Chicago College All-Star Game
The Chicago Charities College All-Star Game was a preseason American football game played from 1934 to 1976 between the National Football League (NFL) champions and a team of star college seniors from the previous year. It was also known as the College All-Star Football Classic.
|College All-Star Football Classic (defunct)|
|Chicago Charities College All-Star Game|
Dyche Stadium (1943–1944)
|Location||Chicago (1934–1942, 1945–1976)|
Evanston, Illinois (1943–1944)
The game was contested annually — except for 1974, due to that year's NFL strike — and was played in July, August, or September. In the 42 College All-Star Games, the defending pro champions won 31, the All-Stars won nine, and two were ties, giving the collegians a .238 winning percentage.
The second game, played in 1935, involved the hometown Chicago Bears, runner-up of the 1934 season, instead of the defending champion New York Giants. The New York Jets played in the 1969 edition, although still an American Football League (AFL) team, as once the AFL-NFL Championship was introduced (including for the two seasons before the "Super Bowl" designation was officially adopted and the remaining two seasons before the AFL–NFL merger) the Super Bowl winner was the professional team involved, regardless of which league the team represented.
History of the gameEdit
The game was the idea of Arch Ward, the sports editor of the Chicago Tribune and the driving force behind baseball's All-Star Game. The game originally was a benefit for Chicago-area charities and was always played at Soldier Field, with the exception of two years during World War II, 1943 and 1944, when it was held at Northwestern University's Dyche Stadium in Evanston.
The Chicago game was one of several "pro vs. rookie" college all-star games held across the United States in its early years (the 1939 season featured seven such games, all of which the NFL teams won in shutouts, and the season prior featured eight, with some of the collegiate players playing in multiple games). Chicago's game had the benefit of being the highest profile, with the NFL champions facing the best college graduates from across the country as opposed to the regional games that were held elsewhere. Because of this, the game survived far longer than its contemporaries.
The inaugural game in 1934, played before a crowd of 79,432 on August 31, was a scoreless tie between the all-stars and the Chicago Bears. The following year, in a game that included University of Michigan graduate and future president Gerald Ford, the Bears won 5–0. The first all-star team to win was the 1937 squad, coached by Gus Dorais, which won 6–0 over Curly Lambeau's Green Bay Packers. The only score came on a 47-yard touchdown pass from future Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh to Gaynell Tinsley. Baugh's Washington Redskins lost to the All-Stars the next year, but he did not play due to injury.
In the 1940s, the games were competitive affairs that attracted large crowds to Soldier Field. The college all-stars had the benefit of being fully integrated, since the NFL's league-wide color barrier did not apply to the squad, meaning black players such as Kenny Washington (who played in the 1940 contest) were allowed to play in the game. As the talent level of pro football improved (and the NFL itself integrated), the pros came to dominate the series.
The qualifying criteria for the College All-Star squad was loose, as the 1945 game featured Tom Harmon, who had begun his professional career in 1941 but had been interrupted by military service. The all-stars last won consecutive games in 1946 and 1947, and won only four of the final 29 games. The Philadelphia Eagles fell in 1950, the Cleveland Browns in 1955, and the Detroit Lions in 1958. The last all-star win came in 1963, when a college team coached by legendary quarterback Otto Graham beat Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers, 20–17.
In 1949, Ward, who by this time had founded the competing All-America Football Conference, attempted to have that league's champion - the perennially winning Browns - play that year's game instead of the NFL champion, but after the NFL threatened legal action, the Tribune board overruled Ward and renewed its agreement with the NFL.
By the late 1960s and early 1970s, enthusiasm for the game started to erode as NFL coaches had become increasingly reluctant to let their new draftees play in the exhibition due to their being forced miss part of training camp, and their draftees being at considerable risk for injury. As early as 1949, these concerns had been raised after Dick Rifenburg suffered a serious knee injury practicing for the game, effectively ending his professional career before it began, and prompting Rifenburg's move into broadcasting. In 1974, a player's strike and an exodus of stars to the World Football League exacerbated this issue as the NFL went to all-rookie rosters to allow the preseason to be played; with no rookies available to play for the College All-Stars, the game was cancelled that year.
