NCAA TV CONTROVERSY: NOTRE DAME STATES ITS CASE
Judging from the reactions of your readers to Mr. Robert Hall's recent article, there is little need for us to come to our own defense. However, lest we seem to strengthen Mr. Hall's uncharitable assumptions by our silence, we feel that some reply will be helpful for the record.
Mr. Hall has accused the Big Ten, the Pacific Coast Conference and the University of Notre Dame of greed and avarice in opposing the NCAA-controlled television plan. Such charges would seem to be slightly more than gratuitous. In the position that Notre Dame has consistently taken toward the NCAA television program, certain fundamental principles have been involved that are far more important than the financial factors.
From the very inception of the NCAA plan we have been seriously concerned with the philosophy underlying it. Any type of control which depends upon a boycott for its effectiveness is, and should "be, suspect in the American way of life. Our nation has been built on respect for private property, on belief in the advantages of free enterprise and honest competition. It seems particularly strange to find our colleges, which should be advocates of fair and open competition, huddling together in a protective association lest a new invention affect one small aspect of their life.
February 28, 1955
It is true that a major invention almost invariably arouses fear and trepidation in a small group which sees in the new discovery a threat to its own vested interests. Frequently the group will fight a rear guard action to maintain the "status quo" on which it has prospered in the past.
As we see it, the NCAA today is, because of its policies governing television, in the unenviable position of being just such a group. Its efforts seem directed towards maintaining the "status quo." The NCAA hypothesis goes like this: The telecasting of football games adversely affects stadium attendance and thereby reduces gate receipts. We must not permit this to happen. Therefore, we must either eliminate or strictly limit the use of television in order that stadium attendance be maintained at a certain base-period level.
Before commenting on the fallacies in this argument, there are some pertinent questions we would ask concerning the philosophy underlying the NCAA plan. Where is the line to be drawn on controls? Is there any limit to the power of a numerical majority within the NCAA to establish new and further controls? (As a matter of record, the plan has become more embracing and restrictive each year.) If the NCAA has complete and ultimate power over television as one of the factors affecting football attendance and gate receipts, what is to prevent it from having the same power over all other factors? If it can refuse to permit the University of Michigan to televise lest the attendance at a nearby college be affected, could it not also restrict the number of fans permitted in Michigan's 97,000-seat stadium? Since control of revenue is one of the NCAA objectives, could it not also legislate the price of tickets? To many, these would seem obvious violations of private property rights, but do they really differ in principle from present television control?
As a prime example of the lengths to which the NCAA philosophy leads, we cite the Share-the-Wealth Plan espoused by Mr. Robert Hall when he was chairman of the NCAA Television Committee in 1952. Mr. Hall and the entire NCAA TV Committee recommended that serious consideration be given to the proposal that all television revenue be placed in a common fund and be distributed to all of the member colleges of the NCAA. Mr. Hall visualized such a plan supporting the athletic programs of all our nation's colleges. This presents an appealing objective, but it still remains a miserable means, a socialistic-type scheme which tends to place a premium on mediocrity and to level all schools to one plane.
We suggested to Mr. Hall at the time that it would be equally consistent and attractive to many colleges to share, for even higher purposes, not only football receipts but also the endowments of such fortunate universities as Harvard, Princeton, Cornell and Yale. Mr. Hall was strangely and, we thought, significantly silent.
The exponents of the NCAA-controlled television plan use a subtle appeal to elicit public support. They maintain that the restrictive plan now in force is the only way to safeguard the existence of intercollegiate athletics. We disagree. As a matter of fact, we feel it is more detrimental than helpful.
First of all, any attempt to maintain the "status quo" is abortive in a free enterprise system. If a new invention manifestly affects an industry it is extremely shortsighted to hope that artificial restraints will neutralize its effect. The NCAA is highly presumptuous in thinking it can control the free choices and the comings and goings of a free citizenry in and out of football stadiums. Banning television or restricting it will not insure to Starhigh College the attendance in 1960 that it had in 1947. There are too many variable factors exclusive of television that affect attendance.
