Notre Dame Jumps Ship, Signs With NBC


NBC and Notre Dame announced Monday that the network will carry live, national coverage of all home Irish football games for five years, beginning in 1991.

Notre Dame thus becomes the first school in the 64-member College Football Assn. to make a national television deal of its own.

Athletic Director Dick Rosenthal said that the school plans to remain a member of the CFA but will not be a part of the organization’s television deals with ABC and ESPN.

Father E. William Beauchamp, Notre Dame executive vice president and secretary-treasurer of the CFA, said: “The involvement with the television package is separate from being involved with the CFA.”

Terms of NBC’s deal with Notre Dame were not announced, but television executives speculated that it is worth between $40 million and $75 million, or roughly $10 million per year.


ABC announced Jan. 17 that it had purchased rights to the CFA for $210 million over five years. ESPN announced in October its purchase of the group’s cable rights for $110 million over five years.

Under ABC’s deal, the three USC-Notre Dame games at South Bend, Ind., during the term of the contract would more than likely have been shown nationally. But most of the other Notre Dame home games would have been shown regionally.

Rosenthal said he had problems with ABC’s plan to show Notre Dame games only regionally.

“It would almost be better for us not to be on than to be on in only part of the country,” he said.

ABC said in a statement: “ABC and the CFA have an agreement to televise the home games of all 64 member institutions beginning in the 1991 season. The agreement was reached on Jan. 16 and ratified unanimously the following day by the CFA television committee.

“At this point, ABC Sports intends to pursue all remedies available to protect its agreement with the CFA from interference by third parties, including NBC Sports, and to ensure participation of all CFA-member institutions.”

ESPN declined comment.

David Ogrean, the CFA’s assistant executive director for television, said: “It would be premature to speculate on how the CFA membership may be affected.

“The CFA television committee will review the situation and consult with the membership. Both ABC and ESPN, with whom the CFA has agreements commencing in 1991, have expressed interest in continuing their relationship with the CFA.”

Notre Dame said it had not given the CFA any guarantees that it would be part of the new television package.

“In the process of negotiating new contracts, Notre Dame’s position was (that) we would not indicate our position until we had a chance to review that contract,” Rosenthal said.

NBC said it was legally free to conclude a deal with Notre Dame, since the school had not committed to the CFA’s package.

“We did not interfere with an existing relationship,” said Dick Ebersol, the president of NBC Sports.

Ebersol said that, for now, NBC would not attempt to sign contracts with other schools.

“We have no intention or any basis to seek out other schools,” he said.

But he added that NBC “would stand by and see what the developments are in the other schools.”

Sam Jankovich, athletic director at the University of Miami (Fla.), said he would not rule out a similar plan for the Hurricanes, the 1989 national champions.

“Miami did approve the latest TV agreement that was proposed by the CFA with ABC, but we have not signed off officially on this proposal,” Jankovich said. “At this point, we’re going to have to take a step back and assess (Monday’s) developments. We will have to look at how the CFA’s plan might be accepted and then determine what impact it would have on the University of Miami.”

The Notre Dame package will begin Sept. 7, 1991, with a game against Indiana. Other teams on Notre Dame’s 1991 home schedule are Michigan State, Pittsburgh, USC, Navy and Tennessee.

The agreement will not prohibit Notre Dame’s road games from being televised by other networks or cable outlets.

SportsChannel America, the cable network that is 50% owned by NBC, also showed games against Rice and SMU live, and the rest of the Notre Dame schedule on tape-delay. It is highly unlikely SportsChannel will televise any games live, but its delayed telecasts are expected to continue.

Today, one day after ABC apparently lost Notre Dame football, the network is expected to announce a two-year deal to televise games involving the NFL’s new spring football international venture.

The league, now dubbed the World League of American Football after two name changes, will start play in the spring of 1991.

The agreement, which is expected to pay the league $12-$15 million a year, will start off with 12 franchises--six in the United States, four in Europe and one each in Mexico and Canada.

New York is the only U.S. city set, with the international sites expected to be London, Frankfurt, Milan, Barcelona, Montreal and Mexico City.

The ABC contract is only the first step in the television arrangements for the league, which is headed by Tex Schramm, former president of the Dallas Cowboys, and overseen by the NFL.