Images from the past

History summary


The American Professional Football Conference was in formed in 1920. Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, and Dayton Triangles were represented. A second organizational meeting was held in Canton, September 17. The teams were from four states:Akron, Canton, Cleveland, and Dayton from Ohio, the Hammond Pros and Muncie Flyers from Indiana, the Rochester Jeffersons from New York, and the Rock Island Independents, Decatur Staleys, and Racine Cardinals from Illinois. The name of the league was changed to the American Professional Football Association. Scheduling was left up to the teams, and there were wide variations, both in the overall number of games played and in the number played against APFA member teams. Four other teams: the Buffalo All-Americans, Chicago Tigers, Columbus Panhandles, and Detroit Heralds joined the league sometime during the year. On September 26, the first game featuring an APFA team was played at Rock Island's Douglas Park. A crowd of 800 watched the Independents defeat the St. Paul Ideals 48-0.

By the beginning of December, most of the teams in the APFA had abandoned their hopes for a championship, and some of them, including the Chicago Tigers and the Detroit Heralds, had finished their seasons, disbanded, and had their franchises canceled by the Association. Four teams-Akron, Buffalo, Canton, and Decatur-still had championship as-pirations, but a series of late-season games among them left Akron At one of these games, Akron sold tackle Bob Nash to Buffalo for $300 and five percent of the gate receipts-the first APFA player deal.

In 1921, at the league meeting in Akron, the championship of the 1920 season was awarded to the Akron Pros, as the only undefeated team in the Association in 1920. The APFA was reorganized, with Joe Carr as president. Carr moved the Association's headquarters to Columbus, drafted a league constitution and by-laws, gave teams territorial rights, restricted player movements, developed membership criteria for the franchises, and issued standings for the first time, so that the APFA would have a clear champion. The Association's membership increased to 22 teams.

In 1922 the American Professional Football Association changed its name to the National Football League, June 24. The NFL fielded 18 teams. In 1925 the NFL established its first player limit, at 16 players. Late in the season, the NFL made its greatest coup in gaining national recognition. On Thanksgiving Day, a crowd of 36,000, the largest in pro football history, watched the Chicago Bears play the Chicago Cardinals at Wrigley Field. At the beginning of December, a crowd of 73,000 watched the game Bears played against the Giants at the Polo Grounds and 75,000 fans watched them defeat the Los Angeles Tigers in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

In 1926 Grange started the first American Football League. It lasted one season and included Grange's New York Yankees and eight other teams. At the end of the season, the AFL folded. The NFL grew to 22 teams, and Halas pushed through a rule that prohibited any team from signing a player whose college class had not graduated.

At a special meeting in Cleveland in 1927 Carr decided to secure the NFL's future by eliminating the financially weaker teams and consolidating the quality players onto a limited number of more successful teams. The new-look NFL dropped to 12 teams, and the center of gravity of the league left the Midwest, where the NFL had started, and began to emerge in the large cities of the East. The NFL was reduced to only 10 teams in 1928. The NFL added a fourth official, the field judge, in 1929.