NCAA President John Toner says he gets only two consistent readings from his constituency seven months after the Supreme Court deregulated NCAA control of the televising of college football games, greatly deflating their value.
"Why did we shoot ourselves in the foot?" he says is one reaction. "The other is total confusion as to what is possible for each and every one of us to do, because everyone's looking for something that the law won't allow."
Capt J.O. (Bo) Coppedge, Navy's athletic director, became one of the first two defectors from the 63-team College Football Association package on ABC and signed with CBS to televise the annual service rivalry with Army.
"We worked out a multiyear deal, and we're pleased," Coppedge said, "especially at the state of where college football is today, and I'm not sure where that is. Some people say it's real good, and some say it's real bad. I don't know. That's why I'm taking a bird in the hand."
One pattern is evolving: The financial rewards to the schools are going to get worse before they get better. Panelists at a seminar concerning TV and the NCAA said Madison Avenue will not regain its confidence in college football overnight, and CBS and ABC say they will not operate at a deficit, as in recent years. CBS broke even last season, and ABC and ESPN lost "substantial sums," according to their representatives at today's seminar.
The evidence for an even more depressed market lies in the deals with the Big Ten/Pac-10 package ($18.5 million over two years) and the Army-Navy game ($675,000 this season), CBS announced Friday.
In comparison to this season, the Big Ten and Pac-10 will make less per game this season and the same next season if CBS uses the maximum appearances for which it has contracted. The rights to the Army-Navy game are down $125,000 from last season and $825,000 from a contract signed contingent on the NCAA winning in court.
TV syndicators are conspicuous by their absence at this NCAA convention, and the technology for pay-per-view will not be in place in many markets for as long as five years. Another option, according to Mark Lopatin of Sports Casting Management, is new advertising sources.
CBS, looking to expand geographically to include the East and Southeast, is likely to have deals with the Atlantic Coast Conference and Miami before the NCAA convention concludes here next week. ACC schools got one game in the College Football Association package on ABC last season, and Miami, the defending national champion, had none.
"I don't think the CFA can satisfy 63 schools," Sam Jankovich, Miami's athletic director, said today. (With Miami and the ACC going to CBS, that network would have 31 teams and the CFA 51.)
What did deregulation mean to Miami? According to Jankovich, the Hurricanes made $1.172 million from two network telecasts in 1983 and expected to make $2 million in 1984 before deregulation. Instead, Miami will gross $970,000 for nine national telecasts this season.
And because of changing starting times and a glut of games on TV, Miami lost $50,000 a game in gate revenues. With those losses, the four percent fee Miami paid the NCAA and the $175,000 it cost to buy out to rearrange its schedule, Miami netted only $455,000 as a result of TV, or about $50,000 per game.
As early as Monday, Big Ten and Pac-10 representatives thought the CBS offer was insulting at the same time network officials thought it to be generous. But those conferences were quick to realize that the Supreme Court decision resulted in changing a seller's market to a buyer's market almost overnight.
As Tom Hansen, executive director of the Pac-10, said at today's seminar, "Anything that was attractive economically created legal problems. As I'm sure many of you know we no longer have a meeting of two people without a lawyer present . . . I can assure you one thing: If we are making some money from college football TV and college basketball TV, a very high percentage of it is going (to lawyers), and we're paying a great amount of money for the deregulated conditions we face today."
The CFA, which has a meeting scheduled here Sunday, will have to go head to head against CBS this season. In addition, there is no other network with which to deal, as NBC has baseball until mid-October.
According to Donn Bernstein of ABC, the only real winner was "the fan, the sports junkie who could care not about fragmented ratings, about the depressed economy, rights fee, etc . . . As for the light at the end of the tunnel, there is not a beacon. There is not hardly even a shimmer."