During most of its run, the College All-Star Game was not particularly unique since NFL teams frequently played exhibition games against non-NFL competition in its early decades. By the 1970's however, the NFL was withdrawing from competition against teams that were not members of the league. Following the end of preseason games against teams from the Eastern Conference of the Canadian Football League in 1961, other than pre-merger exhibition games against AFL teams and College All-Star Games the NFL played only three other games against non-NFL teams. The first two of these games, a 1969 split-squad match against a Continental Football League team and a 1972 split-squad match against a Seaboard Football League team, were major blowout wins for the NFL teams involved. The third, involving the Houston Oilers against the San Antonio Toros, was a much closer contest. The College All-Star Game remains, as of 2021, the last time an NFL team played a team from outside the league.
The final College All-Star Game took place in 1976 during a torrential downpour at Soldier Field on July 23. Despite featuring star players such as Chuck Muncie, Mike Pruitt, Lee Roy Selmon, and Jackie Slater, the all-stars were hopelessly outmatched by the Pittsburgh Steelers, winners of consecutive Super Bowls (IX, X). The star quarterback for the College All-Stars was Steeler draft pick Mike Kruczek of Boston College, but he left in the first quarter due to a thigh injury, and after backup Craig Penrose of San Diego State suffered a broken finger, Jeb Blount of Tulsa played most of the game.
With 1:22 remaining in the third quarter and the Steelers leading 24–0, high winds and lightning prompted All-Stars coach Ara Parseghian to call for a time out. After the officials ordered both teams to their locker rooms, fans invaded the field and began sliding on the turf as the rain continued to fall heavily.
Despite the efforts of officials, stadium security and Chicago Police, all attempts to clear the field failed, and a group of drunk fans tore down the goalpost at the southern end of the stadium. However, by this time, the torrential rain had left parts of the field under 18 inches (45.5 cm) of water, meaning it would have been unplayable in any event.
At 11:01pm CDT, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and the Tribune announced that the game had been called: the announcement was greeted with jeers, and numerous brawls broke out on the flooded field before order was finally restored.
While Chicago Tribune Charities had every intention of staging a 1977 game, a combination of NFL coaches being increasingly unwilling to let their high draft picks play, rising insurance costs and higher player salaries meant the game was no longer viable: the Tribune announced on December 21, 1976 that the game would be discontinued.
In the 42 College All-Star Games, the defending pro champions won 31, the All-Stars won nine, and two were ties, giving the collegians a .238 winning percentage.
One aspect of the College All-Star Game was later revived: the concept of the league champion playing in the first game of the season was adopted in 2004 with the National Football League Kickoff game. Since then, the first game of the regular season is hosted by the defending Super Bowl champion.
The game raised over $4 million for charity over the course of its 42-game run.
|Year||Date||Winning team||Losing team||Attendance||Series|
|1934||August 31||College All-Stars||0||Chicago Bears||0||79,432||Tied 0–0–1|
|1935||August 29||Chicago Bears||5||College All-Stars||0||77,450||NFL 1–0–1|
|1936||September 2||College All-Stars||7||Detroit Lions||7||76,000||NFL 1–0–2|
|1937||September 1||College All-Stars||6||Green Bay Packers||0||84,560||Tied 1–1–2|
|1938||August 31||College All-Stars||28||Washington Redskins||16||74,250||Colleges 2–1–2|
|1939||August 30||New York Giants||9||College All-Stars||0||81,456||Tied 2–2–2|
|1940||August 29||Green Bay Packers||45||College All-Stars||28||84,567||NFL 3–2–2|
|1941||August 28||Chicago Bears||37||College All-Stars||13||98,203||NFL 4–2–2|
|1942||August 28||Chicago Bears||21||College All-Stars||0||101,103||NFL 5–2–2|
