The televising of college football games in the wake of last summer's Supreme Court decision, along with congressional intervention to protect athletes' rights, were at the forefront of discussions today as delegates began arriving for the annual convention of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
In New York, CBS Television announced it has reached agreement on multiyear contracts with Army, Navy and the Big Ten and Pacific-10 conferences to show their football games. Sources said a deal with the Atlantic Coast Conference and, possibly, Miami could come as early as Monday.
CBS will pay the Pac-10 and Big Ten a total of $18.5 million for 28-30 games over two seasons, sources said. CBS bought the Army-Navy game for the next two years, with options for 1987 and 1988.
CBS will pay $675,000 for the coming season's Army-Navy game, a drop of $125,000 from what the network paid last year and $825,000 less than what it had agreed to pay before the Supreme Court struck down the NCAA's television football controls.
Capt. J.O. (Bo) Coppedge, Navy's athletic director, declined to discuss what CBS is paying, but said, "I'm taking a bird in the hand. The thing that was attractive to us was the multiyear contract."
In Washington, Joel Johnson, an aide to Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), said the NCAA was dragging its feet in taking action it promised during congressional hearings last summer. Because of this, Johnson said, Metzenbaum will propose legislation banning freshmen from competing in intercollegiate athletics at colleges and universities that receive federal aid.
Johnson said Metzenbaum was inclined to do this because the NCAA has not taken action on the granting of four-year scholarships to athletes, instead of one-year renewable scholarships, and has not addressed the total issue of athletes' rights in regard to injuries and medical bills.
NCAA President John Toner, athletic director at the University of Connecticut, said here today that he understood the NCAA Council needed only to review the issues and report back to Metzenbaum. There is a proposal for catastrophe insurance on the agenda here and Toner called it "at least a step in the right direction."
But that apparently is not enough to appease Metzenbaum. "He knows what the problem is and he wants some action," Johnson said.
In a letter to Toner last month, Metzenbaum wrote, "As I stated at the hearing, I would prefer the NCAA to police itself in these matters. If, however, these problems are not confronted by the NCAA, I intend to vigorously pursue solutions through federal legislation."
Johnson said, "This is getting to the point they can drag their feet another four years, or we can force something . . . . I think that's something we'll have to do."
Although many leading educators have called for freshman ineligiblity, Division I schools are opposed to it on economic grounds. Johnson said congress could legislate -- and enforce -- freshman ineligibility in much the same way that Title IX legislation did for women's sports.
Earlier today, at a press briefing, Toner hinted at the NCAA's reluctance to accept four-year scholarships, saying an antitrust exemption was the only means by which to have again a centrally administrated television football package for all major schools.
Toner said: "You might recall, the NFL did it (sought an antitrust exemption) back in 1961 or 1963, I can't remember which, and they put a caveat on there: 'Okay, we'll give you an exmeption so you can regulate professional football, but don't televise on Saturdays and Friday nights.'
"If we asked for an exemption now, I guess we could expect quite a few caveats."
Today's announcements by CBS were a significant development in the course that network televising of college football games is expected to take. It gives CBS the Southern and Eastern exposure it lacked last season, when it had only the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences in its weekly package.
Left unanswered is the question of crossover games, or those involving one team from the College Football Association package against a nonmember of the CFA. The issue is in litigation.
The CBS deals announced today also put its rival network, ABC, in a stronger bargaining position with the CFA because it reduces the CFA's options. The CFA and ABC have not begun negotiations on a new contract.