August 20, 1920: Precursor league to the NFL is born
It was on this day in 1920 that American football got its big break, with the formation of what would go on to become the NFL. Though the NFL is now the most lucrative sports league in the world, it first got its start in a Hupmobile auto showroom in Canton, Ohio. Make no mistake, professional American football had been around since the 1890s. But it wasn’t until 1920 that a group of men met up in Canton to form a league that would eventually get pro teams from every state on the same page.
Professional football’s rocky start
Up until the Canton meeting, professional American football was still experiencing a lot of growing pains. Although it had proven to be a profitable spectator sport, there were still a huge number of both state and regional teams that were all sort of doing their own thing. Back then, it was common for players to hop around from team to team, based on who was willing to pay more for their skills.
So finally a group of men, including an already legendary football star named Jim Thorpe, met up to see if they could form a league that would help bring American teams together. They agreed to a new set of standards which they hoped would help to raise the standard of professional football in America.
A game plan begins to form
Some of the things they agreed on included:
- A set schedule, which would eliminate the confusion of various regions and states each playing on their own schedules.
- Banning the poaching of players from other teams.
- An end of season championship and salary cup.
- The decision that players still on college teams wouldn’t be signed to pro teams at the same time.
By the time the men were done, they had formed what was dubbed the American Professional Football Conference (APFC). Initially, only five teams signed on but, as time went on, more and more teams started to get with the program. A few years and name changes later, that initial meeting in Canton would prove to have planted the seeds for what’s now evolved into the NFL.