The NBC College Football Game of the Week refers to nationally televised broadcasts of Saturday afternoon college football games that were produced by NBC Sports, the sports division of the NBC television network in the United States. Bowl games were always exempt from the NCAA's television regulations, and the games' organizers were free to sign rights deals with any network. In NBC's case, the 1952 Rose Bowl at the end of that particular season was the first national telecast of a college bowl game.
NBC first televised college football on September 30, 1939. NBC broadcast the game between Waynesburg and Fordham on station W2XBS (which would eventually become NBC's flagship station, WNBC) with one camera and Bill Stern was the sole announcer. Estimates are that the broadcast reached approximately 1,000 television sets. Twelve years later, the first live regular season college football game to be broadcast coast-to-coast aired on NBC. The game in question, was Duke at the University of Pittsburgh on September 29, 1951.
Pretty soon on June 6,1952, NBC Head of Sport Tom Gallery led negotiations towards a one-year football contract (for $1,144,000) with the NCAA. The contract incidentally came about after the 1951 NCAA convention voted 161-7 to outlaw televised games except for those licensed by the NCAA staff. The deal allowed NBC to select one game a week to broadcast on Saturday afternoons, with the assurance that no other NCAA college football broadcast would appear on a competitive network. In the first college football game to be broadcast under this new NCAA television contract, on September 20, Kansas defeated TCU 13–0.
By 1953, the NCAA allowed NBC to add what it called "panorama" coverage of multiple regional broadcasts for certain weeks – shifting national viewers to the most interesting game during its telecast. After NBC lost its college football contract following the 1953 season, they carried Canadian football in 1954. NBC regained college football rights in 1955 and aired games through the 1959 season. NBC regained the NCAA contract for the 1964 and 1965 seasons
Even after losing the rights to regular season college football in both 1959 and 1965, NBC continued to carry postseason football. NBC carried the Blue–Gray Football Classic, an all-star game, on Christmas Day, until dropping the game in 1963 as a protest of the game's policy of segregation. It consistently served as the Rose Bowl's television home until 1988 and added the Sugar Bowl from 1958 to 1969 (which replaced the network's coverage of the Cotton Bowl Classic).
^Pedersen, Paul M.; Parks, Janet B.; Quarterman, Jerome; Thibault, Lucie, eds. (2011). Contemporary Sport Management (4th ed.). Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-7360-8167-2. Retrieved 2012-03-25.
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