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Disneyland Shuts Door on Pigskin Ride : Football: With contract expired, company says it will not renew its sponsorship of the game.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The end has been expected for several weeks, and Disneyland made it official Tuesday, announcing it will not renew its sponsorship of the Pigskin Classic at Anaheim Stadium.

Disneyland’s five-year, $5-million sponsorship contract expired after Monday night’s game, in which Ohio State beat Fresno State, 34-10. The attendance of 28,513 was the lowest in five years.

“Disneyland has been proud to have created and presented five years of outstanding college football to fans in Southern California and to a national television audience,” Jack Lindquist, retired president of Disneyland and creator of the event, said in a prepared statement. “Our decision to no longer present the Disneyland Pigskin Classic is in no way an indication by Disney to withdraw from collegiate athletics, but, rather, a change in strategic direction. . . .

“We hope that the Pigskin Classic can find new sponsorship, and can remain in Anaheim Stadium and continue to build on the tradition that has been established.”

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Don Andersen, executive director of the Orange County Sports Assn., said he was disappointed by the decision, but it wasn’t a surprise.

“But from their (Disney’s) standpoint, you can understand it,” he said.

Lindquist said the company is planning a week-long event that would be called the Disneyland Classic, a festival that would “celebrate excellence in academics, arts and athletics” in colleges.

In the statement, he said the company is hopeful of starting the event in Orange County in December, 1995.

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Disneyland’s announcement indicated that the National Assn. of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and the American Football Coaches Assn. will attempt to keep the game alive. Mike Cleary, executive director of the athletic directors group, said in the announcement that his group will seek to continue the game “at a new venue with a new sponsor next August.”

Andersen believes that is unlikely.

“We haven’t talked to anyone about it, but if it has not succeeded to the point that was satisfactory to Disney, it’s doubtful that another sponsor will step forward,” he said.

The event has been known for some attractive matchups, but the top attendance was 49,309 in 1993 for the North Carolina-USC game. The Florida State-Brigham Young game in 1991 drew the next biggest crowd at 38,363.

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“We were trying to create a good event,” Andersen said, “and it’s just unfortunate that it didn’t catch on.”


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