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John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the Depression Era
Unformatted Document Text:  46 Radio Station WHA to S.B. Robinson, 13 January 1928. WHA Radio and Television, 41/06/02-4, Box 1: Federal Government Licenses and Operation, 1916-1929, Steenbock Library. 47 David Sarnoff, “Broadcasting in the American Democracy,” in Educational Broadcasting 1936: Proceedings of the First National Conference Held in Washington, D.C., ed. C.S. Marsh (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1936), p. 154. 48 For example, the University of Minnesota granted exclusive broadcasting privileges to Minneapolis station WCCO in the 1931 and 1932 football seasons for $500 a year. See: “Memorandum: Radio Broadcasting Committee,” 16 January 1932. Comptroller Records, 1877-1970, Box 9, Radio Broadcasting, 1925-1942, University Archives, Andersen Library, University of Minnesota. 49 R.C. Higgy to Lynn W. St. John, 29 September 1931. Director of Athletics, RG 9/e-1/2, Athletic Board Minutes: Secretary’s: Jan. 1931-Jan.1932, TOSUA. 50 Other than Minnesota’s Coffman, the only other Big Ten president who took a stand against commercialized broadcasts was Robert Hutchins of the University of Chicago. Having replaced Amos Alonzo Stagg, the legendary coach and Director of Physical Culture and Athletics, Hutchins had set in motion the process of dismantling football at Chicago which would culminate in 1939. Hutchins believed that football’s excesses had grown beyond the point of reform and that the increasing commercialization served to trivialize the university’s intellectual role in society. When later asked why other Big Ten presidents did not follow his lead in abolishing football, Hutchins replied, “They could not stand the pressure.” Quoted in Hal A. Lawson and Alan G. Ingham, “Conflicting Ideologies Concerning the University and Intercollegiate Athletics: Harper and Hutchins at Chicago, 1892-1940,” Journal of Sport History, Vol. 7, No. 3 (1980), pp. 37-67. 51 “Klein Committee Makes Report,” The Ohio State University Monthly, Vol. 24, February, 1933, p. 145. 52 Howard J. Savage, John T. McGovern, and Harold W. Bentley, Current Developments in American College Athletics: Bulletin Number 26 (New York: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1931). 53 “Big Ten Favors Plan,” New York Times, June 28, 1932, p.27. 54 John L. Griffith to Directors of Athletics, “Memorandum: Utilizing Innovations,” 20 November 1931. James Lewis Morrill Papers, RG 3/f-2/2, TOSUA. 55 John L. Griffith, “Round Table Conference on Broadcasting” (National Collegiate Athletic Association: Proceedings on the Special Convention, Pasadena, California, July 29, 1932), p.44. 56 “Claims Radio Hurt football Receipts,” New York Times, November 26, 1927, p.9. 57 “WSM Broadcasts Game Despite Conference Ban,” Broadcast Advertising, December 1, 1932, p.28. 58 Harold Deal, “Sponsors Football Broadcasts Boost Game Attendance,” Broadcast Advertising, Vol. 3, No. 10, November 15, 1932, p.10. 59 Deal, p. 10. 60 “Minutes,” 7 June 1935. Director of Athletics, RG 9/e-1/11, Athletic Board Minutes: 1934-1940, TOSUA. 61 John L. Griffith to Directors of Athletics of the Conference, 25 August 1932. Director of Athletics, RG 9/e-1/10, Intercollegiate Conference: Commissioner Correspondence (Griffith and St. John), 1932, TOSUA. 62 John L. Griffith to Intercollegiate Faculty Athletic Directors, “Excerpts from the Speech Delivered January 20th, 1932 at Waterloo, Iowa,” 13 January 1932. Director of Athletics, RG 9/e-1/10, Intercollegiate Conference: Commissioner: Memoranda: 1929-1933, TOSUA. 63 L.D. Coffman to John L. Griffith, 20 April 1935. James Lewis Morrill Papers, RG 3/f-2/2, Broadcasting: 1934-1938, TOSUA. 64 L.D. Coffman to George Rightmire, 30 April 1935. Comptroller Records, 1877-1970, Box 10, Football Broadcasting, 1934-1936, Andersen Library, University of Minnesota Archives. 65 J.L. Morrill to George W. Rightmire, 2 May 1935. George W. Rightmire Papers, RG 3/f-2/2, Athletic Broadcasting: 1934-1936, TOSUA. 