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Exploring the history of college football media rights

by Jason Kersey Modified: August 28, 2013 at 9:00 am •  Published: August 25, 2013

In the early 1980s, Oklahoma and Georgia partnered in a lawsuit challenging the NCAA's monopoly on college football TV contract negotiations.

The suit reached the United States Supreme Court, which ruled 7-2 against the NCAA and opened the door for universities and conferences to negotiate their own media rights agreements.

In the years following, Georgia's Southeastern Conference used its new freedom to eventually sign landmark agreements with CBS and ESPN that drastically increased its national exposure and filled its coffers.

Oklahoma's conference, meanwhile, expanded from eight to 12 teams, then back to 10, while nearly imploding on more than one occasion.

Here's a timeline looking at the big moments in major college football's media rights history:

1952-1983: The NCAA served as the sole bargaining agent for all college football television rights. Teams weren't allowed more than six national appearances every two years, and the NCAA decided which games would be regionally and nationally broadcast.

1977: The College Football Association was formed, comprised of 63 schools seeking to control their own television rights. Between 1980 and 1997, when the association collapsed, it was led by executive director Chuck Neinas, the former Big Eight commissioner who served as interim Big 12 commissioner from 2011-12.

June 27, 1984: The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Oklahoma and Georgia, saying that institutions owned their television rights and that the NCAA's television contracts violated federal antitrust laws.

The NCAA's contract with ABC, CBS and ESPN was immediately void, and the College Football Association began negotiating television deals for its member institutions.

Oklahoma, which had appeared on television an average of 2.1 times per season between 1952 and 1983, made nine television appearances in 1984.

1990: Notre Dame signs a five-year, $30 million television contract with NBC, becoming the CFA's first defector.

February 1994: The SEC announces it will leave the CFA after the 1995 season after signing a five-year agreement with CBS. According to terms of the deal, CBS will televise 12 regular-season SEC games each season, with each team guaranteed at least one appearance.

The SEC's deal was worth about $17 million per season for football rights, which wasn't all that much more than the league would've made had it stayed with the CFA.

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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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