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At present I have no official connection with the NCAA. But as a former college athletic director, I admittedly have strong views. I want, for one, to see intercollegiate sports preserved as they are today, because I regard them as a significant part of our national life. I think it is important for Toledo University, and hundreds like it, to be able to field a football team that can help finance a physical training program beneficial to its entire student body. More important than it is for a few schools, already doing so well that they have no attendance problems, to be given an opportunity to grab their share of $141,666.66 more than once a year. And I am particularly prejudiced against football monopolization because of what the near future holds.
PIE SLICES RICH
The NCAA's TV committees have always realized that some form of subscription-television—be it Phonevision, Skiatron or Telemeter—is inevitable. A business magazine recently estimated that 10 million sets would be tuned in on football each Saturday, at 50� a set, in the era of pay-as-you-see TV—which seems reasonable, considering the 20 million viewers the Game-of-the-Week now attracts. The possibility exists that very soon two college football teams will be in a position literally to split millions of dollars between them.
And a college that could televise its entire schedule might make a season's haul of $10 or $20 million. This verges a little on the commercial, and makes the million-per-season that has reportedly been offered both Notre Dame and the Big Ten look like pocket money.
Obviously, only the Brobdingnagians of football could command such revenues, while the Toledo Universities of the country would have to be content to play to 800 instead of 6,000—or, as Fordham just did, join the 70-odd colleges that have been forced to drop the game entirely since the advent of televised football.
In the light of this prospect, the NCAA's 1952 TV Committee sent a letter to its member institutions suggesting that they consider the possibility of distributing a part of current TV fees among all the football-playing colleges and ultimately distributing a part of the pay-as-you-see TV receipts in the same way. Notre Dame opposed the plan on the grounds that it was not in keeping with the principles of free enterprise. The Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame, said in a press release that "any attempt to restrict and boycott...would be thought of as un-American and illegal. Any attempt to go further and to share the honest reward for any talent would be looked upon as socialistic." The Reverend Edmund P. Joyce, executive vice president, called the committee's scheme "a share-the-wealth plan." Later, Ed (Moose) Krause, Notre Dame's athletic director, was quoted by the United Press as saying "anything like that would be socialistic and communistic." Notre Dame's firm position was backed by Dr. Allen Du Mont and the staff of the Du Mont-TV network. Du Mont had carried Notre Dame's games in the early days of TV football before the NCAA's limitations were put in effect.
Both Notre Dame and Du Mont had something more at stake than a principle. On the same day that Father Hesburgh made his statement, Krause mournfully told the press that the NCAA limitations had cost Notre Dame "as much as a million dollars last year."
That the dollar sign is much with football today is implicit in Krause's words, a fact I don't blame so much on Notre Dame and others as I do on TV, which has the money to make football a substantial commercial affair.
In 1950—in that pre-pot-of-gold era when the Big Ten banned TV—the NCAA, in collaboration with the networks, arranged for a study of the impact of TV on attendance at football games. It was the networks, then contending that TV would promote the game to the general public and thereby increase the attendance, which recommended the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center as a scientific and unbiased organization capable of making an objective statistical study of the 1950 football season. And these studies have been continued by the NORC each year by the authorization of the NCAA.
The NORC's first report, submitted in 1951, stunned everyone. It showed that unlimited football telecasting had a 40% adverse effect on attendance! And its later reports showed that even under the NCAA's controlled program the gate was still off 27%.