College Football on TV – Past and Present

I’ve posted before about how conflicted I am about American Football.  I liken my attitude towards the game to that of a drug addict who, well fully aware of the dangers of his habit, eagerly anticipates his next fix.

On the one hand I thoroughly enjoy watching it, both on TV and in person.  The game is truly poetry in motion while at the same time gritty and violent.  The pageantry and enthusiasm surrounding the game are awesome.   I especially like high school and college games where passion is so evident on the field and in the stands.  The pro game – meh – not so much.

However, I also believe that any parent who allows or, even worse, encourages their child to play the game should be charged with child abuse.  It is a brutal, violent collision sport in which players are encouraged and rewarded for deliberately causing physical harm to opposing players.  Coaches and players may deny it with righteous indignation  but there is so much evidence to the contrary that such denials would be laughable – were it not so serious.

Anyway, enough of confession and sermonizing – and on to the the reason for this post.  This morning I checked the listing of sports events on TV this weekend in the local paper to see the time and channel of a game I want to watch tomorrow.  For some reason the ridiculous schedule, shown below, got me to thinking of what was available on TV back in the ancient days of my youth – or, as we New Yorkers say – “my yoot”

Back in the 1950s the NCAA (that’s the National Collegiate Athletic Association for those not familiar with American college sports) believed that televising college games would adversely affect paid attendance.  So, they severely restricted it.  Actually, at first they flat out banned it, but in 1951 they yielded to pressure from the schools and broadcasters and permitted the televising of one game each Saturday afternoon plus all the post season bowl games, which at that time were only a few.

But scheduling one game a week in advance of the season that would be of interest to a general television audience was problematic.  Perhaps a late November match-up between in-state  arch-rivals Alabama and Auburn would in September appear attractive, but if it turned out that by the time of the game Alabama’s record was 7-0 and Auburn’s was 2-5, anyone residing outside the state of Alabama would be greatly disappointed with the selection.  This would be especially so when on the same day Michigan was playing Ohio State for the Big Ten Conference title, and the same thing was at stake in the west where USC was playing UCLA.  Plus, even if the scheduled game had significance, fans in other sections of the country would likely have more interest in games being played in their region.

So, after a few years, the NCAA allowed different games to be televised in four separate regions of the country on five Saturdays during the season.  Still, fans could watch only one game, but at least in some weeks they could watch games they would be interested in.

This set-up continued  into the early 1980’s with the NCAA adding a few tweaks – more Saturdays with regional telecasts and increasing number of regions.  But in 1981 the NCAA was sued by the University of Georgia and the University of Oklahoma claiming that the NCAA control over televising college games violated the Anti-trust Act, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed.

The subsequent greatly expanded availability of college football on TV proved to be very lucrative to individual schools and their conferences, while at the same time the  greater exposure for the schools and their programs actually resulted in increased attendance at games – to the point that total attendance at college football games has tripled since 1951.

Thus, the tremendous increase in the number of channels over the years, coupled with America’s insatiable appetite for college football, has resulted in weekly broadcasts schedules like that above.

As for me – I look at the schedule and think ……..

Let’s see, at Noon I want to watch Miami @ Kansas St.  But Penn St. @ Virginia is also appealing, as is N.C. State at UConn.  Hmm……………….

But the 3PM to 4PM games – Wow! There’s Florida @ Texas A&M. That’s a biggie!  But the USC @ Syracuse game is also on – and Syracuse is like a home team for me, being from Rochester, only 90 miles away.  And how can I miss Purdue @ Notre Dame?  The thought of that game makes my toes tingle!   😆  And then there’s Wisconsin @ Oregon St.?  😦

At least none of the late games appeal to me very much.  Well – – there is the Akron @ FIU game.  It’s in Miami.  I had even considered attending that game but the weather forecast indicates that I’d probably get rained on.  Ooo! Ooo! The Nebraska @ UCLA game is intriguing!

You know what?  You know what?  Maybe it was actually better back in the olden times of the 1950s.  One would check the schedule for the game to be shown and decide whether one was interested in watching it.  No nervous breakdown or wearing out the remote’s battery!   😉

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