Who Owns the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Who Owns the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Who Owns the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Who Owns the Pro Football Hall of Fame, The Pro Football Hall of Fame, located in Canton, Ohio, honors players and coaches from the National Football League (NFL) who have contributed significantly to the sport during their careers. Originally established by an act of the U.S. Congress, the Hall of Fame was first opened in Canton in 1963. Its goal was to honor players who had contributed to pro football history during the first 25 years of its existence. In 1970, the NFL and the city of Baltimore jointly purchased Hall’s first home, the old Municipal Stadium.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame was supposed to be in Canton

In 1920, a group of men gathered in downtown Canton, Ohio at the Hupmobile showroom of Ralph Hay, owner of the hometown Bulldogs. The quintet each representing different parts of pro football agreed that there should be a Hall of Fame for professional football and that Canton should house it. But where would they find a top-notch building to serve as its home? That question was solved when Earl Dutch Clark, director of sports promotion for Canton’s Timken Roller Bearing Company (TBR), led them to an old roller rink sitting unused near his office.

By January 1921, a bill creating a Board of Trustees was passed by both houses of Congress, and President Warren G. Harding signed it into law on July 31, 1921, officially forming the Pro Football Hall of Fame Association with representatives from 14 NFL teams serving as charter members. Dutch Clark’s involvement is recognized today through Memorial Park located adjacent to Fawcett Stadium; named in honor of Papa Bear George Halas; founder and coach of the Chicago Bears; one of the original 13 charter members inducted into the inaugural class upon their election in 1963.

Who Owns the Pro Football Hall of Fame

It is said that he donated $1,000 to help build Memorial Park dedicated to those who had an important role with Canton professional football franchises over years past. In September 1965 Jack Mara, then president of N.Y. Giants and son of founding member Timothy J. Mara, tapped Bud Grant to coach New York while Dan Reeves joined Bill Walsh as an assistant coach with San Francisco 49ers; now merged into Arizona Cardinals.

Today, everyone knows how influential these two men have been throughout NFL history. Perhaps lesser known are names like Tony Canadeo, Walt Kiesling, and Bob Snyder: founders of Packers’ predecessors Green Bay Packers Inc.; first organized semi-pro team in Wisconsin and forerunner to current Green Bay Packer franchise. Throughout Green Bay Packers history, names like Lambeau, Nitschke, and Lombardi have dominated headlines but what about founders Curly Lambeau & George Calhoun or Coach Emery Neff?

History is full of people and events overlooked; it takes dedication to discover and preserve truths once unknown. So just remember next time you see busts of 10 individuals enshrined in Canton think back, where did they come from…who got them here? The last word goes to Bruno Banducci who famously quipped Football isn’t a contact sport, it’s a collision sport!

A History Lesson

It Started With Hay and Some Bulldogs: On September 17, 1920, a group of men gathered in downtown Canton, Ohio at the Hupmobile showroom of Ralph Hay, owner of the hometown Bulldogs. The purpose was to hear from Jim Thorpe about his idea for a professional football league. Of course, it would later be known as the American Professional Football Association, which would become today’s National Football League (NFL). But those were still early days; on October 3rd that same year, just eight teams were members of that original league. Still, things have changed dramatically since then—both about size and geography.

According to NFL research, by 1933 19 different franchises were operating out of 12 cities. Today 32 teams are operating out of 31 different cities across two countries (and two U.S territories). For example, Miami and Los Angeles each got their first team within 5 years of each other: Miami in 1966 and Los Angeles in 1946. Now, they both host two competing franchises. Meanwhile, Birmingham, Alabama—which hosted four teams between 1907 and 1972 —has had none since 1996. And how long did these franchises stay in one place before moving to another city? At least five years but less than 25% of them lasted more than 10 seasons in any one spot.

How did we get from there to here?

