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.[1]

College All-Star Football Classic (defunct)
Chicago Charities College All-Star Game
Program cover for 1941 game
StadiumSoldier Field
(1934–1942, 1945–1976)
Dyche Stadium (1943–1944)
LocationChicago (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 game

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.[1] 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.

A football signed by the members of the 1935 Collegiate All-Star Team, including Gerald Ford.

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.[2] Baugh's Washington Redskins lost to the All-Stars the next year, but he did not play due to injury.[3]

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.[4] 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,[5] the Cleveland Browns in 1955,[6] and the Detroit Lions in 1958.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11][12][13] 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.[11][14]

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. Fans subsequently invaded the field and began sliding on the turf, and with the rain continuing to fall heavily, the officials ordered both teams to their locker rooms. Despite the efforts of officials, security and Chicago Police, all attempts to clear the field failed, and a group of drunk fans tore down the goalposts 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 11:01 pm CDT, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and the Tribune announced that the game had been called. The news was greeted with jeers, and numerous brawls broke out on the flooded field before order was finally restored. Joe Washington of Oklahoma was selected MVP of the final College All-Star game.[15]

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.[13][16][17][18]

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.[19]

Game results

All games played at Soldier Field in Chicago, except for the 1943 and 1944 games, which were played at Dyche Stadium in Evanston, Illinois.

Year Date Winning team Losing team Attendance Series
1934August 31College All-Stars0Chicago Bears079,432Tied 0–0–1
1935August 29Chicago Bears5College All-Stars077,450NFL 1–0–1
1936September 2College All-Stars7Detroit Lions776,000NFL 1–0–2
1937September 1College All-Stars[2]6Green Bay Packers084,560Tied 1–1–2
1938August 31College All-Stars[3]28Washington Redskins1674,250Colleges 2–1–2
1939August 30New York Giants9College All-Stars081,456Tied 2–2–2
1940August 29Green Bay Packers45College All-Stars2884,567NFL 3–2–2
1941August 28Chicago Bears37College All-Stars1398,203NFL 4–2–2
1942August 28Chicago Bears21College All-Stars0101,103NFL 5–2–2
1943August 28College All-Stars27Washington Redskins748,437NFL 5–3–2
1944August 30Chicago Bears24College All-Stars2149,246NFL 6–3–2
1945August 30Green Bay Packers19College All-Stars792,753NFL 7–3–2
1946August 23College All-Stars16Los Angeles Rams097,380NFL 7–4–2
1947August 22College All-Stars16Chicago Bears0105,840NFL 7–5–2
1948August 22Chicago Cardinals28College All-Stars0101,220NFL 8–5–2
1949August 22Philadelphia Eagles38College All-Stars093,780NFL 9–5–2
1950August 11College All-Stars[5]17Philadelphia Eagles788,885NFL 9–6–2
1951August 17Cleveland Browns33College All-Stars092,180NFL 10–6–2
1952August 15Los Angeles Rams10College All-Stars788,316NFL 11–6–2
1953August 14Detroit Lions24College All-Stars1093,818NFL 12–6–2
1954August 13Detroit Lions31College All-Stars693,470NFL 13–6–2
1955August 12College All-Stars[6]30Cleveland Browns2775,000NFL 13–7–2
1956August 10Cleveland Browns26College All-Stars075,000NFL 14–7–2
1957August 9New York Giants22College All-Stars1275,000NFL 15–7–2
1958August 15College All-Stars[7]35Detroit Lions1970,000NFL 15–8–2
1959August 14Baltimore Colts29College All-Stars070,000NFL 16–8–2
1960August 12Baltimore Colts32College All-Stars770,000NFL 17–8–2
1961August 4Philadelphia Eagles[20]28College All-Stars1466,000NFL 18–8–2
1962August 3Green Bay Packers[21]42College All-Stars2065,000NFL 19–8–2
1963August 2College All-Stars[8]20Green Bay Packers1765,000NFL 19–9–2
1964August 7Chicago Bears[22]28College All-Stars1765,000NFL 20–9–2
1965August 6Cleveland Browns[23]24College All-Stars1668,000NFL 21–9–2
1966August 5Green Bay Packers[24]38College All-Stars072,000NFL 22–9–2
1967August 4Green Bay Packers[25]27College All-Stars070,934NFL 23–9–2
1968August 2Green Bay Packers[26]34College All-Stars1769,917NFL 24–9–2
1969August 1New York Jets[27]26College All-Stars2474,208AFL 1–0–0
1970July 31Kansas City Chiefs[28]24College All-Stars369,940NFL 25–9–2
1971July 30Baltimore Colts[29]24College All-Stars1752,289NFL 26–9–2
1972July 28Dallas Cowboys[30]20College All-Stars754,162NFL 27–9–2
1973July 27Miami Dolphins[31]14College All-Stars354,103NFL 28–9–2
1974July 26Canceled due to 1974 NFL strike
Game was originally scheduled between the Miami Dolphins and College All-Stars
1975August 1Pittsburgh Steelers[32]21College All-Stars1454,562NFL 29–9–2
1976July 23 1Pittsburgh Steelers24College All-Stars052,095NFL 30–9–2

