The 50 Year Seduction: How Television Manipulated College Football, from the Birth of the Modern NCAA to the Creation of the BCS

The 50 Year Seduction: How Television Manipulated College Football, from the Birth of the Modern NCAA to the Creation of the BCS




Earlier this month, the national championship game between the Oregon Ducks and the Ohio State Buckeyes set an all-time viewership record for cable television. The ESPN telecast of the game, the first championship game using the new playoff system, was viewed by over 33 million people. So I thought it would be appropriate to look at a book that chronicles the relationship between the medium of television and the sport of college football.


For more than a half century, television has played a primary role in securing college football’s place as one of America’s most popular spectator sports. But it has also been the common denominator in the sport’s rise as a big business. Television, which multiplied the number of people who cared about the game, simultaneously increased the stakes.
The colleges, who once feared television’s ability to create free tickets, gradually became addicted to its charms. Through the years, the medium manufactured money, greed, dependence, and envy; altered the recruiting process, eventually forcing the colleges to compete with the irresistible force of National Football League riches; aided the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s explosion from impotent union to massive bureaucracy; manipulated the rise and fall of the College Football Association; fomented the realignment of conferences; and seized control of the post-season bowl games, including the formation of the lucrative and controversial Bowl Championship Series.
In The Fifty-Year Seduction, Keith Dunnavant shows how television helped shape the modern sport – on and off the field. In painstaking detail, the author chronicles five decades of tension and conflict, from the 1951 television dispute that empowered the modern NCAA to the inevitable backlash, culminating with the landmark Supreme Court decision that set the stage for the conference-swapping machinations of the 1990s and beyond.
©2004 Keith Dunnavant (P)2013 Audible, Inc.


There is no doubt that television has had a great influence on many industries in this country. So why should college football be any different? The truth of the matter is that college football isn’t any different. Television has been a guiding force in college football for over 50 years now and ‘The 50 Year Seduction’ chronicles the first 50 years of that journey.
As with anything, the influence television has had on college football has been both good and bad. It was television and the fear of what it might do to live attendance that led to the creation of the NCAA that we know today. Yes, the organization has existed far longer than television, but it was the threat of television that resulted in the member schools giving the NCAA the broad power and ability to enforce rules that it still wields today.
‘The 50 Year Seduction’ looks at how television transformed from something feared by the college football establishment to a partner with the establishment and ultimately to the overlord of the establishment. Conferences have expanded and disbanded because of television. Bowl games rise up and fall away because of television. Powerhouse programs have gotten even bigger recruiting advantages because of being on television so often. In many ways, TV exposure may be more important to a program than actually winning. That is how much the medium has come to dominate the game.
‘The 50 Year Seduction’ was published originally over a decade ago. The audiobook version of the book is far more recent and the truth is that so much has changed in just the decade or so since this book has been released. If anything, that makes the thesis even more credible, as TV will continue to shape college football for decades to come. You could probably get a sequel just out of the last ten years alone.
This is more a book about legalities than sports. There are not a lot of references to activities on the field. Most of the action of ‘The 50 Year Seduction’ takes place in meetings and in the court of law. In fact, most of the fighting is not between television and the game of college football but between different factions within college football that had different ideas on how television should be used.
Ultimately, after reading ‘The 50 Year Seduction’ it is impossible for me to make an argument that television didn’t come out the winner. Yes, the TV networks have to pay large rights fees to televise college football games, but with those large checks also comes the ability to dictate match-ups and start times and even influence who is in what conference.


Keith Dunnavant is a journalist who has written several books in the sports genre, specifically about football. The fact that Dunnavant grew up in Alabama where college football continues to hold more importance than the professional game did not come as a surprise to me when it was revealed early in the book.


Jay Snyder has a smooth delivery and almost sounds like he should be broadcasting sports on the radio. He’s just got a voice that lends itself well to this kind of material. There were a couple of mispronounced names, but other than that it is an easy listen.


The track itself is pretty basic. There are no music or sound effects, and there’s a chapter stop at the beginning of each book chapter, making 15 chapter stops in total. The levels are good and constant throughout the recording.


There is no doubt that television has had an incredible impact on the sport of college football. The fact that television will continue to shape the college football landscape is also beyond question. As the rights fees for live sporting events become larger and larger, college football will see even larger increases in revenue.
What kind of impact will those ever increasing rights fees have on the product on the field? Only time will tell for sure. But what strikes me most is that this book is a decade old and the landscape of today is just so different from even ten years ago. The college football playoff system that was put in place this past season saw huge ratings for the 3 games. That is something that will surely result in the TV networks wanting even more. In 25 years, will college football be much different from professional football? That is something else that will be shaped in a large way by the television networks that pay out the huge rights fees.


Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
The 50 Year Seduction: How Television Manipulated College Football, from the Birth of the Modern NCAA to the Creation of the BCS Keith Dunnavant Jay Snyder Audible Studios Sports 09/27/2013 9 hours, 22 minutes 7.5/10


A copy of ‘THE 50 YEAR SEDUCTION’ was purchased from Audible for review.