Secondly, it has always seemed to us eminently reasonable to believe that television could be a staunch ally of intercollegiate football. The large share of advertising budgets now being allocated to television is a barometer of the respect that American business has for TV's sales ability. Why not sell to the living room spectator the idea of actually attending a game or two a year? At the present time, approximately 1,500,000 people attend football games on Saturday afternoons. The audience is swelled to 35 million through the medium of television. This means that countless numbers of potential new fans are being reached. If only a small percentage of these are enticed into the stadium once or twice a year we may have to enlarge all of the stadiums throughout the country.
This is not just a case of wishful thinking. We have our experience in the early days of radio as a corroborating factor. There were many doomsday prophets in the 1920s who saw in radio the lethal weapon that would empty stadiums from coast to coast. Some colleges and conferences adopted measures to ban radio broadcasts of their games. Notre Dame then took an opposite point of view. Knute Rockne, with the typical foresight of the man, saw in radio a great ally of American football. He immediately offered Notre Dame games to any and all radio stations and networks that desired to broadcast the games. NCAA boycotts were unheard of in those days and other schools began following Notre Dame's example. Future experience proved how correct Rockne had been. Radio helped to build millions of new fans for intercollegiate football.
Notre Dame is opposed to the present NCAA policy because it is reactionary, arbitrary, artificial and will, in the long run, be detrimental to intercollegiate football. Although we now express a minority viewpoint, we do not stand alone in opposing the basic philosophy of the NCAA restrictive plan. Harvard and Yale have both expressed opposition to it. In May, 1953 the Harvard athletic director, Thomas D. Bolles, made the statement that "Harvard intends not to be bound by any program restricting its right to decide independently when and to what extent it will televise athletics." Yale followed suit the same month, announcing their independent stand to be "a matter of principle." It was not long afterward that Mr. Hall and Yale became disassociated. He is at least aware that it is possible to be opposed to the NCAA on the basis of principles which have nothing to do with avarice.
For the unconvinced who might still feel that Notre Dame's athletic policy is governed solely by an inordinate desire for revenue, we have one final consideration. We have for 30 years rejected literally millions of dollars in money by refusing to participate in post-season Bowl games. This, too, happens to be with us a matter of principle.
(Rev.) EDMUND P. JOYCE, C.S.C.
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Ind.
•As Notre Dame's faculty chairman for athletics Father Joyce has a strong interest in NCAA's still-continuing TV debate.—ED.
EXIT A HAPPY MAN
There are many things I like about SI. I couldn't possibly list them here. In the story of the Millrose Games by Bogart Rogers, you captured some of the spirit of this, the greatest of all indoor meets.
What do the Millrose Games mean to me? As far as I am concerned, they are second only to the Olympics. I have been competing in track for 18 years and have run a relay leg in the last 11 Millrose meets. This year we, the Baltimore Olympic Club, won the club two-mile relay. I have won medals at one time or another from just about every known track meet that is held annually in this country. Up until 1955, I had never won a Millrose medal. I couldn't retire until this was accomplished. Now I can bow out a happy man.
WILLIAM C. JIMESON
Baltimore Olympic Club
•Track fans have long watched and applauded bald-headed Bill Jimeson's spirited lead-off legs for the Baltimore Olympic Club.—ED.
I AM A LITTLE BIASED, BUT
Being a track enthusiast and director of one of the finest outdoor track carnivals in the country, SI's coverage of the Millrose Games appealed to me very much. Also, I am a little biased in that I have known Fred Schmertz personally since 1936 and he is one of our great fellows in the sport of track.
It is certainly fine that we see some articles on track, and particularly meets of this type, in that I think it goes a long way in popularizing the sport. I enjoyed the art work by John Groth, as it gave a different and more attractive version to track and field and did so much more than general photographs would do.
I hope to see many more articles on track and field....
