Professor Timothy Davis quoted about SCOTUS decision on televised college football games
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High Point Enterprise
September 2, 2014
The excitement of watching your favorite college football teams on a big-screen TV. Non-stop action, from kickoffs at noon to contests on the West Coast that start closer to midnight. Blitz coverage of games on a host of television channels.
For this gridiron TV spectacle, you have one group of people to thank — the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. As college football launches its first weekend of the 2014 season today, the mania that engulfs the sport dates in large part from a Supreme Court decision 30 years ago. In the case of the National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Board of Regents, the justices ended the decades-long practice of one network having exclusive rights to broadcast regular season college football games.
The Supreme Court, in a 7-2 ruling, found that the NCAA violated antitrust and restraint of trade statutes by curtailing the ability of universities and conferences to have their teams appear on TV. The case, decided during the 1984 term of the Supreme Court, involved universities that objected to the NCAA limiting the number of games shown on television.
The ruling came just as ESPN, then an upstart cable network, was trying to gain a foothold with sports audiences. ESPN took advantage of the Supreme Court ruling to emphasize college football telecasts, and the number of games on TV mushroomed.
Universities that rarely had appeared on television found a platform for games, and the stagecraft of college football Saturday evolved into what it is now. The NCAA v. Board of Regents decision may be one of the most under appreciated Supreme Court cases of the last generation in terms of its influence on society.
“It truly was a landmark ruling as it relates to the impact on our culture,” said Timothy Davis, a professor of law at the Wake Forest University School of Law.
Prior to the ruling, only a handful of college football games were shown on Saturdays, said Davis, who has a specialty in the law and sports. Also, a cap was placed on how many times one team could appear on TV during a regular season.
“Any member institution that did not adhere to these rules and attempted to enter into a television rights agreement with another network would be punished by the NCAA,” the professor said.
Now, in the wake of the NCAA v. Board of Regents case, college football games dominate the TV landscape on Saturdays, Davis said. College football, in a generation, has become a multibillion dollar sports juggernaut, with more colleges than ever having their teams on TV.
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