History of Pro Football in Cincinnati

Program from the season of the Cincinnati Reds pro football team.

Before the Cincinnati Bengals arrived to the Queen City in 1967, pro football had been in Cincinnati for nearly 50 years. The first team was the Cincinnati Celts, pronounced with a hard ‘C’. The team was established in 1910 as a traveling team that played around the country. It wouldn’t be until 1921 that they were invited to join the American Professional Football Association. The Cincinnati Celts would go 1-3 that season and would leave the league that same year. The Celts played two more independent seasons before folding all together in 1923.

For about ten decades no Pro Football was played in Cincinnati until the Cincinnati Reds came around in 1933. Of course this is the same name of the first pro baseball team in Cincinnati. Both of the Reds in Cincinnati shared Crosley Field. The team would only play two seasons, 1933 and 1934. The team would fold after the ’34 season due to financial and logistical troubles. 1934 is argued to be the worst season played in the 100 year history of Pro Football.

The 1934 Cincinnati Reds

The 1934 roster consisted of 16 rookies and only a couple of guys with four or more years of pro experience. They scored their first points of the season in the third game. The team would go on to only score 10 points over the eight game season. The four home games that the Reds hosted would only draw 18,800 fans over the four games. Which averages out to about 4,700 a game. The team would be bought by St. Louis investors the following year for $20,000. The sale went through because none of the pro teams wanted to go all the way to St. Louis to play a team. The next 34 years no pro football was played in Cincinnati until the Cincinnati Bengals were established in 1968 when they joined the AFL.

The Bengals played their first season in 1968 finishing with a record of 3-11. The Bengals played their first two seasons at Nippert Stadium on the campus of the University of Cincinnati. The Bengals would move to the banks of the Ohio River with the completion of Riverfront Stadium.

The Bengals taking the field at Nippert in 1968

The 60’s and 70’s brought about shared stadiums across the country. Riverfront was one such stadium. By the year 2020 there will be no more shared stadiums with football and baseball at the pro level. The year 2000 the Bengals would move into Paul Brown Stadium a couple hundred yards from Riverfront Stadium. The lease is due in 2027 for the Stadium. Who knows if the Bengals will leave or build a new stadium or most likely, renew the lease and keep it the same.