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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 1920s and 1930s, the author consulted the publications and conference proceedings of radio reformers (such as Education on the Air), specialty newspapers published by and for the radio industry (notably, Broadcast Advertising, which became Broadcasting in 1933, and Wireless Age), proceedings of the NCAA national conferences, and daily newspapers such as the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Background John L. Griffith was born in Mount Carol, Illinois, in 1877. A graduate of Beloit College in Wisconsin, his early career as a coach in college athletics was interrupted by World War I where he achieved the rank of major while supervising a program of physical education for the entire U.S. Army. 19 It’s likely that this was a formative experience because he returned to higher education committed to the concept of physical fitness and athletics for all college students. Following the war, he took a position at the University of Illinois where he split his time between the Physical Education department and the Athletic Director’s office. 20 In 1922, when Griffith was hired by the Big Ten, he became the first full-time, salaried commissioner to head a collegiate conference. Also known as the Western Conference or the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives, the Big Ten was the oldest and perhaps most influential conference in the country. 21 As the self-professed “anchor of amateur athletics in America,” the Big Ten set many of the eligibility standards and athlete supervision requirements that were subsequently adopted by other conferences. 22 Griffith assumed leadership of the conference at a critical time for college football. The spectacular growth of the game in the post-World War I decade, symbolized by the coliseum-like stadiums that sprouted on college campuses, drew as many critics as fans. 23 Detractors heaped 8

Authors: O'Toole, Kathleen.
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O’Toole/John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the 
Depression Era 
1920s and 1930s, the author consulted the publications and conference proceedings of radio 
reformers (such as Education on the Air), specialty newspapers published by and for the radio 
industry (notably, Broadcast Advertising, which became Broadcasting in 1933, and Wireless 
Age), proceedings of the NCAA national conferences, and daily newspapers such as the New 
York Times and the Chicago Tribune.  
Background
John L. Griffith was born in Mount Carol, Illinois, in 1877. A graduate of Beloit College 
in Wisconsin, his early career as a coach in college athletics was interrupted by World War I 
where he achieved the rank of major while supervising a program of physical education for the 
entire U.S. Army.
 It’s likely that this was a formative experience because he returned to higher 
education committed to the concept of physical fitness and athletics for all college students. 
Following the war, he took a position at the University of Illinois where he split his time between 
the Physical Education department and the Athletic Director’s office.
 In 1922, when Griffith 
was hired by the Big Ten, he became the first full-time, salaried commissioner to head a 
collegiate conference. Also known as the Western Conference or the Intercollegiate Conference 
of Faculty Representatives, the Big Ten was the oldest and perhaps most influential conference 
in the country.
 As the self-professed “anchor of amateur athletics in America,” the Big Ten set 
many of the eligibility standards and athlete supervision requirements that were subsequently 
adopted by other conferences.
Griffith assumed leadership of the conference at a critical time for college football. The 
spectacular growth of the game in the post-World War I decade, symbolized by the coliseum-like 
stadiums that sprouted on college campuses, drew as many critics as fans.
 Detractors heaped 
8


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