A committee of major college athletic directors, concerned with the spiraling exposure of college football on television, will meet today and Thursday in Chicago to discuss alternatives to the current state of televised football in what could begin the biggest push yet to form an umbrella negotiating group.
Among those who will meet with the 12 athletic directors, and Chairman Sam Jankovich of Miami, will be College Football Association Executive Director Chuck Neinas, NCAA Executive Director Dick Schultz, and the presidents of the three networks' sports divisions: CBS' Neal Pilson, ABC's Dennis Swanson and NBC's Arthur Watson.
There will be representatives of most major Division I-A conferences on hand, including athletic directors Tom Butters of Duke (ACC), Don Canham of Michigan (Big Ten), Doug Dickey of Tennessee (SEC), Donnie Duncan of Oklahoma (Big Eight) and Mike McGee of Southern Cal (Pac-10). Also present will be commissioners Gene Corrigan of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Harvey Schiller of the Southeastern Conference and Tom Hansen of the Pacific-10.
"This is a fact-finding mission," Jankovich said yesterday. "We want to find out just where we are with college football television and where we see it two years from now. Is it in our best interests to remain where we are today or to have one consortium?
"We're the only group to have the Big Ten, Pac-10 and CFA people in one room working together."
The refusal of the Big Ten and Pac-10 schools in the past to join in a CFA package has been one roadblock in forming a common group for negotiating with television interests.
Among the topics to be discussed this week is the antitrust implications of such a move, Jankovich said.
In June 1984, the Supreme Court struck down the NCAA's TV plan on antitrust grounds, ruling that the right to televise college football games rested with individual institutions. Since then, rights fees have gone down, and the deregulation has led to a proliferation of football on television.
Division I-A athletic directors have met frequently since the Supreme Court decision to discuss common problems, primarily TV, and this week's gathering represents the next logical step in getting a handle on the TV situation.
In the last year of the NCAA-controlled TV era, ABC and CBS paid a combined $72 million in rights fees. In 1987, ABC, CBS and cable carriers ESPN and TBS paid about $48 million. (When syndicated regional packages are included, rights fees totaled more than $70 million last year. Syndicated games reached a peak of almost 200 three years ago, but dropped almost in half in '87.)
Meeting with the athletic directors in Chicago, Jankovich said, will be attorneys Clyde Muchmore of Oklahoma City, who represented Oklahoma University and the University of Georgia in the Supreme Court case, and Phil Hochberg of Washington, an expert in television sports law.
Schultz, former athletic director at Virginia who became NCAA executive director last year, has said the NCAA might ask Congress for antitrust relief to retake control of college football rights. Schultz could not be reached for comment yesterday. But Jankovich said seeking an antitrust exemption would be "a last resort" at this time.
The CFA, which includes most major schools other than those in the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences, has a four-year, $70 million deal with CBS that began last season. The Big Ten and Pac-10 have a four-year, $50 million deal with ABC. ESPN also shows a package of CFA games, and TBS does a slate of SEC games. NBC remains interested in college football, but executives there have indicated they probably would not pursue the product until its exposure is reduced.
Jankovich said the committee planned to meet again during the Final Four in Kansas City next month and then decide at the June meeting of the full Division I-A Athletic Directors Association "what we're going to do." Staff writer Mark Asher contributed to this report.