John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Sports on Radio in the 1930s


The foundation for lucrative corporate/academic media partnerships was established in the late 1920s and early 1930s. This study examines the role of Maj. John L. Griffith—the Big Ten’s first full-time commissioner and a leader in the National Collegiate Athletic Association—in promoting the expansion and commercialization of intercollegiate athletics. In his public speeches, private correspondence, and editorial commentary in his monthly publication, the Athletic Journal, Griffith positioned intercollegiate sports as the antithesis of the emerging social welfare policies of the New Deal. His anti-Socialist rhetoric reflected the themes used by the new radio corporations in their successful effort to dominate the airwaves at the expense of non-profit broadcasters, and it facilitated the gradual accommodation to commercialized broadcasts of college sports by yoking intercollegiate football to ideals of democracy and capitalism.