1 Game was called with 1:22 left in 3rd quarter because of torrential rain and rampaging fans.[11][15]

Franchise records

Listed by number of appearances

Franchise Games Wins Losses Ties Pct. Winning Years Non-wins
Green Bay Packers8620.7501940, 1945, 1962,
1966, 1967, 1968
1937, 1963
Chicago Bears7511.7861935, 1941,
1942, 1944, 1964
1934, 1947
Cleveland Browns4310.7501951, 1956, 19651955
Detroit Lions4211.6251953, 19541936, 1958
Baltimore Colts33001.000 1959, 1960, 1971
Philadelphia Eagles3210.6671949, 19611950
New York Giants22001.000 1939, 1957
Pittsburgh Steelers22001.000 1975, 1976
Los Angeles Rams2110.50019521946
Washington Redskins2020.0001938, 1943
Chicago Cardinals11001.000 1948
New York Jets11001.000 1969
Kansas City Chiefs11001.000 1970
Dallas Cowboys11001.000 1972
Miami Dolphins11001.000 1973
  • 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

Year Player Position College
1938Cecil IsbellRunning backPurdue
1939Bill OsmanskiRunning backHoly Cross
1940Ambrose SchindlerRunning backUSC
1941George FranckRunning backMinnesota
1942Bruce SmithRunning backMinnesota
1943Pat HarderRunning backWisconsin
1944Glenn DobbsRunning backTulsa
1945Charley Trippi[33]MultipleGeorgia
1946Elroy HirschRunning backWisconsin
1947Claude YoungRunning backIllinois
1948Jay RodemeyerRunning backKentucky
1949Bill FischerOffensive linemanNotre Dame
1950Charlie JusticeRunning backNorth Carolina
1951Lewis McFadinMultipleTexas
1952Babe ParilliQuarterbackKentucky
1953Gib DawsonMultipleTexas
1954Carlton MasseyDefensive endTexas
1955Ralph GuglielmiQuarterbackNotre Dame
1956Bob PellegriniLinebackerMaryland
1957John BrodieQuarterbackStanford
1958Bobby MitchellHalfback/Wide receiverIllinois
Jim NinowskiQuarterbackMichigan State
1959Bob PtacekRunning backMichigan
1960Jim LeoEndCincinnati
1961Billy KilmerQuarterbackUCLA
1962John HadlQuarterbackKansas
1963Ron Vander KelenQuarterbackWisconsin
1964Charley TaylorWide receiverArizona State
1965John HuarteQuarterbackNotre Dame
1966Gary LaneQuarterbackMissouri
1967Charles "Bubba" SmithDefensive endMichigan State
1968Larry CsonkaRunning backSyracuse
1969Greg CookQuarterbackCincinnati
1970Bruce TaylorDefensive backBoston University
1971Richard HarrisDefensive endGrambling State
1972Pat SullivanQuarterbackAuburn
1973Ray GuyPunterSouthern Mississippi

