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A MIDDLING SEASON AT THE TOP
When top-ranked Clemson takes the field against Nebraska in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, more than the national championship will be at stake. Also on the line will be a .500 season for the No. 1 team in the Associated Press rankings—a position that had been occupied by six different schools before Clemson. The "record" of those six teams in games they played when ranked No. 1 stands at 6-6, as follows (with top-ranked team in capitals):
Wisconsin 21 MICHIGAN 14 (0-1)
For several years now, University of Wisconsin rooters have been enlivening their school's athletic contests by lustily singing a variation on the advertising jingle, "When you say Budweiser, you've said it all." The takeoff, which merely substitutes " Wisconsin" for " Budweiser," has become so popular in the Badger state that St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch, Inc., the brewer of Budweiser, is now exploiting the phenomenon with three 30-second commercials. All three spots, which are aired only in Wisconsin, show Badger fans singing their when-you-say-Wisconsin number. Two of them include film footage of a 1979 football game against Northwestern and a 1980 ice hockey game against Bowling Green. In each of the commercials an announcer says, " Wisconsin, this Bud's for you." In return for the tie-in, Anheuser-Busch made grants of unspecified amounts to the Wisconsin band and athletic department. The Wisconsin athletes didn't get paid by Anheuser-Busch, nor were they identified by name in the commercials, although a number of them were recognizable, including several current members of the school's defending NCAA-champion hockey team.
Although most Wisconsinites find them rousing, the commercials have caused some home-state grumbling that the promotion for Bud might undercut Wisconsin's own Miller, Pabst and Schlitz brands. Another objection was raised last week by David Berst, the NCAA's director of enforcement, who expressed surprise that the school hadn't bothered to clear them with his office. Berst said the Budweiser campaign sounded like a "flat-footed" violation of an NCAA prohibition against athletes allowing themselves or their names to be used in commercials. "If we didn't have such a rule, that's all you'd see," said Berst.
Berst didn't specify, however, what would be so wrong if such commercials did become commonplace, thereby providing a new source of badly needed revenue to colleges committed, for better or worse, to big-budget athletics. In recent years Olympic-related sports federations have been groping toward a long-overdue revision of amateurism rules that have allowed some athletes to appear in commercials on the condition that their national federations handle the deals and get at least part of the loot. Whatever one might think of the propriety of college athletes being used in beer advertising, Wisconsin appears to have stumbled into an arrangement that might be used in college sports; though in this case it might be considered best that no endorsement be made by individual athletes and that the take should all go to the institution. If the NCAA could be persuaded to reexamine its policies in this area, a lot of other schools might wind up joining Budweiser in saluting the Badgers.
CBS PLAYS D
Don't be surprised if CBS changes its name one of these days to DBS, for the Dallas Broadcasting System. Consider, first, the network's strategy for turning the New Year's Day ratings showdown between the Clemson-Nebraska Orange Bowl on NBC and the Pitt-Georgia Sugar Bowl on ABC into a three-way battle. Because Jan. 1 falls on a Friday, CBS will be able to challenge those games in most major markets with its regular weekly offering of Dallas, TV's top-rated show. CBS publicists are ballyhooing the fact that the script for that evening's episode will reveal the fate of Jock Ewing, the patriarch of the oil clan who disappeared from the program following the death last April of the actor who played him, Jim Davis. With the top spot in college football and Ewing's whereabouts up in the air, there could be a whole lot of dial switching on Jan. 1.
CBS also relies heavily on another Dallas product, the Cowboys, whom the network is able to showcase because it carries NFC games, while NBC covers the AFC. Last season CBS barely edged NBC in the average weekly Nielsen ratings during the NFL season, 15.3 to 15.0, but in 1981, going into last weekend's final regular-season games, CBS had clobbered NBC on national games, 17.2 to 13.7. The main difference this year was that CBS concentrated its NFL coverage more heavily on the Cowboys, who appeared in the network's national game no fewer than nine times. "We've been operating on the principle: Put on the best game available, but when in doubt, give 'em Dallas," says CBS spokesman Beano Cook. "Love them or hate them, the Cowboys are the most popular NFL team."