|1943||August 28||College All-Stars||27||Washington Redskins||7||48,437||NFL 5–3–2|
|1944||August 30||Chicago Bears||24||College All-Stars||21||49,246||NFL 6–3–2|
|1945||August 30||Green Bay Packers||19||College All-Stars||7||92,753||NFL 7–3–2|
|1946||August 23||College All-Stars||16||Los Angeles Rams||0||97,380||NFL 7–4–2|
|1947||August 22||College All-Stars||16||Chicago Bears||0||105,840||NFL 7–5–2|
|1948||August 22||Chicago Cardinals||28||College All-Stars||0||101,220||NFL 8–5–2|
|1949||August 22||Philadelphia Eagles||38||College All-Stars||0||93,780||NFL 9–5–2|
|1950||August 11||College All-Stars||17||Philadelphia Eagles||7||88,885||NFL 9–6–2|
|1951||August 17||Cleveland Browns||33||College All-Stars||0||92,180||NFL 10–6–2|
|1952||August 15||Los Angeles Rams||10||College All-Stars||7||88,316||NFL 11–6–2|
|1953||August 14||Detroit Lions||24||College All-Stars||10||93,818||NFL 12–6–2|
|1954||August 13||Detroit Lions||31||College All-Stars||6||93,470||NFL 13–6–2|
|1955||August 12||College All-Stars||30||Cleveland Browns||27||75,000||NFL 13–7–2|
|1956||August 10||Cleveland Browns||26||College All-Stars||0||75,000||NFL 14–7–2|
|1957||August 9||New York Giants||22||College All-Stars||12||75,000||NFL 15–7–2|
|1958||August 15||College All-Stars||35||Detroit Lions||19||70,000||NFL 15–8–2|
|1959||August 14||Baltimore Colts||29||College All-Stars||0||70,000||NFL 16–8–2|
|1960||August 12||Baltimore Colts||32||College All-Stars||7||70,000||NFL 17–8–2|
|1961||August 4||Philadelphia Eagles||28||College All-Stars||14||66,000||NFL 18–8–2|
|1962||August 3||Green Bay Packers||42||College All-Stars||20||65,000||NFL 19–8–2|
|1963||August 2||College All-Stars||20||Green Bay Packers||17||65,000||NFL 19–9–2|
|1964||August 7||Chicago Bears||28||College All-Stars||17||65,000||NFL 20–9–2|
|1965||August 6||Cleveland Browns||24||College All-Stars||16||68,000||NFL 21–9–2|
|1966||August 5||Green Bay Packers||38||College All-Stars||0||72,000||NFL 22–9–2|
|1967||August 4||Green Bay Packers||27||College All-Stars||0||70,934||NFL 23–9–2|
|1968||August 2||Green Bay Packers||34||College All-Stars||17||69,917||NFL 24–9–2|
|1969||August 1||New York Jets||26||College All-Stars||24||74,208||AFL 1–0–0|
|1970||July 31||Kansas City Chiefs||24||College All-Stars||3||69,940||NFL 25–9–2|
|1971||July 30||Baltimore Colts||24||College All-Stars||17||52,289||NFL 26–9–2|
|1972||July 28||Dallas Cowboys||20||College All-Stars||7||54,162||NFL 27–9–2|
|1973||July 27||Miami Dolphins||14||College All-Stars||3||54,103||NFL 28–9–2|
|1974||July 26||Canceled due to 1974 NFL strike|
Game was originally scheduled between the Miami Dolphins and College All-Stars
|1975||August 1||Pittsburgh Steelers||21||College All-Stars||14||54,562||NFL 29–9–2|
|1976||July 23 1||Pittsburgh Steelers||24||College All-Stars||0||52,095||NFL 30–9–2|
Listed by number of appearances
|Green Bay Packers||8||6||2||0||.750||1940, 1945, 1962,
1966, 1967, 1968
|Chicago Bears||7||5||1||1||.786||1935, 1941,
1942, 1944, 1964
|Cleveland Browns||4||3||1||0||.750||1951, 1956, 1965||1955|
|Detroit Lions||4||2||1||1||.625||1953, 1954||1936, 1958|
|Baltimore Colts||3||3||0||0||1.000||1959, 1960, 1971|
|Philadelphia Eagles||3||2||1||0||.667||1949, 1961||1950|
|New York Giants||2||2||0||0||1.000||1939, 1957|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||2||2||0||0||1.000||1975, 1976|
|Los Angeles Rams||2||1||1||0||.500||1952||1946|
|Washington Redskins||2||0||2||0||.000||1938, 1943|
|New York Jets||1||1||0||0||1.000||1969|
|Kansas City Chiefs||1||1||0||0||1.000||1970|
- Miami's second consecutive appearance in 1974 was cancelled due to NFL players' strike.
The Most Valuable Player award was given from 1938 through 1973 and was always awarded to a player on the College All-Stars
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- "Tom Harmon to Join Stars". The Milwaukee Journal. August 15, 1945. p. 10.
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- Hoffman, Dale (August 2, 1975). "Gilliam turns Star dreams into dust". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 1, part 2.
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