See also


  1. Grogan, John (2000). "The College All-Star Football Classic" (PDF). The Coffin Corner. Professional Football Researchers Association. 22 (2). Archived from the original (PDF) on January 30, 2012. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  2. Kuechle, Oliver E. (September 2, 1937). "Sam Baugh's pass, stalwart defense give Stars 6-0 victory over Packers". Milwaukee Journal. p. 5-part 2.
  3. "Isbell sparks rally as All-Stars beat Redskins in second half". Milwaukee Journal. September 1, 1938. p. 6-part 2.
  4. "Tom Harmon to Join Stars". The Milwaukee Journal. August 15, 1945. p. 10.
  5. Kuechle, Oliver E. (August 12, 1950). "College stars spring startling upset". Milwaukee Journal. p. 6.
  6. "All-Stars beat Browns 30-27". Eugene Register-Guard. Associated Press. August 13, 1955. p. 7.
  7. Johnson, Chuck (August 16, 1958). "Grid All-Stars slay inept Detroit Lions". Milwaukee Journal. p. 12.
  8. Lea, Bud (August 3, 1963). "All-Stars upset Packers". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 2-part 2.
  9. The NFL's Official Encyclopedic History of Professional Football, 1977: The AAFC, pgs. 245-251
  10. Harmon, Pat (1949-08-10). "Short-Sighted Pros". Cedar Rapids Gazette.
  11. "Rampaging fans, rain shorten all-star game". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. July 24, 1976. p. 3B.
  12. Sheeley, Glenn (July 24, 1976). "Splish, splash, Stars take a bath". Pittsburgh Press. p. 6.
  13. "A year in sports". Sports Illustrated. (photo). February 17, 1977. p. 61.
  14. Sheeley, Glenn (July 24, 1976). "Noll's view of new faces dampened". Pittsburgh Press. p. 6.
  15. Shepard, Terry (July 24, 1976). "Rain and fans do in players". Milwaukee Journal. p. 10.
  16. "Game ended by Tribune". Milwaukee Journal. December 22, 1976. p. 10-part 2.
  17. "Chicago Charities withdraw from Star game". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. December 22, 1976. p. 17.
  18. "All-Star tilt choked by rising costs". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). Associated Press. December 22, 1976. p. 15.
  19. "College All-Star Game: A Charity Dies". Evening Independent. Chicago Tribune. December 22, 1967. p. 1-C. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  20. Lea, Bud (August 5, 1961). "Eagles dump All-Stars, 28 to 17". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 2, part 2.
  21. Lea, Bud (August 4, 1962). "Late Packer flurry KO's Stars". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 2, part 2.
  22. Lea, Bud (August 8, 1964). "Bears rally for 28-17 win". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 2, part 2.
  23. Lea, Bud (August 7, 1965). "Stars' rally short, Browns win 24-16". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 2, part 2.
  24. Johnson, Chuck (August 6, 1966). "Purposeful Packers batter Stars, 38-0". Milwaukee Journal. p. 14.
  25. "Starr, Packers coast in". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. August 5, 1967. p. 10.
  26. Lea, Bud (August 3, 1968). "Packers whip All-Stars, 34-17". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 1, part 2.
  27. Lea, Bud (August 2, 1969). "Stars scare Jets in 26-24 loss". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 1, part 2.
  28. Lea, Bud (August 1, 1970). "Chiefs manhandle Stars, 24-3". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 1, part 2.
  29. Lea, Bud (July 31, 1971). "Colts finesse All-Stars, 24-17". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 1, part 2.
  30. Lea, Bud (July 29, 1972). "Cowboys dominate Stars, 20-7". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 1, part 2.
  31. Lea, Bud (July 28, 1973). "Miami beats frustrated Stars". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 1, part 2.
  32. Hoffman, Dale (August 2, 1975). "Gilliam turns Star dreams into dust". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 1, part 2.
  33. "Charley Trippi's College All-Star Game Trophy". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 12, 2017.