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Packers CEO Details Winning Game Plan

Green Bay Packers' president and CEO Mark Murphy (Photo: Jeff Watts)

 As soon as he signed with the Washington Redskins in 1977, Mark Murphy knew he had to begin planning for life after football.

“I never felt I was going to have a long, sustained career in the NFL,” said Murphy, who spoke March 19, during Kogod’s Alan Meltzer CEO Leadership Series. “I knew I had to do things in the off-season to better myself.”

So, the Colgate grad headed back to school, earning his MBA from the Kogod School of Business in 1983. And while his schedule was hardly typical of a grad student—Murphy went full time in the spring, took one course in the summer before training camp, and one evening class in the fall—the four-year juggling act sharpened his discipline and work ethic.

“I felt I was a better football player because I wasn’t so dependent on football,” said Murphy, who later earned a law degree from Georgetown, working for the Justice Department for four years.

Now, as the president and CEO of the Green Bay Packers—a post he’s held for about 18 months—Murphy is encouraging pro players, only about 33 percent of whom hold a bachelor’s degree, to hit the books.

“The average NFL career only lasts three years,” he said. “At 25, [players] need to find a new purpose in life.”

During his hour-long lecture, Murphy also discussed the impact of the recession on the NFL.

Although apparel and advertising sales are down across the league, the Packers remain fiscally fit. Despite being the smallest market in the NFL, there are 80,000 people on the waiting list for season tickets in Green Bay.

“We sell out every game,” said Murphy of the team, which boasts 112,000 community shareholders. “It’s much more of a collegiate atmosphere—like Ohio State or Penn State—so fans have a much stronger bond with the team.”

To the delight of the audience, which included several Cheeseheads in Green Bay green and yellow, Murphy also touched on quarterback Brett Favre’s controversial departure last year.

Along with general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy, Murphy traded fan favorite Favre to the New York Jets in August 2008, after the QB decided he wasn’t quite ready to retire.

It was a wildly unpopular move among the Pack faithful, as Murphy discovered when he saw a woman in the pro shop wearing a T-shirt depicting him, Thompson, and McCarthy as “the Three Stooges.”

After noting that she didn’t buy the shirt—“it was a gift,” Murphy recalled with a laugh— he autographed it.

“So, there’s some woman walking around Green Bay with my autograph on a ‘Three Stooges’ shirt.”