The Syracuse Pros, also sometimes referred to as the Syracuse Eleven, were a professional American football team from Syracuse, New York. It is suspected, though not known for sure, that the team joined the American Professional Football Association (now the National Football League) in 1921 and left the same year. The team was coached by Mike Purdy and managed by Andy Friedman.
Though most of today's records state that the Pros did indeed exist and were a member of the APFA, this is not entirely certain. For instance, research centered around the Tonawanda Kardex suggests that the team was still known as All-Syracuse, an independent team, and it is sometimes said that the Rochester Jeffersons only won two games against NFL opponents in their existence, against Tonawanda and the Columbus Panhandles-- even though Rochester beat Syracuse in 1921. The game is counted in Syracuse's records but not Rochester's. A third game, against the Washington Senators, was also played against a league opponent.
No record of the league admitting "The Pros" to the league or removing them from the league exists; only a statement from the team itself says it was (and even that uses the erroneous name "National Professional Football Association"). Only the Chicago Tigers, who played seven games against NFL teams during the 1920 NFL season, have been generally recognized as league members without having formally been admitted to or removed from the league. (A few teams, such as the New York Brickley Giants, have either admission or removal records missing, but not both.) At least one team, that year's runner-up Buffalo All-Americans, refused to recognize their membership and canceled two games against them, and possibly pressured the Akron Pros into canceling a game against Syracuse as well.
The Professional Football Researchers Association at one time considered the fact that Syracuse said they were in the league as sufficient evidence to say they were, claiming that since professional football was not that popular at the time, the team had nothing to gain from lying about their status (even though the team's announcement trumpeted the ability to play "the top teams in the country;" this hypothesis also does not take into account the possibility of the team being turned down for league membership); the PFRA has since backed off from that stance. Also according to PFRA, in 1921 all teams that played fewer than six games against APFA members were dropped from the official standings. If Syracuse had played all of those cancelled games, it would have played seven league games, enough to qualify for the final standings if they were APFA members. Then we’d know for certain whether the Pros were in the league or not.
1921 Syracuse Pros seasonEdit
The Pros opened their 1921 campaign with a scoreless tie against Tonawanda at Star Park. A touchdown pass from player-coach Mike Purdy to Lew Andreas in the last minute of play was called back on a holding penalty, costing Syracuse a win. Only 800 spectators showed up to the game because of inclement weather. The next two games were to be on the road against the AFPA's Buffalo All-Americans and New York Brickley Giants. However both were later canceled for reason that are unknown. To fill the first open date, manager Andy Friedman lined up a game with the Oakdales, a local semi-pro team. Syracuse then coasted to an easy 19-0 victory before a slightly improved crowd of 1,000.
For the next home game, Syracuse was to play the defending AFPA champions, the Akron Pros. However a few days later, Akron canceled the game in order to play the Rochester Jeffersons. In return, Syracuse played the an incarnation of the Akron Indians, this one an all-Native American football team, led by Suey Welch. The Pros defeated the Indians 47-0 in front of only 1,500 people. The Pros then prepared for a series of tough games against Rochester and Buffalo. However both teams canceled their games against Syracuse. A week later the Pros finally played their second game against an APFA team. However this game against the Washington Senators resulted in a 20-7 Syracuse loss. The Pros ended their only possible AFPA-NFL season with 12-0 loss to Rochester, them with an APFA record of 0-2-1.
Ties to other Syracuse teamsEdit
What is known for certain is that professional football in Syracuse had been around since at least 1890, with the formation of the Syracuse Athletic Club. Syracuse A.C. existed from 1890 to 1900, and according to PFRA contributor Kenneth Crippen had a tumultuous but prolific existence. A new Syracuse A.C. reformed in 1902, under Frank "Buck" O'Neill, and is notable for being the first ever national pro football champion; using ringers such as Pop Warner and members of the Watertown Red & Black, the Syracuse A.C. upset the favorite "New York" team in round 1 of the 1902 World Series of Pro Football and went on to win the tournament. Since the tournament was held in New York City's Madison Square Garden, the Syracuse A.C. played in the first indoor football game. An independent team known as "All-Syracuse" also existed both before and after 1921. Another Syracuse-based team, the "Syracuse Stars," is listed in the Rochester Jeffersons' 1920 season records, and is more likely than not the same team as the Syracuse Pros.