Viewers of the Ohio State-Clemson football game telecast by ABC-TV Friday night swamped the network's New York headquarters, its affiliate here and The Washington Post with angry calls yesterday about ABC's coverage.
Most callers complained about the network's failure to show a complete replay of Ohio State Coach Woody Hayes' attack on a Clemson player that triggered a melee on the field and about the announcers' comments on the incident.
Many callers to The Post charged that commentators Keith Jackson and Ara Parseghian "covered up" for Hayes by their failure to take note of Hayes' attack on the player whose interception of a Buckeye pass sealed OSU's 17-15 Gator Bowl loss.
Irv Brodsky, sports information manager at network headquarters in New York, where operators reported "quite a number of calls" about the coverage, said technical problems were responsible for the poor replay.
Brodsky said Donn Bernstein, the game's producer, had three cameras on the play. But the camera that actually covered the live play-what was shown on the viewers' screens-was not being "fed" to a tape.
(The repeats shown on the three networks yesterday came from tapes made in New York instead of in Jacksonville, from where the Gator Bowl game was broadcast.)
Brodsky said Jackson, the play-by-play announcer, was watching the game on the field and not the monitor. When the replays from the three cameras on tape were shown, Brodsky said, there was no clear angle on Hayes and Jackson "wasn't positive what caused it (the bench-clearing fight)."
Since Jackson was concentrating on the play and not on Hayes, whose actions could not have been predicted, Jackson was "in the dark and didn't want to talk about something he hadn't seen," Brodsky said.
The network cut away for a commercial when it became clear that "none of the three different angles showed the causeof the breakout."
When the network returned to the game, Parseghian, apprently unaware he was on the air, could be heard making critical remarks were about the fight taking place on the field.
"The producer cut back live (to the game) because Hayes was still screaming and was being assessed another penalty," Brodsky said.
Brosky said there was no attempt to cover up for Hayes or mute any criticism, adding that Jackson criticized the fight on the field "and commented several times on the coach's anger."
"This is a very rare thing," Brodsky said. "It's an unfortunate incident that ABC didn't have the proper replay angle which we could show again (immeadiately)."