Upon Further Review: Once upon a time, the NFL didn’t have cheerleaders

“Upon further review” is a new recurring segment in which This Given Sunday analyzes quirks and fascinating tidbits from the NFL’s history books. 

Today, cheerleaders complement the NFL as well as beer, pizza and the voice of Al Michaels. In fact, 26 of the league’s 32 teams now have cheerleading squads. But 43 years ago, NFL cheerleading wasn’t yet a thing.

Of course, that all changed in Dallas.

Teams like the Cowboys routinely had high school cheerleading squads on their sidelines in the late-1960s, but an all-adult, scantily-clad unit wasn’t adopted until general manager Tex Schramm commissioned a New York-based choreographer to put together the first real group of Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders in 1972.

Schramm had always known that sexy women made a lot of sense on or around the football field. He knew professional football was entertainment, not just a sport. He had first tried to bring those two worlds together more than a decade earlier, but cutting corners by simply bringing models to the sideline caused the endeavor to fail. From DallasCowboysCheerleaders.com:

In 1960, he tried hiring professional models for the sidelines. It was a disaster. The models were beautiful, but they were not athletes. More than 3 hours of exertion in the hundred degree heat of the sidelines had left them in worse shape after the game than the football players.

They got things right in the 1970s. Sixty potential cheerleaders auditioned in ’72, with seven making the initial squad.


Now, over 1,000 ladies audition for 34 spots, but there are about 900 active cheerleaders working NFL sidelines nationwide. NFL cheerleaders have become an institution, especially in Dallas.

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com (covering Super Bowls XLIV, XLV and XLVI), a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Bloguin, but his day gig has him covering all things NFC East for Bleacher Report.