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May 22, 2003
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Radio, Television, and Big-Time College Sport

The phenomenal popularity of college athletics owes as much to media coverage of games as it does to drum-beating alumni and frantic undergraduates. Play-by-play broadcasts of big college games began in the 1920s via radio, a medium that left much to the listener's imagination and stoked interest in college football. After World War II, the rise of television brought with it network-NCAA deals that reeked of money and fostered bitter jealousies between have and have-not institutions. In Play-by-Play: Radio, Television, and Big-Time College Sport noted author and sports insider Ronald A. Smith examines the troubled relationship between higher education and the broadcasting industry, the effects of TV revenue on college athletics (notably football), and the odds of achieving meaningful reform.

Beginning with the early days of radio, Smith describes the first bowl game broadcasts, the media image of Notre Dame and coach Knute Rockne, and the threat broadcasting seemed to pose to college football attendance. He explores the beginnings of television, the growth of networks, the NCAA decision to control football telecasts, the place of advertising, the role of TV announcers, and the threat of NCAA "Robin Hoods" and the College Football Association to NCAA television control. Taking readers behind the scenes, he explains the culture of the college athletic department and reveals the many ways in which broadcasting dollars make friends in the right places. Play-by-Play is an eye-opening look at the political infighting invariably produced by the deadly combination of university administrators, athletic czars, and huge revenue.

About the Author

Ronald A. Smith is a professor emeritus at Penn State University and has held the position of Secretary-Treasurer of the North American Society for Sport History since 1972. His many books include Big-Time Football at Harvard, 1905; Sports and Freedom: The Rise of Big-Time College Athletics; and Saga of American Sport.


"Very well researched and thorough . . . A welcome feature is a detailed, exhaustive time line of the intersecting strands of college sports and electronic media over the years. An additional bonus that closes the book is its helpful bibliographic essay, which functions as a literature review covering archives, general works, legal issues, and periodic literature and should be a boon for further research."—Library Journal

"In addition to its obvious appeal to sports fans, Play by Play provides an interesting examination of how society deals with new innovations and their changes over time, the conditions under which cartels attempt to organize, and the factors in their success or failure."—Stanley L. Engerman, Journal of Economic History

"Based on a nearly exhaustive investigation into the primary sources, including some fifty archives, . . . Smith's research makes abundantly clear that the presidents and athletic departments of America's leading education institutions have consistently tried to use the media—newspaper, radio, and television—for their own gain."—Randy Roberts, Journal of American History

"Smith's book provides a mother lode of information for those interested in the merger of big-time sports with big-time media . . . Smith has clearly combined a fan's interest with a scholar's devotion in researching his subject."—Thomas Alan Holmes, Aethlon

"No one knows more than Ronald A. Smith about the history of intercollegiate sports in the United States . . . [Play-by-Play] offers an extraordinarily detailed historical examination of the relationship among top-flight college sports (principally football), the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and television."—Warren Goldstein, American Historical Review

"A well-researched, historical analysis . . . Provides an often troubling account of the corruptive power of money, broken promises, misguided priorities, crushed dreams and academic compromises. Not exactly uplifting stuff, but required reading for anyone who wants to gain a greater understanding of why it's too often true that concerns about the records of a university's football and basketball teams seem more important than the quality of a school's faculty or the educating of its students."—K. Tim Wulfemeyer, Journalism and Mass Communication Educator

"Many authors have written celebrations—or diatribes—about the commercialism of college sports. Smith is more interesting and effective because he evades the polemics and settles for reconstructing and interpreting a fascinating tale. The episodes and details, the names and places—these are hard to research, and Smith does it. As a result, his story jumps out in its appeal and interpretation."—John R. Thelin, University of Kentucky

9780801876929 : play-by-play-smith
Electronic book text
320 Pages
$55.00 USD

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