Originally Posted by Yachtzee
My feeling about the pre-Super Bowl/current era NFL is that it resembles the change in MLB that came when the AL arrived on the scene. Like the pre-AL era, pro football before the AFL was often in a state of flux, where teams and leagues would come and go. In fact, I think one could argue that the college game was as much if not more popular than the NFL. You also didn't have the money in the NFL that would convince a lot of college educated players to choose pro football over starting a career in another field (baseball always had the advantage of grabbing athletes before college, so potential earnings were less than for a football player who had been to college).
The advent of the AFL and the Super Bowl represents a big transformation in the pro game. First, the AFL stabilized the expansion/contraction of the pro game by putting teams in new markets with financially viable owners who had been shut out of the NFL. Second, the AFL brought about rule changes and other changes that made the game more appealing to TV audiences. Third, with the AFL and NFL taking a more focused approach on courting TV viewers and advertisers, the money put back into the game gave the pro game the wherewithal to convince more college athletes to go pro and establish clear supremacy over the college game.
Granted, much of my knowledge on the era is based on reading a few books and discussions on the topic with my dad. But I don't think my notion is too far fetched when you hear about as much about great college teams from that era as you do the NFL champs. One could say that Notre Dame was much closer to being America's Team in those days as the Cowboys have ever been.
Good point, the Pre sixties NFL was a sporting chataqua at best.
The best book I've read on the growth of the league was America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation