Grounded Aerial

Next fall, in homes and taprooms across the nation, dials will click and the country's top football teams will battle back and forth across a million television screens. But one Gridiron Classic will be conspicuously absent. The Harvard-Yale game, an ivy-covered football venerable, will not be televised. In the fact of tentative advances by the NCAA, the University has held its ground and again refused any and all offers to put Harvard football on a coast-to-coast video hook-up.

The University is not trying to be exclusive--it is just trying to stay clean. The ballyhoo of Sports Cavalcades and Games of the Day is big business. Games are the stock in trade and each has its own price tag. The men in University Hall are not expected to be booking agents for a football team. Nor are they expected to be drum beaters and publicity agents. No college should have to sell itself to the public on the merits of its football team. When it tries, it becomes less a college and more a paid performer.

There has been pressure from some alumni to put Harvard football on nationwide television. Naturally, alumni want to generate public esteem for the College. But the undue stress this would put on football as a college activity would far outweigh any gains in general good will. By recruiting players to build television prestige, well-intentioned supporters might undermine the College's policy of athletic "sanity."

To complicate matters, no one is quite sure whether the NCAA itself is particularly pure. The Corporation's legal counsel seems to think that an NCAA agreement might entail violations of the federal Anti-Trust Law. The issue is still unresolved, but the cloud of doubt around the NCAA certainly makes its television offer less enticing.

With radio, the problem has been different. University policy has permitted regional broadcasts of football games with a commercial sponsor. But all the spectacle of television is missing, partly because the audience is so restricted, and partly because radio itself has taken a back seat to television. The listening public of not too long ago is a viewing public today, and nobody gets very excited anymore about football games broadcast over the radio.


Television is an enigmatic sort of modern blessing. Like the atom and the automatic dishwasher, it has to be used carefully, or else it may do more harm than good. The University is wise in eyeing it with cautious suspicion.