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A College Classic at Lambeau Field

Murphy Takes 5 is a monthly column written by President and CEO Mark Murphy


On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown at: ***.*

At 2:30 this afternoon, we will host our first college football game since 1983 when Fordham University and St. Norbert College played at Lambeau Field. I think it is safe to say that the LSU-Wisconsin game will draw more fans than we did for the Vince Lombardi Memorial games (Vince played at Fordham and his great Packers teams trained at St. Norbert). In fact, there has been tremendous demand for tickets to the game, from both Wisconsin and LSU fans. LSU fans are renowned for the way they travel in support of the Tigers, and we have definitely seen that this week at Lambeau Field. I anticipate that the game will have a greater economic impact than a typical Packers game, since there will be a large number of fans traveling from both schools to Green Bay. The Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau expects that over 25,000 room nights will be used in Northeastern Wisconsin, and over 100 private planes will be utilized throughout the weekend. I also think many fans will come to Green Bay without tickets to be a part of the atmosphere, similar to what we experienced in 2011 when we hosted the NFL Kickoff Game.

It has been a great week for football fans in Green Bay, with all kinds of events held throughout the area. There were over 10,000 Badger fans downtown last night for a tailgating party, and ESPN's College GameDay was broadcast this morning across from Lambeau Field, just outside the Brown County Arena. Everyone associated with the Packers organization is excited to be hosting the Lambeau Field College Classic, presented by Carmex, and look forward to showing 80,000 college football fans the best stadium in the NFL.

Now, on to your questions:

Stu from Madison, WI

I'm coming up for the LSU-Wisconsin game and am really excited to see the Badger play at Lambeau Field. My question is, how did this game come about, and will you have other college games?

Great question, Stu. This is actually something that we've been working on for several years. With my background at Northwestern, I have a good relationship with Wisconsin's athletic director, Barry Alvarez. We had been talking about the possibility of a game at Lambeau Field for a number of years, but were not able to finalize anything. When the format for the College Football Championship changed to put more emphasis on the strength of schedule, this was very helpful to our efforts. Traditionally strong football programs like LSU and Alabama would likely not agree to play Wisconsin at Camp Randall, but are willing to play the Badgers at a neutral site. Barry has been great to work with throughout the entire process, and the game would not have become a reality without his fine work. I give both Barry and head coach Paul Chryst credit for being willing to play strong opponents early in the season. The LSU-Wisconsin game is the second part of a two game series – the first game was held in 2014 in Houston's NRG Stadium. We would love to host more college games, but college football scheduling is a complicated process (with the schools, conferences and networks all involved in the process) and is typically done many years in advance.

Gary from Wausau, WI

Mark, a friend of mine posted the 1919 team picture and mentioned today (Aug. 11) is the anniversary of the official founding of the team. This gives me a chance to renew my argument, via Larry Names' and others' histories, that the team history actually goes back to 1896 when the first town team played. Curly Lambeau organized the 1919 version of the town team that succeeded all of those Green Bay teams that played since that time. This history, which is undisputed, allows the Packers to call themselves the oldest team in the NFL. The Cardinals started in 1898. There really is no official pronouncement on who is the oldest team. I think it could be fun, and lucrative with team shirts, etc., to claim the Packers are the oldest team in the League.

Thank you for your suggestion, Gary. The history of early football is very interesting. I've enlisted the help of our team historian, Cliff Christl, for an answer. Cliff makes a few points to address your idea.

1)  The claim originated with Larry Names, but he didn't get the year right, unfortunately. He said semipro football started in 1896. Actually, the first city team was organized in 1895.

2)  There's nothing to trace today's Packers back to that team or any of the other early city teams. Until the Packers were founded in 1919, there were at least six years where Green Bay had no city team. There also were years where neighborhood teams played against other cities, but made no claim to being a city team.

3)  There were at least 60 such teams between 1895 and 1918 based on the book, "Before They Were the Packers: Green Bay's Town Team Days."

