing lifetime in vast and varied athletic pursuits. His own athletic accomplishments are staggering: from an All-High Football career at Hutch-Tech, to captain of the basketball and football squads in 1924 at UB, to a stint with the West Side Rowing Club’s 4-oared championship crew, to a brief pro football career which featured a head-to-head (literally) meeting with Jim Thorpe, Ailinger excelled every step of the way.
Ailinger has fond memories of that brief pro football career and those recollections of the primitive game present a sharp contrast to today’s specialized spectacle. Ailinger and his cohorts played for $50 per game… and without facemasks or substitute players.
Ailinger’s greatest notoriety was achieved in the arena of sports administration and officiating. In addition to his contribution to his alma mater as an assistant football coach and assistant basketball coach, Ailinger coached Nichols School basketball, and served as President of the Eastern Intercollegiate Football Association. The versatile doctor even filled the post of General Manager of the Buffalo Hockey Bisons in the mid-1940s. Utilizing innovative and imaginative promotional techniques, he doubled attendance and kept a proud franchise on firm financial footing. Ailinger’s most enduring contribution to sports was his long and distinguished service as an on-field official (usually headlinesman) for eastern intercollegiate football. Once considered the dean of eastern collegiate football officials, Ailinger worked over 425 games, and was frequently sought after for prestigious assignments and key contests such as the Army-Navy rivalry.
A long lifetime of dedication to athletics has brought Ailinger to this distinguished honor in 1998. Just as Canton has recognized Ailinger’s status as oldest alumnus, the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame is honored to acknowledge that status in its tribute to a life which spans all the generations of its members.