Penn is trying to pad its athletic pockets again. This time the prodigal of the Ivy League, through athletic director Fran Murray, is out to wreck the NCAA partial black-out on college football games.
The NCAA adopted this program last spring in an attempt to increase attendance at college football games, and at the same time give TV viewers a chance to see some top college games. Accordingly, NBC, the NCAA, and General Motors (the sponsor) drew up a mutually acceptable schedule.
Murray, a violent opponent of both the partial TV plan and of Bob Hall, Yale athletic director and chairman of the NCAA committee, at first refused to go along. Penn had already made lucrative-plans to televise all its home games. However, Penn eventually backed down and the trial program appeared to have clear sailing. That is, until the camera-happy Quakers once more decided to step in last week.
Saturday's Penn-Notre Dame game was sold out long ago. Ordinarily, Murray would have been counting his TV profit, but the NCAA schedule called for a showing of the Columbia-Princeton game and a black-out of all others.
Murray suddenly decided to open up the whole issue again and demanded that the Penn game be piped to the Philadelphia area. He was surprised beyond words when Hall and the NCAA immediately gave him a green light.
Murray had evidently neglected to read the fine lines in the NCAA TV contract. The NCAA specifically stated that where there was a sell-out and no appreciable harm would come to other schools in the vicinity, a contest could be televised locally. Hence, the NCAA and Hall, despite personal feelings, didn't hesitate to grant Murray permission.
Then Murray began to weasel, according to Hall. "Murray was shocked when he got his permission--he really only wanted to fight." And the facts appear to substantiate Hall in this statement.
Murray wasn't satisfied in getting the Penn game televised in the Philadelphia area. He suddenly demanded that the regularly scheduled TV contest between Columbia and Princeton be piped to the Philadelphia area as well as the Penn game. "He wanted to have his cake and eat it too" is the curt way Hall summed up Murray's request. A series of violent telegrams crossed back and forth.
It was apparent that among other things Murray was trying to make an issue of the whole affair. He at least succeeded in this objective.
But Burray made a bad tactical mistake in failing to go through with his original plan. At the last minute he refused to allow the Penn-Netro Dame game to be locally televised, and the Princeton-Columbia game went on as originally scheduled. The Philadelphia locals let out a loud howl, while Murray cooled his heels.
Hall was able to sit back knowing that Murray had once again backed down. Veiled excuses were of no use. At last the TV squabble had crystallized.
The NCAA is trying in the most intelligent way it can find to solve the football TV problem. It is putting on a partial black-out solely on a trial basis. Most NCAA members are quite willing to go along, at least until the next meeting in January.
Mr. Murray of Penn, however, is not willing to wait until then; he is intent on causing as much trouble as possible. It is likely that the recent outburst will not be the last time Murray will attempt to gum up the TV program. But his chances of doing so are growing smaller and smaller. Quite a few people have become tried of Murray and his antics.