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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 football games. But he added that it was a policy that he opposed and was prepared to abandon. “Some educational logic and not financial expediency should be the determinative of any plan that may be adopted.” 63 Coffman enumerated the dangers inherent in commercializing college football broadcasts. It would exploit higher education by putting a price tag on the reputation of an athletic conference. It would feed into the hands of those who wanted to professionalize the game. Most damaging, he said, it would expose the hypocrisy of universities that insisted their games met the spirit and standards of amateurism: “The boy who plays a home-town summer game, and is paid, loses his standing. Yet the universities now openly proposed to sell the game in order to make a handsome sum from the activities of these boys. It will be very difficult to draw a clear line of distinction between these actions.” 64 Coffman’s sharp criticism notwithstanding, the collapse of the conference-wide plan did not indicate opposition to advertising. Ohio State’s Vice President J.L. Morrill confided to President George W. Rightmire that he was relieved because now Ohio State was free to pursue its own deal. 65 Rightmire believed radio sponsorship to be inevitable. In a letter to Minnesota’s Coffman, Rightmire implied that universities had gone too far down the path of commercialism to turn back. “Perhaps if this whole matter were to be gone into de novo, it could readily be condemned on high educational grounds…yet [I] feel rather hopeless about putting the whole athletic business on a purity plane.” 66 Despite Griffith’s urging, the Big Ten schools opted to deal with the radio issue individually. Griffith, nonetheless, continued to contemplate additional means of making money from football games. In 1932, he sought St. John’s feedback on three proposals for increasing revenue: raising ticket prices, selling the moving picture rights to football games, and holding a playoff championship among the various conferences in connection with the Chicago World Fair. 67 Although no response from St. John to Griffith’s proposals was found, the Ohio State 18

Authors: O'Toole, Kathleen.
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O’Toole/John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the 
Depression Era 
football games. But he added that it was a policy that he opposed and was prepared to abandon. 
“Some educational logic and not financial expediency should be the determinative of any plan 
that may be adopted.”
 Coffman enumerated the dangers inherent in commercializing college 
football broadcasts. It would exploit higher education by putting a price tag on the reputation of 
an athletic conference. It would feed into the hands of those who wanted to professionalize the 
game. Most damaging, he said, it would expose the hypocrisy of universities that insisted their 
games met the spirit and standards of amateurism:
“The boy who plays a home-town summer game, and is paid, loses his standing. Yet the 
universities now openly proposed to sell the game in order to make a handsome sum from the 
activities of these boys. It will be very difficult to draw a clear line of distinction between these 
actions.” 
Coffman’s sharp criticism notwithstanding, the collapse of the conference-wide plan did not 
indicate opposition to advertising. Ohio State’s Vice President J.L. Morrill confided to President 
George W. Rightmire that he was relieved because now Ohio State was free to pursue its own 
deal.
 Rightmire believed radio sponsorship to be inevitable. In a letter to Minnesota’s Coffman, 
Rightmire implied that universities had gone too far down the path of commercialism to turn 
back. “Perhaps if this whole matter were to be gone into de novo, it could readily be condemned 
on high educational grounds…yet [I] feel rather hopeless about putting the whole athletic 
business on a purity plane.”
Despite Griffith’s urging, the Big Ten schools opted to deal with the radio issue 
individually. Griffith, nonetheless, continued to contemplate additional means of making money 
from football games. In 1932, he sought St. John’s feedback on three proposals for increasing 
revenue: raising ticket prices, selling the moving picture rights to football games, and holding a 
playoff championship among the various conferences in connection with the Chicago World 
Fair.
 Although no response from St. John to Griffith’s proposals was found, the Ohio State 
18


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