- Pro Football Schedules by Ivan Urena
Professional football team schedules have had a significant influence on the outcomes and financial success of league teams since 1919 when the American Professional Football Association was formed and became the National Football League in 1922. During the 1920s, schedules varied widely from one team to another, as team managers arranged their own schedules. Local ordinances regarding Sunday play, the availability of enclosed playing fields necessary for charging admission to games, competition for paying customers, and travel expenses all contributed to scheduling disparities. The league’s scheduling process was not formalized until 1933 when the Great Depression endangered the very survival of the NFL. [End Page 284]
On July 8, 1933, club owners sought to capitalize on public interest in having a playoff game to determine the league champion and divided the league into two divisions with standardized schedules. Still, team schedules varied significantly, with some teams playing more games than others, and home-on-home games series against division opponents not yet set in place. It was not until 1936 that all teams played the same number of games and had home-on-home games with division opponents.
Over time, the number of regularly scheduled games played by NFL teams grew from twelve per season until 1961 to fourteen games from 1961 until 1978 and sixteen since 1978 (except 1982 and 1987 when work stoppages intervened).
The formula for scheduling when teams play each other and which nonconference teams are scheduled has varied over the years, and this issue is well described in this book. Moreover, the book provides great detail regarding the year-to-year schedules for every team from 1933 through 2012, including which day of the week each game was played.
Several sources—including Roger Treat’s Encyclopedia of Football (annually, 1952–72), The Total Pro Football Encyclopedia (edited by Todd Maher and Bob Gills), and Bob Carroll et al., Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (1999)—have published the official schedules of professional football teams, from 1919 onward. However, this is the first publication to explore in detail the historic NFL scheduling process and offer some views on its implications and consequences.