42 years ago today, the College All-Star Game came to a rainy end

Wikipedia

If someone proposed it today, they’d get laughed out of the room. But there was a time when one of the major events of the American sports year was a game between the reigning NFL champions and a team of college all-stars. And it all came to an end 42 years ago today.

Known as the Chicago Charities College All-Star Game, the contest was played every year from 1934 until 1976, with the exception of 1974, when it was canceled by an NFL players’ strike. Soldier Field hosted every game except the 1943 and 1944 games, which were played at Northwestern’s Dyche Stadium.

Could a ragtag group of 22-year-olds who had barely had time to practice together really compete with the best team in the NFL? Amazingly, in those days, they could. In the 1930s and 1940s, the best college players didn’t always choose to play pro football, and pro players weren’t necessarily better than college players. The first five College All-Star Games featured two wins by the college players, two ties, and only one win by the NFL team. (That one, in 1935, was the only year when the NFL’s runner-up, rather than the reigning champion, represented pro football.)

By the 1960s and 1970s, however, pro football had become America’s most popular sport, and the money that came with playing pro ball meant all the best college players wanted to turn pro, and many of the top pro players were training year round, rather than finding offseason jobs. As a result, in the last couple decades of the College All-Star Game, the pro teams were beating the college teams consistently, and often easily: The pro teams won 16 of the last 17 College All-Star Games, and few of those games were even close.

The last game the College All-Stars won came in 1963, when the Green Bay Packers fell to the College All-Stars 20-17. Packers coach Vince Lombardi felt humiliated.

“We used to have a social get-together after a night game,” former Packer Boyd Dowler recalled in 2013. “Lombardi came in, and he looked visibly upset — like death warmed over. He wasn’t real kind when we got together for training camp again.”

Packers great Willie Davis added that Lombardi “would always bring it up to us when we weren’t playing well. Believe me, we never would forget it.”

On July 23, 1976, the Super Bowl champion Steelers played what would become the last College All-Star Game. A horrific thunderstorm broke out in the third quarter, and video of the game has to be seen to be believed: Not only was the storm like something out of a disaster movie, but when the college team’s coach, Ara Parseghian called a timeout to try to get his players organized in the monsoon, the fans took the opportunity to storm the field. Eventually the game was called off in the third quarter, both because of lightning and because those fans on the field had torn down the goal posts and showed no signs of being willing to vacate. The Steelers led 24-0 at the time the game was called.

And that was the end of the College All-Star Game, for that year and forever. The game had come to seem pointless, as the college players really couldn’t compete with the NFL players anymore, fans were losing interest, and players were more concerned about avoiding injuries than winning the game. The plug was pulled, and what had once been a major part of the American sports year came to an end.

39 responses to “42 years ago today, the College All-Star Game came to a rainy end

  1. Ugh, hate to admit I’m old enough to have watched the Pack play the All Stars in 1962….

  2. Attended both this game and Disco Demolition three years later. Sports fans in Chicago are happy I don’t attend games in July any longer.

  3. Too funny, I guess the packer championship years are not as great as packer fan makes them out to be. The 4 Super Bowl wins are earned. The other 9 championships not so much.

  4. If they played the winner of the college playoffs instead of college all stars the results would likely be much different. It would show how the pros don’t show up half the time.

  5. What!? St. Lombardi lost to a bunch of college All Stars? Too funny. Packer fans conveniently never mention this.

  6. flviking says:
    July 23, 2018 at 5:28 pm
    Too funny, I guess the packer championship years are not as great as packer fan makes them out to be. The 4 Super Bowl wins are earned. The other 9 championships not so much.
    ___________________

    Yes, the Packers lost to the College All-Stars by 3 points in ‘62.
    It was a fluke win in an exhibition game that was routinely held in July or August the following year.
    Lombardi was pissed, as he obviously took the game very seriously.
    Afterwards, he would lead the team to go on and win those games, 38-0, 27-0 and 34-17.

    What I find most peculiar, is the fact I don’t see the Vikings in the results of any of those games. Not one.
    Odd, because Barney nation always insures me that their team won an NFL Championship in the ‘69 season.
    Why in the world would the NFL choose the Kansa City Chiefs to represent the league in that game?!?
    That, to me, is too funny!
    skoLOL! Keep trying Barney.

