UGA and Oklahoma sued the NCAA with the radical idea that their games were their own property and not the property of NCAA. They won the suit and revolutionized the game. The year before the ruling there were 89 games on TV. The year after viewers could have watched almost 200.
Here is an interview with former Big Eight Conference Commissioner and Emeritus NFF Board Member, Chuck Neinas, who at the time served as the executive director of the College Football Association (CFA), played a lead role in arguing the case.
Did you have any idea in 1984 that the case you were arguing would end up producing more than 100 additional games the following year?
No, I did not. There has obviously been an explosion in the marketplace, but what is interesting is that there seems to be an ever-growing appetite for college football. Today’s young people would find it difficult to believe that at one time you would get one or two games at most a week. As Justice [John P.] Stevens said one of the faults of the NCAA television program was that it was insensitive to viewer preferences, which meant you got what the NCAA determined was going to be the game that week. Now of course, you can basically watch your favorite team play on television most of the time. What prompted the lawsuit was the fact that the CFA had signed a four-year contract with NBC Sports, and the NCAA then issued an edict that if any of the CFA members participated in the contract that their men’s and women’s teams would be ineligible for postseason competition. People have to remember that. As a result, there was a challenge with the NCAA contending that as a member you surrendered your football TV rights to the organization. The lawsuit was based on a property rights theory where the institutions involved, Georgia and Oklahoma, stated that their TV rights belong to the university and not the NCAA, and that was the basis for the lawsuit.
What are your thoughts in comparing your options for watching TV on Saturdays in 2017 versus the early 1980s?
We worked hard to accomplish our objective of increasing college football games on television, so I might as well sit back and enjoy it.
What do you think the future holds? What will college football look like 33 years from now?
Let me put it this way. We’re getting ready to celebrate the 150th anniversary of college football [in 2019], and the game has always undergone a variety of changes. And now we must meet some of the challenges associated with the game to maintain its health and spirit, and that will take some effort on the part of those who are really interested in the game.