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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 creating a sense of identity, community, and integration in an industrial and pluralistic society. 7 Nand Hart-Nibbrig and Clement Cottingham coined the term “corporate athleticism” to describe the 20 th century organization of college sports into a corporate infrastructure in which student athletes are commodities in “a growing mass entertainment industry.” 8 They maintained that the 1920s marked the point of no return for commercialized athletics as stadiums expanded to accommodate the crowds that came to see the full extravaganza of football, marching bands, and cheerleaders. Although they hold the media primarily responsible for the transformation of college football from scholastic to corporate athleticism, they sidestep the foundational role of radio and confine their critique to television. They are not alone. Many researchers have discussed the evolution of intercollegiate athletics from extracurricular activity to big business, but their focus tends to be either on the role of print media—beginning with the development of sports pages in the 19 th century press—or on the transformative agency of television. A particularly glaring gap in the literature is the role of educational radio stations that were among the earliest programmers of college sports. Smith raises the issue, albeit briefly, asking, “If, as athletic officials and university administrators often claimed, college athletics were an integral part of higher education, why didn’t universities continue to use their own radio stations to broadcast football games and gain control of the promotion and publicity coming from intercollegiate athletics?” 9 This study suggests at least two answers to Smith’s question: a regulatory structure that hobbled educational radio and the rhetorical yoking of free markets with patriotism which mitigated pressures to conform to standards of public service in radio and amateurism in college sports. Certainly, there was a large and enthusiastic audience for commercial-free sports broadcasts. In Fireside Politics, Craig documents the widespread popular aversion in radio’s first decade to advertising which was 4

Authors: O'Toole, Kathleen.
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O’Toole/John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the 
Depression Era 
creating a sense of identity, community, and integration in an industrial and pluralistic society.
Nand Hart-Nibbrig and Clement Cottingham coined the term “corporate athleticism” to describe 
the 20
th
 century organization of college sports into a corporate infrastructure in which student 
athletes are commodities in “a growing mass entertainment industry.
 They maintained that the 
1920s marked the point of no return for commercialized athletics as stadiums expanded to 
accommodate the crowds that came to see the full extravaganza of football, marching bands, and 
cheerleaders. Although they hold the media primarily responsible for the transformation of 
college football from scholastic to corporate athleticism, they sidestep the foundational role of 
radio and confine their critique to television. They are not alone. 
Many researchers have discussed the evolution of intercollegiate athletics from 
extracurricular activity to big business, but their focus tends to be either on the role of print 
media—beginning with the development of sports pages in the 19
th
 century press—or on the 
transformative agency of television. A particularly glaring gap in the literature is the role of 
educational radio stations that were among the earliest programmers of college sports.  Smith 
raises the issue, albeit briefly, asking, “If, as athletic officials and university administrators often 
claimed, college athletics were an integral part of higher education, why didn’t universities 
continue to use their own radio stations to broadcast football games and gain control of the 
promotion and publicity coming from intercollegiate athletics?
  This study suggests at least two 
answers to Smith’s question: a regulatory structure that hobbled educational radio and the 
rhetorical yoking of free markets with patriotism which mitigated pressures to conform to 
standards of public service in radio and amateurism in college sports. Certainly, there was a large 
and enthusiastic audience for commercial-free sports broadcasts. In Fireside Politics, Craig 
documents the widespread popular aversion in radio’s first decade to advertising which was 
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