66 George W. Rightmire to L.D. Coffman, 2 May 1935. James Lewis Morrill Papers, RG 3/f-2/2, Athletic Broadcasting: 1934-1938, TOSUA. 67 John L. Griffith to Lynn W. St. John, 7 March 1932. Director of Athletics, RG 9/e-1/10, Intercollegiate Conference: Commissioner, Correspondence (Griffith and St. John), TOSUA. 68 John L. Griffith to Lynn W. St. John, 13 June 1932. Director of Athletics, RG 9/e-1/10, Intercollegiate Conference: Commissioner, Correspondence (Griffith and St. John), TOSUA. 69 John L. Griffith to Athletic Directors of the Conference, “Memorandum: Publicity,” 9 September 1932. Director of Athletics, RG 9/e-1/10, Intercollegiate Conference: Commissioner: Memoranda: 1929-1933, TOSUA. 70 John L. Griffith to the Directors of Athletics of the Conference, “Memorandum: The Survival Values of Intercollegiate Sports,” 30 August 1933. Director of Athletics, RG 9/e-1/10, Intercollegiate Conference: Commissioner Correspondence (Griffith and St. John), 1933, TOSUA. 71 John L. Griffith, “Socialized Athletics: Address to the Northwestern and Stanford Alumni the Evening of the Football Game Between These Two Universities,” 14 October 1933. Director of Athletics, RG 9/e-1/10, Intercollegiate Conference: Commissioner Correspondence (Griffith and St. John), 1933, TOSUA. 72 “Griffith Says New Deal Has Taken Birthrights,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, September 18, 1934. As he typically did, Griffith used sports metaphors throughout his speech. For instance, he blamed the Great Depression on “poor officiating of New York bankers.” 73 “Game Broadcasts Are Sold by Yale to an Advertiser,” New York Times, September 3, 1936, p. 1.

Authors: O'Toole, Kathleen.
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46
 Radio Station WHA to S.B. Robinson, 13 January 1928. WHA Radio and Television, 41/06/02-4, Box 1: Federal 
Government Licenses and Operation, 1916-1929, Steenbock Library.
47
 David Sarnoff, “Broadcasting in the American Democracy,” in Educational Broadcasting 1936: Proceedings of the 
First National Conference Held in Washington, D.C., ed. C.S. Marsh (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1936), p. 
154.
48
 For example, the University of Minnesota granted exclusive broadcasting privileges to Minneapolis station WCCO in 
the 1931 and 1932 football seasons for $500 a year. See: “Memorandum: Radio Broadcasting Committee,” 16 January 
1932. Comptroller Records, 1877-1970, Box 9, Radio Broadcasting, 1925-1942, University Archives, Andersen 
Library, University of Minnesota. 
49
 R.C. Higgy to Lynn W. St. John, 29 September 1931. Director of Athletics, RG 9/e-1/2, Athletic Board Minutes: 
Secretary’s: Jan. 1931-Jan.1932, TOSUA.
50
 Other than Minnesota’s Coffman, the only other Big Ten president who took a stand against commercialized 
broadcasts was Robert Hutchins of the University of Chicago. Having replaced Amos Alonzo Stagg, the legendary 
coach and Director of Physical Culture and Athletics, Hutchins had set in motion the process of dismantling football at 
Chicago which would culminate in 1939. Hutchins believed that football’s excesses had grown beyond the point of 
reform and that the increasing commercialization served to trivialize the university’s intellectual role in society. When 
later asked why other Big Ten presidents did not follow his lead in abolishing football, Hutchins replied, “They could 
not stand the pressure.” Quoted in Hal A. Lawson and Alan G. Ingham, “Conflicting Ideologies Concerning the 
University and Intercollegiate Athletics: Harper and Hutchins at Chicago, 1892-1940,” Journal of Sport History, Vol. 7, 
No. 3 (1980), pp. 37-67. 
51
 “Klein Committee Makes Report,” The Ohio State University Monthly, Vol. 24, February, 1933, p. 145.
52
 Howard J. Savage, John T. McGovern, and Harold W. Bentley, Current Developments in American College  
Athletics: Bulletin Number 26 (New York: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1931).
