My first column appeared this week in the Boulder Daily Camera, our local paper. In it I explained why college football games occur on Saturdays and the NFL on Sundays. The answer, of course, is government regulation.
I will follow up my column with more details and further readings, for those who might want to dig a little deeper. A few of my future columns will require some background that I won't be able to get into the piece, such as on the Byzantine world of campus budgeting.
Here is an excellent paper on the history of the Sports Broadcasting Act (SBA) of 1961, and an excerpt on the origins of that law:
Goodman, B. T. (1995). Sports Broadcasting Act: As Anachronistic as the Dumont Network, The Seton Hall Journal of Sport Law, 5:469-507.Details on the Saturday/Sunday gerrymandering are explained in a post at the Tulane Sports Law program:
In 1960, the American Football League, a rival to the NFL, was formed, and its eight teams
immediately pooled their television rights and entered into a contract with NBC, thus ensuring each club annual television revenues of approximately $212,000. In response to the AFL-NBC deal, and in an attempt to rectify the disparity in television revenues among themselves, the 14 NFL clubs agreed to pool their television rights and share the profits.' The resulting $4.6 million deal with CBS would have produced $332,000 annually for each team, but Judge Grim held that the contract - a "basic change" in the NFL's television policy - violated the earlier 1953 judgment. Since the deal gave CBS "the right to determine, entirely within its own discretion without consulting the Commissioner or any club... which games shall be telecast and where such games be televised," Judge Grim ruled that it unfairly restricted the rights of the individual clubs.'
The NFL, immediately ran to Congress, which lent a sympathetic ear. Acknowledging an "apparent inequity," - the AFL and other non-football leagues were free to package their television rights but the NFL was under court order not to do so' - Congress passed the Sports Broadcasting Act, which exempted from federal antitrust laws agreements among member clubs of professional sports leagues to pool and sell as a package the rights to televise their games.
The SBA prevents NFL broadcasts from competing with college football attendance by removing the antitrust exemption granted in section 1291 when the NFL broadcasts games at times when college games are typically played. If the NFL and its broadcast partners were to televise any of the games sold in the pooled packages during the prohibited time frame, they would risk treble damages in the event those pooled packages are held to be in violation of antitrust laws.In the movie Concussion, starring Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, there is a dramatic passage where Omalu is warned of taking on the NFL. The NFL, Omalu is told, is the only corporation that owns a day of the week.
Specifically, the antitrust exemption granted in section 1291 does not apply to any professional football game televised (1) between the hours of 6 pm Friday and 12 am Sunday, (2) beginning on the second Friday in September and ending on the second Saturday in December.
That exchange is dramatic, but it is incorrect. The NCAA owns a day of the week (30 hours to be precise). The NFL in fact owns the other 6.