The first team to enshrine a pro football player was Hay’s, who inducted Jim Thorpe into Canton’s Hall of Athletics in August 1917. Thorpe, who had been largely forgotten since his playing days (at least until he returned from overseas and played for six more seasons), remains in contention for the best athlete ever, along with Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson. Even without their hall, like baseball’s Cooperstown or basketball’s Springfield—or soccer’s Maradona/Pele-less FIFA equivalent—Thorpe is enshrined as one of two charter members in Hay’s Hall.

The other is Walter Camp, The Father of American Football, who provided both its rules and name after watching an inaugural match between Yale and Princeton players on Nov. 6, 1876. From there it took almost 90 years for another 30 immortals to be welcomed into what came to be known as the shrine to professional football, including coach Sid Gillman in 1989. It was not, however, until 1979 that Paul Brown became eligible; then again three decades later when Bill Walsh joined him on Aug. 6, 2009.

And now we wait. But who will come next? And where will they wait? Will they join our fellow greats, shuttling back and forth between small-town Ohio hotels, drunken midwestern road trippers during Super Bowl week perhaps inadvertently discovering them peering at them through frosty bar windows? Or will they sit behind bulletproof glass once proudly displaying engraved names of giants, staring out at us all: fans and non-fans alike.

The Modern Pro Football Hall of Fame

A Business Plan That Has Withstood The Test Of Time: In 1920, a group of local business leaders in Canton, Ohio, came together to form a plan for what would become one of the American sports’ most successful institutions. As time has gone on, that business plan has changed very little, and that’s what makes it so remarkable. Whether you run an institution of history like they do in Canton or you manage your family’s corner bar, there are lessons to be learned from their success:

Have a clear vision. Build value by providing quality products. Make customer service your top priority. Invest in people, not just property and equipment. Don’t take yourself too seriously—but always take your business seriously. Remember why you started your business in the first place. Always treat everyone with respect. Constantly re-evaluate what works and what doesn’t work. Remember that no matter how much you change, don’t forget who you were when it all began . . . because as we’ve seen in football recently, every great dynasty falls apart sooner or later. But if you follow these principles, you can still make it a smooth transition and go out as something that is envied rather than missed.

Founded by Ralph Hay

An entrepreneur extraordinaire in his own right, Mr. Hay is credited with convincing Jim Thorpe to join Canton’s newly formed pro football team for its first season in 1920, helping to establish them as one of the nation’s original and premier franchises but that was only a small part of his resume.

Why it makes sense to move the Pro Football Hall of Fame back to Cleveland

It has been more than 50 years since a football game was played in Cleveland. That doesn’t mean Clevelanders have stopped loving their pro football team, or their sport as a whole. And that is part of what makes it so exciting to consider that there may soon be football again in Cleveland—and not just any football, but championship-level football at that. Of course, if you know anything about Cleveland sports history, you already know we were once home to one of professional football’s greatest dynasties: The Browns were champions no less than four times between 1950 and 1959. So why would Cleveland want (or need) another NFL franchise? Because once you love football as we do here in Ohio’s Rock and Roll Capital, nothing can replace it.

Those championships ended more than half a century ago now, but many still hold onto those glory days dearly; they are among our city’s most cherished memories. I know because I live in those old houses on Nottingham Road where season ticket holders used to cheer on legends like Otto Graham, Marion Motley, and Lou Groza—and I continue cheering today with my two boys while they play touch football on our front lawn. As much as those titles meant for our community back then, though, even bigger things could come from bringing pro football back to Cleveland today. In fact, without fail each time someone talks about bringing an NFL team back to town these days something else gets mentioned alongside it:

The idea of building a new stadium downtown. There’s good reason for optimism surrounding all of these discussions. Perhaps more important than any other time before, our region’s civic and business leaders seem committed to getting it done. Why? Well, for starters folks around here simply love sports. We understand how big of a deal it is when a fan base loses its team—especially when kids start growing up never knowing what pro football feels like in their hometown.

On top of that, though, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald (one of Cleveland’s youngest chief executives ever), who took office at age 34 last year, has made clear that he thinks regionalizing cultural assets like pro sports teams and entertainment venues is key to moving our region forward economically. Cities thrive through cultural amenities, he says—and he may be right.

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