HE WHO HAS THRILLED
Anyone who has ever seen an indoor track meet at the Garden in New York, or in Philly or Boston; he who has thrilled to the beauty of a great athlete going over 15 feet in the pole vault, or starting to kick in the final lap of the mile run or skimming over the highs, just barely missing each hurdle and then speeding the last few yards—that man will appreciate the great power in John Groth's almost three-dimensional portrayal of an indoor track meet which appeared a few weeks ago in your young magazine. I have always admired Groth's sketchy, realistic attempt to capture a scene as he saw it and put it down on paper, fresh and alive, but I have never seen him do anything to equal the double-page meet scene in your magazine.
I also want to say that you have one of the most progressive if not the most progressive magazine in America. You are doing a wonderful job of filling a long-vacant spot on the American sports scene—a good newsy weekly sports magazine.
JOSEPH SPATOLA III
In SI Nov. 29 you had a PAT ON THE BACK for "Rex Himself" [Dr. Eugene King] still playing the game at the age of 61. Rex is probably the oldest player in the country, but my son is no doubt the youngest to suit up. Deanie is the mascot of our company team, the Geo. C. Moore Company, which is currently in first place in the Rhode Island Basketball Association.
DEAN F. MARKHAM
WILL I EVER PLAY WICKET?
My husband and I get about as much kick out of the letters as we do the fine articles SI publishes. We get a little provoked, too, at the narrow-mindedness of some people.
I imagine all of us feel that we're "average readers" and what doesn't appeal to us is just naturally "off-beat." But I wonder if some of your readers have stopped to realize just how many different types of people read your fine magazine and of the hundreds of varied interests those people must have. The man who likes fishing probably skips by the articles on skiing—but I'll bet the skiing enthusiast reads every word written on his favorite sport. It's simply a matter of taste—and interests.
I guess you'd call my husband and I members of the "beagle and cane-pole set," for circumstances prevent our taking active part in a lot of sports discussed in SI, but that certainly doesn't keep us from being interested readers about such sports. We have to confine our fishing to the Mississippi River and the lakes in Missouri but that doesn't keep us from reading articles on surf-casting or deep-sea fishing. We are, of necessity, city cliff dwellers, but we still like to read magazines about homes and gardens and ranch houses. I'll probably never own a fur coat or drive an expensive car, but that doesn't keep me from pausing to look them over when I see them in a window....
It's certainly true that you can't please all the people all the time, but it would help, I think, if every reader of SI would keep an open mind and broaden his scope of interest on all sports.
As for me, I say keep up the excellent work. I may never go boar hunting, or see a bullfight, or play wicket-keeper on a cricket team, but I enjoy reading about them all the same....
MRS. ROBERT MEYER
WHY, OH WHY
The time has come to get this letter off my mind. I'm not interested in sports; I'm addicted to them—all of them. So SI was a natural for me from the first issue on. It's a splendid magazine, extremely well edited.
But why, oh why, must your reporting on the outdoors always be hung on some bizarre peg. Your reporting on baseball and basketball, say, is straight and colorful. But European boar hunts, throw-up pheasant shoots and Lake Titicaca fishing are comparable to describing the week's events in baseball with the story of a game played on donkeys in Cincinnati. It just isn't consistent.
The great outdoors deserves better.
KEN S. BOURBON
PS. They do play baseball on donkeys in Cincinnati sometimes.
WILL SWAP ONE DONALD DUCK...
I was reading my Feb. 7 edition of SI when I was called to the phone. While I was gone our young lady traded her book for mine. My camera being near at hand I recorded one definitely un-Average Reader at work. Believe it or not, it was not posed.
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
THAT MYSTERIOUS VEGETABLE
I have in front of me all the back copies (some 2,200 pages in all) of SI up to and including the Feb. 7, 1955 issue containing the letter from Mr. Q. E. Lumpkin complaining, "SI...has failed to give its readers the right balance of sport coverage we had a right to expect," with a reference that squash racquets would surely be confused with a vegetable by 99% of SI readers. I feel that Mr. Lumpkin is not giving SI readers proper credit. However, even if his assumption is correct, the 1% of the SI readers not confused is entitled (by Mr. Lumpkin's original complaint of balance) to its proper share of coverage. There have been 4 of the 2,200 pages devoted to squash racquets, or 0.18%. I hope that SI will close in on squash racquets' proper share of 1% very soon...
