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John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the Depression Era
Unformatted Document Text:  O’Toole/John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the Depression Era despite the very different missions of profit-oriented corporations and state universities devoted to teaching, research, and public service. In many of his subsequent public and private remarks, Griffith stressed that the competition that characterized American business and the competition exhibited on the playing fields of Big Ten schools were two sides of the same coin. Both were products of the marketplace competition that characterized American capitalism. The radio industry, meanwhile, was taking the same tack. Challenge to College and University Broadcasters Many land-grant institutions, including most of the schools in the Big Ten, had been early incubators of radio. Within a decade of Marconi’s successful experiments, “wireless telegraphy” was being used on campuses to transmit weather, crops reports, news, and sports. The suitability of the new medium to spectator sports was grasped by both university and commercial broadcasters. In 1924, Wireless Age reported that “radio athletes” had become an inherent part of modern life, making it possible for sports fans “to fidget and twist with excitement as the collegiate football teams crashed and strove upon the eastern gridirons” and all “without leaving the peace and quiet of one’s living-room.” 35 The big commercial stations that covered the eastern gridirons almost exclusively aired the prestigious Ivy League games. The land-grant and state universities, initially, were left to air their own games. This was not a problem, because as Wireless Age noted, “There is hardly a college or university in the country that does not possess radio transmitting apparatus in its electrical lab.” 36 Sports broadcasts had created some of the educational stations’ most loyal listeners, and universities understood the goodwill they accrued from their sports programming. In a 1933 study of educational broadcasters, more than 70 percent said that broadcasting of 12

Authors: O'Toole, Kathleen.
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O’Toole/John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the 
Depression Era 
despite the very different missions of profit-oriented corporations and state universities devoted 
to teaching, research, and public service. In many of his subsequent public and private remarks, 
Griffith stressed that the competition that characterized American business and the competition 
exhibited on the playing fields of Big Ten schools were two sides of the same coin. Both were 
products of the marketplace competition that characterized American capitalism. The radio 
industry, meanwhile, was taking the same tack.  
Challenge to College and University Broadcasters
Many land-grant institutions, including most of the schools in the Big Ten, had been early 
incubators of radio. Within a decade of Marconi’s successful experiments, “wireless telegraphy” 
was being used on campuses to transmit weather, crops reports, news, and sports. The suitability 
of the new medium to spectator sports was grasped by both university and commercial 
broadcasters. In 1924, Wireless Age reported that “radio athletes” had become an inherent part of 
modern life, making it possible for sports fans “to fidget and twist with excitement as the 
collegiate football teams crashed and strove upon the eastern gridirons” and all “without leaving 
the peace and quiet of one’s living-room.”
The big commercial stations that covered the eastern gridirons almost exclusively aired 
the prestigious Ivy League games. The land-grant and state universities, initially, were left to air 
their own games. This was not a problem, because as Wireless Age noted, “There is hardly a 
college or university in the country that does not possess radio transmitting apparatus in its 
electrical lab.”
 Sports broadcasts had created some of the educational stations’ most loyal 
listeners, and universities understood the goodwill they accrued from their sports programming. 
In a 1933 study of educational broadcasters, more than 70 percent said that broadcasting of 

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