53
 “Big Ten Favors Plan,” New York Times, June 28, 1932, p.27.
54
 John L. Griffith to Directors of Athletics, “Memorandum: Utilizing Innovations,” 20 November 1931. James Lewis 
Morrill Papers, RG 3/f-2/2, TOSUA.
55
 John L. Griffith, “Round Table Conference on Broadcasting” (National Collegiate Athletic Association: Proceedings  
on the Special Convention, Pasadena, California, July 29, 1932), p.44.
56
 “Claims Radio Hurt football Receipts,” New York Times, November 26, 1927, p.9.
57
 “WSM Broadcasts Game Despite Conference Ban,” Broadcast Advertising, December 1, 1932, p.28.
58
 Harold Deal, “Sponsors Football Broadcasts Boost Game Attendance,” Broadcast Advertising, Vol. 3, No. 10, 
November 15, 1932, p.10.
59
 Deal, p. 10.
60
 “Minutes,” 7 June 1935. Director of Athletics, RG 9/e-1/11, Athletic Board Minutes: 1934-1940, TOSUA.
61
 John L. Griffith to Directors of Athletics of the Conference, 25 August 1932. Director of Athletics, RG 9/e-1/10, 
Intercollegiate Conference: Commissioner Correspondence (Griffith and St. John), 1932, TOSUA.
62
 John L. Griffith to Intercollegiate Faculty Athletic Directors, “Excerpts from the Speech Delivered January 20th, 
1932 at Waterloo, Iowa,” 13 January 1932. Director of Athletics, RG 9/e-1/10, Intercollegiate Conference: 
Commissioner: Memoranda: 1929-1933, TOSUA.
63
 L.D. Coffman to John L. Griffith, 20 April 1935. James Lewis Morrill Papers, RG 3/f-2/2, Broadcasting: 1934-1938, 
TOSUA.
64
 L.D. Coffman to George Rightmire, 30 April 1935. Comptroller Records, 1877-1970, Box 10, Football Broadcasting, 
1934-1936, Andersen Library, University of Minnesota Archives.
65
 J.L. Morrill to George W. Rightmire, 2 May 1935. George W. Rightmire Papers, RG 3/f-2/2, Athletic Broadcasting: 
1934-1936, TOSUA.
66
 George W. Rightmire to L.D. Coffman, 2 May 1935. James Lewis Morrill Papers, RG 3/f-2/2, Athletic Broadcasting: 
1934-1938, TOSUA.
67
 John L. Griffith to Lynn W. St. John, 7 March 1932. Director of Athletics, RG 9/e-1/10, Intercollegiate Conference: 
Commissioner, Correspondence (Griffith and St. John), TOSUA.
68
 John L. Griffith to Lynn W. St. John, 13 June 1932. Director of Athletics, RG 9/e-1/10, Intercollegiate Conference: 
Commissioner, Correspondence (Griffith and St. John), TOSUA.
69
 John L. Griffith to Athletic Directors of the Conference, “Memorandum: Publicity,” 9 September 1932. Director of 
Athletics, RG 9/e-1/10, Intercollegiate Conference: Commissioner: Memoranda: 1929-1933, TOSUA.
70
 John L. Griffith to the Directors of Athletics of the Conference, “Memorandum: The Survival Values of 
Intercollegiate Sports,” 30 August 1933. Director of Athletics, RG 9/e-1/10, Intercollegiate Conference: Commissioner 
Correspondence (Griffith and St. John), 1933, TOSUA.
71
 John L. Griffith, “Socialized Athletics: Address to the Northwestern and Stanford Alumni the Evening of the Football 
Game Between These Two Universities,” 14 October 1933. Director of Athletics, RG 9/e-1/10, Intercollegiate 
Conference: Commissioner Correspondence (Griffith and St. John), 1933, TOSUA.
72
 “Griffith Says New Deal Has Taken Birthrights,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, September 18, 1934. As he typically did, 
Griffith used sports metaphors throughout his speech. For instance, he blamed the Great Depression on “poor officiating 
of New York bankers.”
73
 “Game Broadcasts Are Sold by Yale to an Advertiser,” New York Times, September 3, 1936, p. 1.


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