The National Football League's next television contract with the networks will be "very similar" to the current pact that runs out after the 1986 season, according to Jim Spence, vice president for ABC Sports.
The NFL signed a five-year, $2.1 billion contract in 1982, but ratings this year have declined considerably at all three networks over the all-time high 1981 season.
Spence said he did not want to speculate on the dollar figures, but did say he believes his network will be able to have far more flexibility in scheduling Monday night games, beginning in 1987. "It's clear to the NFL they need to give us better games," he said. "It's clear that 'Monday Night Football' is too important to us and to them to rely on a schedule selected in April and hope it holds up in November and December . . . . I do think next year, they (the NFL) will be more sensitive to the need for a very attractive schedule for us on Monday night." Spence also indicated the network plans to keep the 9 p.m. starting time next season, after a one-game experiment at 8 p.m. late in the NFL season.
Spence said ABC has no plans to televise the U.S. Football League if the USFL goes ahead with its plan to begin playing a fall schedule in 1986. "It is not our intent to force them to play in the spring," he said. "It is our intent to make them live up to their commitment . . . . Hopefully, we can work it out without resorting to legal means."
Sonny Jurgensen, covering the Super Bowl for WDVM-TV-9 and WMAL-630, says he's picking San Francisco because "I'm an NFC guy."
"I like (Dan) Marino, he's got a great arm and a great future, but I give Joe Montana the edge in experience," said the Hall of Fame quarterback. "I think you've got two great teams, two great offenses and it will be a terrific football game."
Joe Theismann, the current Redskins quarterback, insists he must stay noncommital on the final outcome, since he will be the third man in the ABC broadcast booth Sunday. "I gotta pull for Joe Montana, though," said Theismann. "Notre Dame guys always stick together."