  7. That was the most stupid idea of all, even worse than the Pro Bowl. The college players came in and looked at it as a chance to show the reigning champs how good they were. Meanwhile, the players on the NFL championship team — most of whom had worked regular jobs during the off season in the earlier times — came in out of shape and just looking to survive without getting hurt. I was so glad they ended it because it proved nothing except guys had their careers derailed or ruined because of injury.

  8. Well, at least no NFL team has ever lost to a CFL team, because-what’s that? Oh great work, Buffalo.

  9. I’d like to see the Browns play the College All Stars.
    If they lose, they then get to face the High School All Stars.
    If they lose, they then get to face the Pop Warner All Stars.
    Eventually, Hugh Jackson would win a game.

  10. I remember these games too. Now you could not hold these games because of Roger, and the NFLPA, and the litigation factor.

  11. It was 42 years ago today
    The college all-star team came to play
    They were running in and out with style
    But the fans stormed the field and smiled

    So let me introduce to you
    The act you’ve known for all the years
    Chicago Charities All-star Team…

  12. The Truth says:
    July 23, 2018 at 6:25 pm
    The College All Stars would finish second in the AFC East

    ———–

    And your team would still finish in last place

  13. Too funny. The same viking fans who always tell the Packer fans to stop living in the past trying to make something out of a game that was played 55 years ago. Too funny.

  14. Too funny, I guess the packer championship years are not as great as packer fan makes them out to be. The 4 Super Bowl wins are earned. The other 9 championships not so much.
    ………………………………………………………………………………..

    Speaking of not earning any championships, we have the Minnesota team. You Purples make this way too easy.

  15. As kids we used to look forward to watching that game. The College All-Stars had cool uniforms, especially the helmets.

  16. tremoluxman says:
    July 23, 2018 at 5:46 pm
    What!? St. Lombardi lost to a bunch of college All Stars? Too funny. Packer fans conveniently never mention this.

    ——————————————————————————————-

    The game meant nothing to the NFL team which had won the championship and it meant a great deal to the college all stars who wanted to impress the team which drafted them.
    Anyone who thinks these games had any importance must sit on pins and needles watching the Pro Bowl, too.

  17. Green Bay Packer draft picks, future Hall of Famer LB Dave Robinson and DL Lionel Aldridge, played for the College All-Stars in that victory. After the season Lombardi sent Hall of Fame center Jim Ringo for one more of those all-stars, LB Lee Roy Caffey.

  18. Too funny, I guess the packer championship years are not as great as packer fan makes them out to be. The 4 Super Bowl wins are earned. The other 9 championships not so much.

    ——————————————————————————–

    How about the vikings championship years? Oh, I forgot, they don’t have any!!!!

  19. So a bunch of college kids lined up against mean Joe green, l.c. greenwood, ernie holmes and Dwight white? I bet they loved the crap out of that. Good thing they didn’t have meme’s about standing in a puddle of pee and snot bubbles then.

  20. Thanks for providing more history of the NFL. I didn’t know this and video link you provided of the 1976 game was mesmerizing. Truly great and unbelieveable footage.
    Thousands of fans sliding around in the water while the game should of been playing. The storm was incredible. Some of the best NFL video footage I have ever seen. Thanks for the link PFT I never would of seen this.

  21. The Truth says:
    July 23, 2018 at 6:25 pm
    The College All Stars would finish second in the AFC East

    And first in a couple other divisions. Seriously, the talent gap between college and pro has grown vast and should put to rest these geriatric memories of how good the “old” NFL players were compared to today. I’m well over 60 btw and watched this game as well as many others. My favorite was the year Bubba Smith pancaked Starr on his first pass attempt. He sure gave Jerry Kramer a run for his money.

  22. I know there are a lot of Browns jokes on here but a team of college all stars would lose to the last place NFL team by a lot. It would not even be competitive.

  23. tremoluxman says:
    July 23, 2018 at 5:46 pm
    What!? St. Lombardi lost to a bunch of college All Stars? Too funny. Packer fans conveniently never mention this.

    ———–

    Yeah….it kind of calls those “championships” against the Akron Spark-Plugs into question….

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