Unless the Yale squash coach, Johnny Skillman, perfects and builds his court of one-way glass, squash will remain a mystery to many people. Due to the construction of the court, the gallery is limited to a maximum of 500 people. For a sport to become popular, it must be both seen and played. There are not enough facilities to take care of all the people who wish to play squash, for high court construction costs limit the number of available courts. However, I feel that SI's few pages devoted to squash has helped to make the sport more widely known and appreciated.
RICHARD O. AUSTIN
P.S. I was glad to read about Grand Champion Joe Leonard's accomplishments in the field of motorcycle racing. It has widened my knowledge of a sport with which I am fairly unfamiliar.
I have read with interest the comments on the articles in your magazine by Mr. Average Reader.
When your articles descend to the level of the Average Reader, please cancel my subscription.
Mt. Pleasant, S.C.
MR. BELOW AVERAGE
Guess I'm a Below-Average Reader; I get as much enjoyment from the 19TH HOLE battles as I do from the articles.
New Richmond, O.
SUSTAIN THE SIMPATICO
All congratulations on the magnificent article Cricket for the Baseball Fan by Paul Gallico. Like all masterpieces of literature, it arouses the emotions, stimulates the intellect, creates understanding and leaves the reader the better off morally and spiritually than before the reading. As a boy, I first played cricket, then baseball. I can only say that I was a better ballplayer than a cricketer and, as it turned out, a better oarsman than a ballplayer. Not that they matter, but one remembers these details across the years....
To return to Mr. Gallico, he has contributed infinitely to the simpàtico which must permeate and sustain the nations and peoples of the Western World in their stand against the menaces and perils of the Iron Curtain before them.
San Diego, Calif.
IT WAS SOMETHING NEW
Wasn't SOUNDTRACK (SI, Feb. 14) too literal in its interpretation of the remarks made by the Army football coach in The Long Gray Line?
Prior to the first Army-Notre Dame game I had seen many forward passes successfully executed by Eastern football teams, including one from Dean to Surles which won for Army over Yale in 1910. But after eight years of experimenting with this play Eastern teams generally used it as a last-gasp effort for victory in the closing minutes of a game. And never, NO NEVER, was the pass to be attempted anywhere near one's own goal line.
Then came Notre Dame to West Point in 1913. And, in defeating Army 35-13, the forward pass was used from the opening whistle, regardless of the score or the position of the ball. To Notre Dame the forward pass was not a play that might effect a miracle when all else had failed; instead it was one of the principal maneuvers in a splendidly integrated plan of attack.
And so Grantland Rice and practically all of the other sportswriters and I left that game realizing that, like the coach in The Long Gray Line, we had truly seen something new in football.
BRIG. GEN. J. B. CRAWFORD
As an old-timer who saw his first game of baseball in 1907 at the Allentown Fair Grounds—I was then a wide-eyed boy of 15, fresh from sunny Italy, anxious to explore and comprehend the wonders and mysteries of a great new world—I have greatly enjoyed Farrell's superb article on the Cooperstown Hall of Fame, where the bronze plaques and mementos of former heroes of America's national pastime are preserved for future generations. My joy was mixed with a great deal of emotion because of the memories reawakened by names such as Napoleon Lajoie, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker, Christy Mathewson, and that immortal among immortals, Grover Cleveland Alexander.
In the wonderful process of creating America's traditions and myths, baseball holds an essential and vital place. And rightly so, for there is no game or sport that reflects more truly the American character and spirit as baseball. As Farrell so aptly says, baseball has become deeply integrated into our national culture, just as athletics and the tragedies were the sinews of the culture of ancient Greece.
Il Progresso Italo-Americano
Shame on such a fine young publication as SI!
No "old gun dog" would think of "flushing quail" (SI, Feb. 14). Dogs "point" quail.
•Right, can't teach an old gun dog new tricks.—ED.