Copyright 2003, by Peter L. de Rosa. All rights reserved.


This course is designed to study football's development within the context of American History. Since sport in America involves widespread political, social, economic, legal, educational, and cultural issues, its study can illustrate various historical themes. The course is inspired by a Baseball History class I taught at the Boston Center for Adult Education.

This course is divided into six sections: four cover football's history in a chronological fashion, and the others discuss more general themes. The bibiliography is a sampling of the materials available and some of the better books on the game.

Comments and suggestions are welcome. Email me at


Origins: Football to 1920

Industrial America
American Sports Before 1900
Newspapers and Sports Writing

Ancestors: Soccer, Gaelic Football, and Rugby
Princeton 1867
Harvard and the Boston Game
Intercollegiate Football Association
Early rules: Scrimmage, Downs, Scoring
The Formation of the NCAA
The Forward Pass
Spread of College Football: Regions, Conferences, Stadiums,
Walter Camp and Amos Alonzo Stagg

Early Professionals
Tournaments and Barnstorming
Ohio League
Jim Thorpe
Akron Pros and the Canton Bulldogs

Growth, 1920-1945

The Golden Age of Sport

Knute Rockne and the Rise of Notre Dame
Glenn 'Pop' Warner

American Professional Football Association
The National Football Leage
Red Grange
Rivals: The 3 American Football Leagues
Football in the Depression
George Halas
Divisional Play
Chicago College All-Star Game
College Draft
Sammy Baugh
Pro Bowl
World War II Football
Service Teams

Rise of High School Football
Black Football

Postwar Football, 1945-1966

Postwar American

College Football's Heyday
The Great Teams

All-America Football Conference
Western Expansion
Paul Brown and Cleveland
NFL Players Association
Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts
1958 Championship Game
Hall of Fame
Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers
Jim Brown
American Football League
Player Wars

Civil Rights and Football

The Modern Game: Football since 1966

College: Financial and Academic Issues
Bowl Championship Series

The Superbowl
Domes and Artificial Turf
Joe Namath
Pete Rozelle and the Commissioner's Office
Monday Night Football
The Undefeated Season
Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders
World Football League
America's Team
Pittsburgh Steelers
Labor Issues
United States Football League
San Francisco 49ers
Racial Issues
Business Aspects

Varieties of Football

Pop Warner, Six-Man, and Flag Football
High School Football
Semipro and Minor Leagues
Arena and Other Indoor Leagues
Overseas: Games, Television, Marketing, Leagues, Expansion?
Canadian Football
NFL Europe
Women's Football

Football and Popular Culture

The Sporting Press
Folklore and Myth
Simulations and Games
Sport History Organizations
Fantasy Leagues


Books: General

David L. Porter, ed., The Biographical Dictionary of American Sport: Football
The NCAA, the NFL, and The Sporting News issue record books yearly.

Books: College and High School History

H.B. Bissinger, Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and a Dream
Jim Dent, The Junction Boys: How Ten Days in Hell with Bear Bryant Forged a Championship Team
John Feinstein, A Civil War: Army vs. Navy
Sally Pott, Fields of Honor: The Golden Age of College Football and the Men Who Created It
Ray Robinson, Rockne of Notre Dame: The Making of a Football Legend
John Sayles Watterson, College Football: History, Spectacle, Controversy
Richard Whittingham, Rites of Autumn: The Story of College Football

Books: Professional History

Roy Blount, Jr., About 3 Bricks Shy of a Load
Bob Carroll, et al., Total Football II
Arthur J. Donovan, Jr., and Bob Drury, Fatso: Football When Men Were Really Men
David Harris, The League: The Rise and Decline of the NFL
Dave Klein, The Game of Their Lives, and The Pro Football Mystique
Jerry Kramer, and Dick Schaap, ed., Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer, Jerry Kramer's Farewell to Football, and Distant Replay
David Maraniss, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi
Will McDonough, 75 Seasons: The Complete Story of the National Football League, 1920-1995
Dave Meggysey, Out of Their League
David S. Neft, et al., The Football Encyclopedia: The Complete History of Professional Football from 1892 to the Present
George Plimpton, Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback
Charles Kenyatta Ross, Outside the Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National Football League
John Thorn, ed., The Armchair Quarterback
Richard Whittingham, ed., The Fireside Book of Pro Football, Giants: In Their Own Words, and What a Game They Played
Paul Zimmerman, The New Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football

Books: Novels

Robert Daley, Only a Game
Frank Deford, Everybody's All-American
Don DeLillo, End Zone
Peter Gent, North Dallas Forty
Dan Jenkins, Semi-Tough

Movies and Television

Any Given Sunday
Brian's Song. made for televison movie
Knute Rockne-All American
The Longest Yard
North Dallas Forty
Paper Lion
Rites of Autumn: The Story of College Football. ESPN series

Minor League Football Information

Minor League Football Links
Semi-pro Football Headquarters


1st and Ten. college and profesional versions. free. The site also has free golf and basketball games.
APBA Football. board and computer versions
Deck of Iron
Football Strategy. includes "The Football Widow's Handbook"
Strat-O-Matic Football. board and computer versions


College Football Historical Society
North American Society for Sport History
Professional Football Researchers Association



Wargames in Introductory History Courses by Peter L. de Rosa