We all know what the NFL is now. A global juggernaut worth billions and billions. The players receive astronomical salaries, there are sponsors and all the rest.
But for today’s NFL Countdown article, we’re going back to 1920, when the American Professional Football Association was formed. The meeting that took place to create the league took place on August 20, 1920, and the representatives named the new league – the American Professional Football Conference.
They also implemented a salary cap for each team and there was also an agreement not to sign college players with other players from rival teams.
There were 14 teams for the APFA’s inaugural season. They were:
Akron Pros, Buffalo All-Americans, Canton Bulldogs, Chicago Cardinals, Chicago Tigers, Cleveland Tigers, Columbus Panhandles, Dayton Triangles, Decatur Staleys, Detroit Heralds, Hammond Pros, Muncie Flyers, Rochester Jeffersons, Rock Island Independents
The first season of the APFA
The very first game involving an APFA team was between the Rock Island Independents and the St. Paul Ideals. Unfortunately, the game was rather underwhelming and it left many wondering about the validity of the league.
The Independents soundly beat St. Paul 48-0. It wasn’t the only lopsided game of the season. In week 2, seven games were played and among them, six were shut out.
Three of the games were won by a margin of more than 40 points, with West Buffalo the only visiting team to score as they managed six points in a 32-6 loss to the Buffalo All-Americans.
Who was champion?
Back then, there was no playoff format and many didn’t know how to crown a champion. The Akron Pros had the best record in the league as they weren’t lost all season (8-0-3) and allowed just seven runs in 14 games.
So there was a meeting to decide who would be crowned champions for the 1920 season. Although the Decatur Staleys (10 wins) and Buffalo All-Americans (nine wins) won more games, the fact that the Pros did not lost a match influenced the vote. They received the Brunswick-Balke Collender Cup.
Of course, the Staleys and Buffalo argued that they should be champions because they didn’t lose to Akron and they also had more wins, but the decision stood.
What’s also a fun fact is that of the 14 teams that started the APFA/NFL season, there are two that are still playing in the NFL.
The Decatur Staleys are now the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Cardinals are now known as the Arizona Cardinals.
The first season of the APFA was not beautiful. Also, it wasn’t the most balanced competition and there was a bit of controversy at the end. But it played a vital role in the establishment and functioning of professional football.
If Ralph Hay, Jim Thorpe, Jimmy O’Donnell, Stan Cofall, Carl Storck, Frank Nied and Art Ranney hadn’t organized the very first meeting, we might never have the great NFL game we enjoy. all today.