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Professional Football/NFL Goalpost width history


I am aware that the current and historical width of an NFL goal post is 18'6". My question is how was that number originally determined?

2014 Official Playing Rules - Field dimensions
2014 Official Playing  
Hello.  I always enjoy getting a question where I do not know the answer off the top of my head.
After digging through my books and Google, I am afraid this will remain unanswered for the most part.  Rather than wasting your time dragging you through the history of the placement of the goal or the height of the stanchions, let me give you as much of an answer that I can muster.
The simple answer is the crossbar is the same width as the hashmarks. That just defers your question to ask why the hashmarks are 18’6” apart. I cannot help to think that the answer is probably something very simple such as “that’s the only pipe that we had at our disposal”.
Whenever you ask a question about the NFL that dates back to “the book of Genesis”, there is a massive gap of historical.  The reason for this is:
•   The NFL was really bad at keeping records.  Most people expected the league to go out of business.  The administration of the league was conducted by a commissioner who was busy plugging in cities to replace the failed franchises. Recording the history of why things were the way they were was not a priority.
•   The bull-headed determination and tenacity of George Halas (owner of the Chicago Bears) was probably the only thing that kept the league from folding during the 1920’s. The Bears were his livelihood which was his only means of support for his family.
•   The NFL originally used the rules drafted by the NCAA. If you read the rulebook today, you might gather that the language is rather stiff and unfamiliar based on how the average person communicates.  For example, the extra point was called a “try” and a fumble was a “muff”. This vernacular remains in the text of the rulebook. The rules were originally created by Walter Camp of Yale.  With the creation of a rules committee, the precursor to the NCAA at the behest of President Theodore Roosevelt, a standardized rulebook could be adopted.
•   The Canadian Football League began in the early 1900’s which established a set of rules and specifications that the NCAA and NFL could use for their organizations.  The leagues have different field dimensions and several fundamental rules are different.  
•   Frequently, the width of the structure is discussed using trigonometry.  Simply put, the larger the angle, the more the need for a wider crossbar. You are welcome to read about this at
•   NFL kickers converted on 1,262 of 1,267 extra point attempts and 86.5% of field goals, according to So far in 2014, 88 percent of attempted field goals inside of the 40-yard line were converted and only eight extra points (1016/1024) have been missed.  This prosperity will reward the NFL Pro Bowl kickers with a 14’ crossbar to shoot for this year.
That in summary does not answer your question but may explain why we don’t know why the crossbar is 18’6” wide. In baseball, every change in the dimension of the playing field has a documented explanation.  

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Jim Considine


The subject of my expertise pertains to "American Football", as opposed to "Futball" or the game we refer to in the USA as soccer. --------------------------------------------------------- I can answer statistical questions about professional football. I am especially strong on the subject of the Baltimore Colts from 1947 through 1983, Washington Redskins, and the Baltimore Ravens. My services are best used when an older, obscure question is posed. The newer NFL records are easily accessible through I do not appraise memorabilia. I am not an expert on Canadian Football, though I will take a shot at any questions you might pose. I have a good understanding and recall of the folklore about Baltimore football. Some of this information may be subjective in nature. I will give the best answer possible if this is the case.


I was an NFL Statistician with the Washington Redskins. I grew up during the days of the Baltimore Colts in the 1960's. (Please refer to the movie "Diner" for more information about the Baltimore Colts fans)

Washington Redskins Statistician, 2005-2010 Baltimore Ravens, 1996-2003

The records were used by author Jon Morgan in his book, "Glory For Sale". The records have been part of the Baltimore Ravens Media Guides since their inaugural season in 1996. I was interviewed for the cover story of The Press Box, a local, monthly sports tabloid newspaper.

I researched and was able to piece together the statistical history of the AAFC Baltimore Colts 1947-49, and the 1950 NFL Colts. This information was used by The Baltimore Ravens for their 1996 Media Guide. The records were entitled "Baltimore Football Records". It was considered "unofficial" since the AAFC league records were not incorporated with the NFL records when the leagues merged. The reason that this information was created was due to the fact that the NFL had prohibited the 1996 Baltimore Ravens from bringing the records, colors, and team name from the Cleveland Browns. The Baltimore football records were presented in order to create a frame of reference. The Ravens have kept these records since 1996, adding and amending as the Ravens football team challenge these records.

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I was awarded two game balls from the Ravens and was recognized for my work as the top game day employee.

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Baltimore Ravens, Wise Guides, Washington Redskins

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