Football was the collegiate team sport borrowing much from rugby and soccer. There was irregular play between early American universities such as Rutgers Princeton and Yale. the first game was played on November 6 1869 between Rutgers and New Jersey University which is now Princeton. Walter Camp of Yale is considered the father of modern American football with his rule changes and institution of the snap at a line of scrimmage, instead of the chaotic rugby scrum, as well as down-and-distance added new strategies and increased its popularity. in 1906 19 people died during play and the sport was forced to make further changes under threat from President Teddy Roosevelt. in 1906 the legal forward pass was introduced and utilized by college coaches such as Pop Warner. the introduction of the forward pass further removed the sport from it’s rugby roots and greatly increased in popularity. as popularity increased other athletic associations adopted the sport like the Allegheny Athletic Association in the East End Gymnasium Club, later called the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. The origins of professional football can be traced back to the Allegheny Athletic Association who paid 500 dollars to William Heffelfinger to play one game against Pittsburgh Athletic Club. on August 20th 1920 several representatives from various teams, including Akron Pros and Canton Bulldogs, came together to form the American Professional Football Conference whose goals were to raise standards, form schedules, etc. from this conference came to the formation of the American Professional Football Association. In 1922 there was a name change to the National Football League and champions were decided on best win-loss record at the end of the regular season.
This system worked until 1932 when the season resulted in a tie between the Portsmouth Spartans and Chicago Bears who were tied for first in the league standings. the league decided that a playoff game was needed to decide the champion and the 2 teams met at Chicago Stadium where the Bears won 9-0. the interest and popularity in the championship game did not go unnoticed by the league where they made the determination in 1933, to split into 2 divisions and a form a championship game which would be decided between those divisional champions and given the national title. other leagues could not compete with the NFL such as the American Football League or All-American Football Conference. Then in 1960 the fourth American Football League was formed and was able get television contracts and compete for players in free agency against the NFL. in 1966 a merger was proposed and accepted thus merging the 2 leagues into 2 divisions and multiple conferences. This began the structure much as it is today with slight variations on number of teams, games played and number of conferences as the league changes as it expands. today win-loss record decides the conference champions which meet in a playoff tournament to determine the divisional winner. those divisional champions than meet in 1 final game to determine which team gets the national title in the game known as the Super Bowl. the first Super Bowl was played on January 15th 1967 after the 1966 regular season and proposed merger. The game itself was formed as part of the agreement between the AFL and the NFL merger. officially called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game the name “Super Bowl” was coined by Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, who was referring to the bowl style playoffs of college football and a child’s toy call the Super Ball; and it stuck. however the game got its name the Super Bowl is now 1 of the most viewed events in America with 111 million viewers in 2011. the sport shows no indication of declining in popularity and with the advent of fantasy football the sport seems only to be growing and will remain an American national pastime for the foreseeable future.