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DALLAS COWBOYS. The Dallas Cowboys, a professional football team, began on January 28, 1960, when the National Football League awarded the league's thirteenth franchise to Clinton W. Murchison, Jr., and Bedford Wynne for the sum of $600,000. In 1952 another NFL franchise played in Dallas, but it later moved to Baltimore. Because the franchise was sold after the college draft, Murchison, Wynne and the general manager, Tex Schram, were forced to select their roster of players from a pool composed of players from the existing twelve NFL teams. The owners selected native Texan Tom Landry to be the team's first coach. Landry had played for the University of Texas and for the New York Giants. He had also been the defensive coach for the Giants between 1955 and 1959. Despite Landry's experience and expertise, the Cowboys had difficulty overcoming the disadvantages of missing the college draft that first year. The team, an unusual mixture of veterans and free agents, did not win a single game in an 0–11–1 first season. The Cowboys were beset by poor attendance and little success. None of the first six seasons produced a winning record until 1966, when Dallas won their initial championship, taking the Eastern Conference title with a 10–3-1 mark and barely losing to the Green Bay Packers 34–27 in the NFL championship game. That game repeated itself the following season when the Cowboys again fell to the Packers, dropping a 21–17 decision in the title game that became known as the Ice Bowl because of the 13 degree-below weather.

The Cowboys captured the National Football Conference championship in 1970 and repeated in 1971. Whereas they lost to Baltimore 16–13 in the Super Bowl after the 1970 season, they won their first Super Bowl the next year with a decisive, 24–3 victory over the Miami Dolphins behind most valuable player quarterback Roger Staubach. Dallas also changed homes in 1971, moving from the Cotton Bowl near downtown to plush Texas Stadium in nearby Irving. Under the direction of the innovative Tom Landry, who was coach until 1989, the Cowboys reached the playoffs for eight years in a row from 1966 through 1973 to break their own NFL record. That string was broken in 1974 when the team finished 8–6. The Cowboys reached the Super Bowl again in the 1975 season, after beating Minnesota on Staubach's historic fifty-yard "Hail Mary" pass to Drew Pearson and destroying Los Angeles. However, they lost Super Bowl 10 to Pittsburgh 21–17. Dallas captured its second world championship by defeating the Denver Broncos 27–10 on January 15, 1978, with defensive linemen Harvey Martin and Randy White sharing the honor of most valuable player. It was also in 1978 that Bob Ryan, the editor in chief of NFL Films, tagged the Cowboys as "America's Team" because of their enormous appeal and popularity nationwide. The Cowboys' fourth appearance in the Super Bowl tied Minnesota for the most times ever, and their second win equaled the records of Green Bay, Miami, and Pittsburgh. Dallas reached the Super Bowl for a record-fifth time the next season, but dropped a 35–31 thriller to Pittsburgh.

In 1984 the Murchison family sold the Cowboys to an eleven-member limited partnership headed by Dallas banker H. R. "Bum" Bright. The following year Dallas running back Tony Dorsett became only the sixth player in NFL history to have a career record of 10,000 rushing yards. That season the Cowboys extended their NFL-record streak of consecutive winning seasons to twenty, the third longest in professional sports history, behind only the baseball New York Yankees (39 straight) and hockey Montreal Canadians (32). The Cowboys had difficulty in sustaining their winning power in the late 1980s. Despite Landry's career record of 250–162–6, the team went 3–13 in 1988. Arkansas oil-and-gas investor Jerry Jones purchased the club from Bright in 1989, fired Landry and hired his former Arkansas Razorback teammate Jimmy Johnson as head coach. Jones paid $65 million for the team and another $70 million for Texas Stadium. He also signed UCLA quarterback, Troy Aikman, for a rookie record six-year salary of $11.2 million. Despite the influx of cash and personnel, the Cowboys were 1–15 in the first year of new ownership and only 7–9 in the second. Jones and Johnson however were not discouraged and through tough training and shrewd draft picks they rebuilt the team. Along with Aikman, other outstanding players included Emmitt Smith, who earned his third straight NFL rushing title in 1993, Michael Irvin, Ken Norton, Jr., and Charles Haley. The Cowboys won back-to-back Super bowls over the Buffalo Bills after the 1992 and 1993 seasons to become one of just three NFL teams to claim four world championships. Troy Aikman, most valuable player in Super Bowl 27, renegotiated his contract in 1993 for an NFL record of $50 million for eight years. Following Super Bowl 28 Johnson stepped down in March 1994 and was replaced as coach by Barry Switzer. The next season the Cowboys lost the NFC championship to their archrivals, the San Francisco 49ers. The executive offices of the team are at Valley Ranch in Irving.


This article is currently being revised by Mickey Spagnola, and will be updated as soon as possible.


Skip Bayless, God's Coach: The Hymns, Hype and Hypocrisy of Tom Landry's Cowboys (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990). Sam Blair, Dallas Cowboys, Pro or Con? (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1970). Donald E. Chipman, Randolph Campbell, and Robert Calvert, The Dallas Cowboys and the NFL (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970). Dallas Cowboys Silver Season: 1960–1984 [Dallas Cowboys 1984 media guide] (Dallas, 1984). Tom Landry, Tom Landry, An Autobiography (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Books, 1990). Carlton Stowers, Dallas Cowboys: The First Twenty-Five Years (Dallas: Taylor, 1984). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Kirk Bohls

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Kirk Bohls, "DALLAS COWBOYS," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed February 12, 2016. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on November 30, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.