4)  Packers history is much more rooted in the Green Bay East-Green Bay West high school teams. That's where most of the original players got their start in football and the rivalry between those two schools is what turned Green Bay into a rabid football town.

5)  In the Packers' early years, there were some connections made to the 1918 city team, but that was mostly so Green Bay could claim an additional state championship, which was still a bragging right even after the Packers joined what became the NFL.

6)  The Cardinals trace their roots to 1898. Their original owner in the NFL, Chris O'Brien, was affiliated with the team almost from the start and retained ownership until 1929. They adopted the nickname Cardinals by 1901. Those are strong links between the pre-NFL and current Cardinals. The Packers have no such links and it would only cheapen our history to claim those early fly-by-night city teams, where sponsors, coaches and players changed every year, had any connection to our current franchise. Hundreds, probably thousands of the cities in the United States had city football teams in the 1890s and early 1900s. Green Bay was one of many and not many of its early city teams distinguished itself on the field.

Thanks to Cliff for clarifying the details surrounding early football teams in Green Bay. We do receive questions about our early history from time to time. While we cannot claim to be the oldest team, we are one of the NFL's oldest teams. And along those lines, we'll be celebrating that great history in the upcoming years. We'll celebrate our 100th anniversary season during the 2018 campaign (you may remember we celebrated our 75th anniversary season in 1993), and we'll turn 100 years old Aug. 11, 2019. The Packers organization and our fans will have fun celebrating our rich history in the coming years.

A question from Don

Mark, what is harder to deal with, a tough loss as a player where you are in on the action or as a front office man where you can't be out there making a difference at that point in time?*  *

Losses are always hard to take, Don, whether you're a player or an executive. I would say, though, that you feel it a little more as a player, since you are directly involved in the game and can impact the outcome. As an executive, you have a broader, longer-term perspective. As a player, I often had trouble sleeping after a game because I would replay every play in my mind (both the good and the bad).

A question from Chris

Mr. Murphy - There really is nothing like seeing a game at Lambeau Field, which is part of the reason why there is a 100K-plus waiting list for season tickets. Leaving aside years where there was an expansion, which allowed you to clear a ton of names off the list, how many new people off the waiting list are offered season tickets each year and does anyone ever pass up the opportunity?

Thanks Chris. I agree with you regarding Lambeau Field, and we are very fortunate to have the tremendous support that we do from our fans. We presently have approximately 128,000 people on the waiting list. You're right, the South End Zone expansion in 2013 allowed us to take a number of people off the waiting list. We also had more people than normal come off this year because we reduced the number of tickets available in the Brown County lottery, and allocated those tickets to people on the season ticket waiting list. In a typical year, we will take approximately 250 names off the waiting list. With regard to your question regarding whether any fans turn down the opportunity for season tickets, yes, people do turn them down. On average, about 23 percent of the fans decline the offer. The main reasons why people decline to purchase season tickets are the cost of the user fee ($2,100 for Green package or $900 for Gold) and because they are offered tickets to the Gold package and want to wait for the Green package (if a fan takes the Gold package, they have to come off the waiting list).

John from Wausau, WI

I watched the Hall of Fame Induction ceremony on TV, and it looked like most of the people in the stands were Packer fans. How many Packer fans were in Canton?

The turnout of Packers fans in Canton was amazing, John. I estimate that 80 to 90 percent of the fans in Canton for the weekend were Packers fans. Hall of Fame officials told me that they were shocked at how well our fans traveled, and that the only fans that have traveled to Canton like that in the past have been Steelers fans (and Pittsburgh is less than two hours from Canton). We held a pep rally on Saturday afternoon in Canton, and over 3,000 people attended. It was the largest crowd we've ever had for a pep rally. Our fans loved the induction ceremony, especially Brett Favre's acceptance speech. On several occasions during the ceremony, our fans started cheering, "Go Pack Go." Although I was very disappointed that the game was cancelled, overall I think it was a great weekend for our fans.

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