ORPHAN OWN BABY
The findings of the original report forced the NCAA to begin the development of the program now in effect. But the networks soon turned their backs on the research group they had recommended and joined the Radio-Television Manufacturers Association in publicizing the contrary findings which had been reported earlier in a paper entitled "The Long Range Effect of Television and Other Factors on Sports Attendance."
This was a master's thesis written by a University of Pennsylvania student, Jerry N. Jordan, son of a vice president of the N. W. Ayer advertising agency.
The Jordan Report attempted to "prove" TV couldn't hurt football by citing newspaper and magazine circulation figures, attendance figures at baseball and hockey games, and the consumer money spent on all sports.
The manufacturers also set up their own "Sports Committee," which circulated—among other things—an "analysis" by young Jordan's father called "Freedom to Decide." This "Committee" was not, incidentally, always in accord. In December 1952, it sent out a press release entitled, "Sports Had One of Best Years, RTMA Committee Reports." L. C. Truesdell, a vice president of the Zenith Radio Corporation, immediately resigned from the committee, on the grounds that he had had no opportunity to see or comment on the report, and because he had no wish to have his name attached to a misleading press release.
In the beginning, the only colleges actively opposing the NCAA program were Pennsylvania and Notre Dame, and Pennsylvania has since withdrawn its opposition. However, a couple of years ago the Big Ten proposed a "regional plan" that would have allowed the Big Ten's teams to make 20 appearances before the television cameras in a 13-week period, with the telecasts limited to a seven-state area. And the Pacific Coast Conference, this past December, officially announced its desire to go to some form of regional television that might include area blackouts.
A regional plan, if the National Opinion Research Center is to be believed, is beautifully designed to completely wreck football in the other colleges of the Midwest and the Pacific Coast. According to the NORC, all available evidence indicates that any lessening of the NCAA limitations within a geographical area would result in even greater attendance losses than those from which the game is already suffering. Among other findings, the NORC studies show that where TV is available only 3% of those who attend games travel outside their own locale. Naturally, their greatest interest is in "home" teams. Seventy per cent of the fans the NORC has polled have named games played within their own geographical area as the ones they would most like to see on TV.
What this means, concretely, was shown when Miami of Ohio and Cincinnati played for the championship of the Mid-American Conference in 1951. Weather conditions were excellent; the rivalry between the two schools is over 50 years old; and both had fine records for the season. But, instead of the usual sell-out of 30,000, the game drew only 16,000. Why? It was played the day the Michigan-Ohio State game was telecast in Cincinnati and the surrounding territory. This year, when a game from a different area was being telecast, 30,000 persons watched the Miami- Cincinnati game.
No, a regional plan isn't the answer. On the contrary, it would cut the jugular vein of many schools. Even the present plan is bad enough. In order to provide for the public interest the colleges have had to wittingly enrich a few schools—11 teams have "repeated" every year the plan has been in operation. Nevertheless the plan has offered a basic protection to the many.
But today, when the NCAA should be trying to evolve a plan to heal the wounds of those colleges that are being bled to death, what is happening? The Big Ten, Notre Dame and the Pacific Coast Conference—representing seven of the 11 repeaters—are attacking the best plan, unsatisfactory as it is, that has yet been advanced for rescuing college football from the onslaughts of television.