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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 radio stations were pressured by commercial broadcasters to allow their announcers into the broadcast booths on game day. The director of Ohio State’s radio station urged the administration to deny broadcast rights to any commercial stations. He presciently wrote: “It would permit the complete control of the broadcasting of games to fall in the hands of [commercial] Station WTAM resulting in extensive advertising and undoubtedly considerable profit to them…It will open the way for other stations to request similar privileges which in time would result in many stations broadcasting the programs for advertising purposes only.” 49 Most Big Ten presidents, however, left the decision on commercialization to their athletic directors. 50 There is no evidence that Griffith took any part in or provided any input on the plight of university broadcasters. His interest was in building his conference’s profits, whether that meant commercial radio, non-profit radio, or no radio. Proposal to Ban Radio Broadcasts of College Sports In the first year of the Depression, gate receipts at college football games plunged, along with state funding and other sources of income. 51 In 1931, a Carnegie Foundation Bulletin interpreted the decline in ticket sales as evidence that interest in football was waning. The suggestion was that football had been one more fad of the 1920s, marked by excess and intemperance, with which the public had grown weary. 52 Griffith maintained, however, that college football faced an economic problem, not a philosophical crisis. In search of a scapegoat, he jumped on the bandwagon with other conference and athletic directors and blamed radio for keeping people at home on game day. 53 Yet, Griffith was also intrigued by radio’s potential, and more than most conference directors, he was willing to consider how the Big Ten might make money from radio broadcasts. He reminded his athletic directors that the aspersions cast on radio had once been aimed at steam-powered trains and other emerging technologies. In the fall of 1931, he proposed that the remaining Big Ten radio stations commercialize their own broadcasts 15

Authors: O'Toole, Kathleen.
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O’Toole/John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the 
Depression Era 
radio stations were pressured by commercial broadcasters to allow their announcers into the 
broadcast booths on game day. The director of Ohio State’s radio station urged the 
administration to deny broadcast rights to any commercial stations. He presciently wrote:
“It would permit the complete control of the broadcasting of games to fall in the hands of 
[commercial] Station WTAM resulting in extensive advertising and undoubtedly considerable 
profit to them…It will open the way for other stations to request similar privileges which in time 
would result in many stations broadcasting the programs for advertising purposes only.
Most Big Ten presidents, however, left the decision on commercialization to their athletic 
directors.
  There is no evidence that Griffith took any part in or provided any input on the plight 
of university broadcasters. His interest was in building his conference’s profits, whether that 
meant commercial radio, non-profit radio, or no radio. 
Proposal to Ban Radio Broadcasts of College Sports
In the first year of the Depression, gate receipts at college football games plunged, along 
with state funding and other sources of income.
 In 1931, a Carnegie Foundation Bulletin  
interpreted the decline in ticket sales as evidence that interest in football was waning. The 
suggestion was that football had been one more fad of the 1920s, marked by excess and 
intemperance, with which the public had grown weary.
 Griffith maintained, however, that 
college football faced an economic problem, not a philosophical crisis. In search of a scapegoat, 
he jumped on the bandwagon with other conference and athletic directors and blamed radio for 
keeping people at home on game day.
  Yet, Griffith was also intrigued by radio’s potential, and 
more than most conference directors, he was willing to consider how the Big Ten might make 
money from radio broadcasts. He reminded his athletic directors that the aspersions cast on radio 
had once been aimed at steam-powered trains and other emerging technologies. In the fall of 
1931, he proposed that the remaining Big Ten radio stations commercialize their own broadcasts 
15


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