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NCAA TV CONTROVERSY: NOTRE DAME STATES ITS CASE
Mr. Hall has accused the Big Ten, the Pacific Coast Conference and the University of Notre Dame of greed and avarice in opposing the NCAA-controlled television plan. Such charges would seem to be slightly more than gratuitous. In the position that Notre Dame has consistently taken toward the NCAA television program, certain fundamental principles have been involved that are far more important than the financial factors.
From the very inception of the NCAA plan we have been seriously concerned with the philosophy underlying it. Any type of control which depends upon a boycott for its effectiveness is, and should "be, suspect in the American way of life. Our nation has been built on respect for private property, on belief in the advantages of free enterprise and honest competition. It seems particularly strange to find our colleges, which should be advocates of fair and open competition, huddling together in a protective association lest a new invention affect one small aspect of their life.
It is true that a major invention almost invariably arouses fear and trepidation in a small group which sees in the new discovery a threat to its own vested interests. Frequently the group will fight a rear guard action to maintain the "status quo" on which it has prospered in the past.
As we see it, the NCAA today is, because of its policies governing television, in the unenviable position of being just such a group. Its efforts seem directed towards maintaining the "status quo." The NCAA hypothesis goes like this: The telecasting of football games adversely affects stadium attendance and thereby reduces gate receipts. We must not permit this to happen. Therefore, we must either eliminate or strictly limit the use of television in order that stadium attendance be maintained at a certain base-period level.
Before commenting on the fallacies in this argument, there are some pertinent questions we would ask concerning the philosophy underlying the NCAA plan. Where is the line to be drawn on controls? Is there any limit to the power of a numerical majority within the NCAA to establish new and further controls? (As a matter of record, the plan has become more embracing and restrictive each year.) If the NCAA has complete and ultimate power over television as one of the factors affecting football attendance and gate receipts, what is to prevent it from having the same power over all other factors? If it can refuse to permit the University of Michigan to televise lest the attendance at a nearby college be affected, could it not also restrict the number of fans permitted in Michigan's 97,000-seat stadium? Since control of revenue is one of the NCAA objectives, could it not also legislate the price of tickets? To many, these would seem obvious violations of private property rights, but do they really differ in principle from present television control?
As a prime example of the lengths to which the NCAA philosophy leads, we cite the Share-the-Wealth Plan espoused by Mr. Robert Hall when he was chairman of the NCAA Television Committee in 1952. Mr. Hall and the entire NCAA TV Committee recommended that serious consideration be given to the proposal that all television revenue be placed in a common fund and be distributed to all of the member colleges of the NCAA. Mr. Hall visualized such a plan supporting the athletic programs of all our nation's colleges. This presents an appealing objective, but it still remains a miserable means, a socialistic-type scheme which tends to place a premium on mediocrity and to level all schools to one plane.
We suggested to Mr. Hall at the time that it would be equally consistent and attractive to many colleges to share, for even higher purposes, not only football receipts but also the endowments of such fortunate universities as Harvard, Princeton, Cornell and Yale. Mr. Hall was strangely and, we thought, significantly silent.
The exponents of the NCAA-controlled television plan use a subtle appeal to elicit public support. They maintain that the restrictive plan now in force is the only way to safeguard the existence of intercollegiate athletics. We disagree. As a matter of fact, we feel it is more detrimental than helpful.