NFL Meeting to Center on Battle for Public's Entertainment Interest

United Press International

The United States Football League is nibbling around its ankles, its attorneys have enough work to keep busy around the clock and one of its franchise owners is looking for emergency help.

In this atmosphere, the people who run the National Football League will open their annual winter gathering Monday, their prime objective being to maintain their lofty status in the dramatically changing world of entertainment.

"The entertainment industry has gone through evolutions before and it is going through one now," said the Dallas Cowboys' president and general manager, Tex Schramm, who is chairman of the NFL's powerful competition committee.

"We are going through a time when only the strongest and fittest in entertainment will survive because of all the alternatives that are available."

Schramm and the four other members of the competition committee--Pittsburgh Coach Chuck Noll, Miami Coach Don Shula, Atlanta Executive Vice President Eddie LeBaron and Cincinnati Vice President and General Manager Paul Brown--have been meeting for the last two weeks in Hawaii.

About 75% of the league meetings will be taken up studying and acting on the recommendations made by that committee--which reviews everything affecting play on the field from rules changes to the player draft.

Although no major alterations in the rules are expected from these meetings, some action may be forthcoming involving the length of games and concerning the use of tiny transmitters and receivers in players' helmets.

In addition, the league owners will have plenty to talk about, but apparently little to do, in the case of the Philadelphia Eagles and that team's financially troubled owner--Leonard Tose.

Many owners had hoped there might be a proposed Eagles' sale for them to approve at these meetings, but the most recent would-be sale disintegrated last month.

All of this comes in the framework of the overall NFL concern, which is to protect its public image and its role as one of America's prime means of escape.

Schramm says attendance figures remain steady in the NFL--some teams up, others down--and that although TV ratings for pro football are down they are no more down than other ratings.

"Even prime time ratings have dropped," Schramm said. "I think everybody in the entertainment industry is going through an important period. Television is facing now what others faced when television first came along.

"When television came it changed the whole concept of entertainment. Minor league baseball died because you could watch major league baseball on television.

"All the shows that used to come around and play in the individual cities, road companies, died because you could see the top performers on television.

"Now the only things that do any good are the real giants. Frank Sinatra can come in and fill an arena. But in the old days you could have Lawrence Welk or Woody Herman do the same thing. All the entertainers who you now see in a hotel showroom used to put on shows in the big auditoriums.

"Now, with cable and everything that is happening, we are going through another revolution.

"Our product, I'm convinced, will survive. But right now I'm not in total favor of a lot of expansion. We have to move very carefully.

"I think the people who are in trouble are the colleges because, as shown this past year, when you have so many games on television people aren't going to be interested in a college game just because it is a college game.

"They are going to be interested in Oklahoma vs. Nebraska or Penn State vs. USC, but they might not care about a lot of the other games that are on. We have to make sure we don't get in the same spot."

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