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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 game ends to extol the merits of someone’s brand of coffee, cigarettes, cereal food, or underwear,” declared Minnesota’s Director of Extension. 75 Since most educational broadcasters had folded their operations by 1936, there was little to constrain athletic departments from shopping for the best deal. And since money was sorely needed to fund the minor sports that had suffered the deepest cuts in the Depression, universities could argue that their motives were pure. If any schools still had qualms about commercializing their broadcasts, the NCAA absolved them of their anxieties. At the annual meeting in December of 1936, a special committee that had been formed to study the issue announced that it was “entirely ethical” for colleges and universities to sell the rights to their home games. 76 Griffith, meanwhile, continued to vigorously push for a conference-wide broadcasting deal that would bring in more radio revenue. In 1937, he complained to St. John that the individual Big Ten schools had made a total of only $10,000 to $15,000 from the sale of their broadcast privileges the previous season. He believed they could bring in $100,000 as a conference. Foreshadowing the Big Ten Network, he told St. John that he was in consultation with some people who wanted “to do a high class bit of broadcasting” that would entail mid- week programming to “expatiate on the educational aspects of athletics, etc.,” and play-by-play coverage on game day in which the broadcasters would “refuse to criticize the officials or players and instead will call attention to the fine acts of sportsmanship, to the drama, etc.” 77 Even after gate receipts had recovered and the country had begun to stabilize economically, Griffith kept up his attack on Roosevelt. Stunned by the magnitude of the president’s re-election bid in 1936, Griffith feared that criticism over the commercialization of football might translate into “a demand that the government likewise exercise control over the nation’s athletics.” To his athletic directors he wrote, “[The public is] demanding that the 21

Authors: O'Toole, Kathleen.
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O’Toole/John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the 
Depression Era 
game ends to extol the merits of someone’s brand of coffee, cigarettes, cereal food, or 
underwear,”  declared Minnesota’s Director of Extension.
Since most educational broadcasters had folded their operations by 1936, there was little 
to constrain athletic departments from shopping for the best deal. And since money was sorely 
needed to fund the minor sports that had suffered the deepest cuts in the Depression, universities 
could argue that their motives were pure. If any schools still had qualms about commercializing 
their broadcasts, the NCAA absolved them of their anxieties. At the annual meeting in December 
of 1936, a special committee that had been formed to study the issue announced that it was 
“entirely ethical” for colleges and universities to sell the rights to their home games.
Griffith, meanwhile, continued to vigorously push for a conference-wide broadcasting 
deal that would bring in more radio revenue. In 1937, he complained to St. John that the 
individual Big Ten schools had made a total of only $10,000 to $15,000 from the sale of their 
broadcast privileges the previous season. He believed they could bring in $100,000 as a 
conference. Foreshadowing the Big Ten Network, he told St. John that he was in consultation 
with some people who wanted “to do a high class bit of broadcasting” that would entail mid-
week programming to “expatiate on the educational aspects of athletics, etc.,” and play-by-play 
coverage on game day in which the broadcasters would “refuse to criticize the officials or 
players and instead will call attention to the fine acts of sportsmanship, to the drama, etc.”
Even after gate receipts had recovered and the country had begun to stabilize 
economically, Griffith kept up his attack on Roosevelt. Stunned by the magnitude of the 
president’s re-election bid in 1936, Griffith feared that criticism over the commercialization of 
football might translate into “a demand that the government likewise exercise control over the 
nation’s athletics.” To his athletic directors he wrote, “[The public is] demanding that the 
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