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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 trade magazine Broadcast Advertising, the strategy was designed “not to build up a regular audience, but to increase stadium attendance through the promotion of football interest, and thus to encourage highway travel.” 59 Griffith told his athletic directors that it was “a very good bargain.” So good, in fact, that he hoped to get the same deal for his own conference. In 1935, he attempted to negotiate a conference-wide contract for commercial broadcasting of Big Ten football. According to the Athletic Board minutes at Ohio State, “the Directors and Faculty Representatives went on record as favoring a cooperative broadcasting program for the Conference, although two of the college presidents were opposed to the idea.” 60 Griffith contacted the NBC representative who had helped negotiate the PCC deal and was assured that NBC would work out a similar arrangement for him. “We have an opportunity of getting from $50,000 to $100,000 mid-week radio advertising,” Griffith told his athletic directors. “It seems to me that it would be a serious mistake if we did not follow this up and secure the most favorable terms possible from other chains as well as from local stations.” 61 Griffith argued that publicity was the key to boosting attendance at games. What was needed, he told his athletic directors, was more—not less—radio: “Is it not possible to use the radio to such an extent that it will become an asset instead of a liability? In the past the chains have limited their activities to the broadcasts of the games on Saturday afternoon. If the local stations and the chains as well would give the same publicity to the games during the week that the papers in the past have given these games, then it seems to me that the radio might be used to serve the interests of college athletics even though the newspapers may give less and less space to the contests.” 62 Griffith’s pitch for a conference-wide broadcasting agreement did not find a receptive audience within the Big Ten. Only Northwestern appeared interested. L.D. Coffman, the President of the University of Minnesota, replied to Griffith—copying in each of the Big Ten presidents—by challenging Conference members to consider the philosophical implications of selling their broadcast rights. He conceded that Minnesota was selling sponsorship rights to its 17

Authors: O'Toole, Kathleen.
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O’Toole/John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the 
Depression Era 
trade magazine Broadcast Advertising, the strategy was designed “not to build up a regular 
audience, but to increase stadium attendance through the promotion of football interest, and thus 
to encourage highway travel.”
 Griffith told his athletic directors that it was “a very good 
bargain.” So good, in fact, that he hoped to get the same deal for his own conference. In 1935, he 
attempted to negotiate a conference-wide contract for commercial broadcasting of Big Ten 
football. According to the Athletic Board minutes at Ohio State, “the Directors and Faculty 
Representatives went on record as favoring a cooperative broadcasting program for the 
Conference, although two of the college presidents were opposed to the idea.”
Griffith contacted the NBC representative who had helped negotiate the PCC deal and 
was assured that NBC would work out a similar arrangement for him. “We have an opportunity 
of getting from $50,000 to $100,000 mid-week radio advertising,” Griffith told his athletic 
directors. “It seems to me that it would be a serious mistake if we did not follow this up and 
secure the most favorable terms possible from other chains as well as from local stations.”
Griffith argued that publicity was the key to boosting attendance at games. What was needed, he 
told his athletic directors, was more—not less—radio:
“Is it not possible to use the radio to such an extent that it will become an asset instead of a 
liability? In the past the chains have limited their activities to the broadcasts of the games on 
Saturday afternoon. If the local stations and the chains as well would give the same publicity to 
the games during the week that the papers in the past have given these games, then it seems to me 
that the radio might be used to serve the interests of college athletics even though the newspapers 
may give less and less space to the contests.”
Griffith’s pitch for a conference-wide broadcasting agreement did not find a receptive 
audience within the Big Ten.  Only Northwestern appeared interested. L.D. Coffman, the 
President of the University of Minnesota, replied to Griffith—copying in each of the Big Ten 
presidents—by challenging Conference members to consider the philosophical implications of 
selling their broadcast rights. He conceded that Minnesota was selling sponsorship rights to its 
17


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