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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 their contempt on football for many of the same reasons that pique modern critics: recruiting violations, outsized salaries for coaches, special privileges and lowered academic standards for star athletes, blatant commercialism in lieu of amateur ideals, and game-day disruptions on campus due to rowdy, alcohol-fueled fans. Griffith wanted to do for the Big Ten schools what he had done for the Army—promote physical education for all as an integral part of the college curriculum. Intercollegiate athletics was one prong of that effort, and he worried that the excesses of football would detract from his overall mission. He routinely sent the Conference’s athletic directors warnings of the gathering storm over college football, not just among the general public or press, but within the confines of academia. In 1925, for example, he circulated excerpts from a report from the Association of American Colleges that expressed broad disapproval of the growth and commercialization of college football. Typical of those quoted in the report was a former university president who asked, “Are we to conduct an institution of higher learning as an amusement park?” Griffith responded to his athletic directors, “perhaps we have not really sold the idea of the the [sic] real purpose of physical education and athletics.” 24 Little has been found from his early years as Commissioner to indicate the ideological fervor he would later demonstrate. One of the earliest overt reference to national politics can be found in his correspondence with Knute Rockne, Notre Dame’s legendary football coach and a personal friend of Griffith’s. In asking Rockne to endorse Herbert Hoover for reelection in the 1928 presidential campaign, Griffith wrote: “I have a notion that the athletic prosperity which we have enjoyed in the last seven or eight years has had some connection with our business prosperity and I further am afraid that if we change administrations in Washington that we may suffer a business reaction and with [sic] our building program in athletics, etc. will be affected.” 25 9

Authors: O'Toole, Kathleen.
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O’Toole/John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the 
Depression Era 
their contempt on football for many of the same reasons that pique modern critics: recruiting 
violations, outsized salaries for coaches, special privileges and lowered academic standards for 
star athletes, blatant commercialism in lieu of amateur ideals, and game-day disruptions on 
campus due to rowdy, alcohol-fueled fans. Griffith wanted to do for the Big Ten schools what he 
had done for the Army—promote physical education for all as an integral part of the college 
curriculum. Intercollegiate athletics was one prong of that effort, and he worried that the 
excesses of football would detract from his overall mission. He routinely sent the Conference’s 
athletic directors warnings of the gathering storm over college football, not just among the 
general public or press, but within the confines of academia. In 1925, for example, he circulated 
excerpts from a report from the Association of American Colleges that expressed broad 
disapproval of the growth and commercialization of college football. Typical of those quoted in 
the report was a former university president who asked, “Are we to conduct an institution of 
higher learning as an amusement park?” Griffith responded to his athletic directors, “perhaps we 
have not really sold the idea of the the [sic] real purpose of physical education and athletics.”
Little has been found from his early years as Commissioner to indicate the ideological 
fervor he would later demonstrate. One of the earliest overt reference to national politics can be 
found in his correspondence with Knute Rockne, Notre Dame’s legendary football coach and a 
personal friend of Griffith’s.  In asking Rockne to endorse Herbert Hoover for reelection in the 
1928 presidential campaign, Griffith wrote: “I have a notion that the athletic prosperity which we 
have enjoyed in the last seven or eight years has had some connection with our business 
prosperity and I further am afraid that if we change administrations in Washington that we may 
suffer a business reaction and with [sic] our building program in athletics, etc. will be affected.”
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