American college football has never been played in the Soviet Union, but USC and Illinois will soon change that. As expected, they will open the 1989 season with a game in Moscow.
It will be called the Glasnost Bowl-- glasnost being the Russian word for openness--and promoters predict that this particular exercise in openness will be profitable to all concerned, both culturally and monetarily. The game will be played Sept. 2, 1989, in Dynamo Stadium, a soccer field in Moscow.
“The Soviets have seen how football has grown in Western Europe, and before it becomes a major world sport they want to introduce it to their people,” said Rick Ray, chief operating officer of Raycom Inc., a firm that packages college football telecasts and assisted Raycom International in arranging the game. The announcement completed 5 years of negotiations between Raycom and the State Committee for Sport of the Russian Federation.
To participate, USC canceled its scheduled game at Kansas Sept. 2, and Illinois canceled a date against Cincinnati Sept. 9.
A Kansas spokesman said that USC was able to withdraw with the provision that the Trojans would reschedule the Jayhawks. He added, however, that Kansas is booked through 1994 and that the game has yet to be rescheduled.
Julie Johnson, a Raycom spokeswoman, said that once word got out about the game, there was widespread interest from Division I schools.
“The criteria we used to select the teams parallel that of a major bowl game,” she said. “We talked to Texas, Miami, Florida State, Alabama. But most teams’ schedules had already been set and games couldn’t be moved.”
Other than to say they would be paid expenses and compensation for loss of gate receipts on the canceled games, Ray would not say how much money USC and Illinois will get. Mike McGee, USC’s athletic director, was returning from Washington and USC officials would not comment on financial arrangements in his absence.
Ray said that the Soviets will keep the profits from their telecast of the game and that Raycom will reap the profits from the U.S. telecast by ABC. The attendance gate will be split between Raycom and the Soviets, although Ray said tickets are likely to cost the equivalent of $1. Apparently, Raycom also hopes to make a profit in 7,000 travel packages it will offer to fans, cost of which is still being determined.
Johnson said that during the negotiations, Raycom showed a tape of a football game to a group of Soviet officials. “One asked if anybody got killed playing the game,” she said.
To educate the Soviets, Ray said, he is producing 5-minute instructional vignettes that will be shown on Soviet television beginning in January.
“The tapes are basic, ‘When do you cheer at a football game?’ ” Ray said. “ ‘What is a pass? What is a fumble? This is a lineman, he is a big guy--he is wide.’ For the Soviets, it’s just like some Americans trying to learn Roller Derby.”