New York Pro Football League

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The New York Pro Football League (NYPFL) was a professional American football league, active in the 1910s, and based in upstate New York, primarily Western New York. Between 1920 and 1921, the league's best teams were absorbed into the National Football League, though none survive in that league today. It was one of the biggest challengers to the Ohio League in professional football in the 1910s.


Its formation was highly informal. The teams were largely clustered around the two cities of Rochester, New York and Buffalo, New York, with rural teams to fill the differences. Rochester had built its reputation around a strong "sandlot football" circuit, for instance, and was most popular when it consisted mostly of local teams. Rochester's best team, the Jeffersons, was instrumental in bringing the NYPFL and the Ohio League together to form the NFL. The circuit continued to exist even after the birth of the NFL (with the NYPFL teams continuing to play in both circuits), with the league finally dwindling away in the late 1920s and early 1930s. One NYPFL team, the Watertown Red & Black, still survives.

Known champions

The NYPFL's championship games were mostly held in Buffalo, New York, either at the International Fair Association Grounds or at Buffalo Baseball Park. The games were generally held on Thanksgiving.

1919 playoffs

The NYPFL is believed to have been the first professional football league to use a playoff format (as opposed to a single-game championship) in 1919.

The Buffalo Semi-Pro, Rochester, and Central New York divisions were known to have championships. In the Buffalo division, the Buffalo Prospects defeated the Tonawanda Lumberjacks by a score of 12-7. In Central New York, All-Syracuse defeated the Watertown Red & Black and advanced to face Buffalo the next week. Buffalo defeated Syracuse 23-0. The Rochester Jeffersons won the Rochester circuit title.

This led to the two-game "New York Pro Championship" between the Buffalo and Rochester divisions over Thanksgiving weekend in 1919, with the Buffalo Prospects defeating the Rochester Jeffersons by a score of 20-0 in the second of two games (the first, held on Thanksgiving Day, was a scoreless tie, necessitating a rematch).

Playoffs and championships were abandoned after the 1919 season once the NFL formed.

Role in the NFL's founding

Both Buffalo and Rochester had significant ties to the teams in the Ohio League, stemming back to 1917, when both teams went barnstorming in Ohio. The Jeffersons were able to land a game against the top team in the nation, the Canton Bulldogs, where Jeffersons owner Leo Lyons suggested to Bulldogs coach Jim Thorpe and owner Ralph Hay that a league format could eventually become as popular as Major League Baseball. [2]

Buffalo, too, had connections to the Ohio League. In addition to a team of "Buffalo All-Stars" barnstorming in 1917 against the Detroit Heralds and Massillon Tigers, Buffalo quarterback Tommy Hughitt had moonlighted as a member of the Ohio League's Youngstown Patricians.

When the Ohio League owners moved to make a national league in 1920, Buffalo and Rochester, being familiar to the league owners, were invited to join, and both accepted.


Buffalo Semi Pro Football League

Rochester sandlot circuit

Central New York division


See also

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