Controversial Proposal p.

By: Mark Fitzgerald L.A. Times, ABC-TV and Disney propose a 1994 national college football championship week stressing athletics, arts and academics; support of university presidents is sought sp.

THE LOS ANGELES Times has joined an effort of the Walt Disney Co. and ABC-TV to sponsor a national college football championship game for the 1994 season.
In an elaborate promotion package sent to presidents of the 106 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I-A universities, the three companies are proposing a nationally televised "Disney Classic Week" festival.
In a special edition of the Times in the package, the festival is described as a "celebration of university arts, athletics and academics ? beauty, brawn and brains ? a celebration in a form that all of America could share."
The promotional material emphasizes the academic side of "Disney Classic Week:" Its proposed festival for student artists and musicians, a sort of trade show for colleges and a "Future Leaders Forum" that would produce a series of recommendations to improve U.S. higher education.
On the other hand, the football game ? between the college teams ranked Nos. 1 and 2 after the traditional post-season bowls ? is proposed in a more matter-of-fact way.
In fact, the Times special edition includes an interview with Disneyland president Jack Lindquist in which he denies that the proposal is "just another attempt at a national college football championship."
"We are, however, aware that it might be perceived as such," Lindquist said, adding, "The politics and economics of collegiate athletics today clearly suggests that a national championship is on the way."
In their initial reaction, several university presidents said the week of activities strikes them as simply window-dressing for a national title game.
"It's a sleazy attempt to pander to academics, with the bottom line going to Disney and ABC," University of Michigan president James Duderstadt said in a Chicago Tribune article by the newspaper's NCAA football writer, Ed Sherman.
"If you look at the [promotional] tape," Duderstadt added, "they talk all about academic excellence and staging forums. Then it's, 'Oh, by the way, we're going to bring together two teams for a little football game.' "
The Tribune article reported negative reactions from the presidents of Ohio State University and Wake Forest University as well as from the executive director of the Knight Commission, which serves as an ethical watchdog for the NCAA.
The "Disney Classic Week" proposal, however, contains strong incentives for the colleges.
For starters, sponsors would pay all travel and lodging expenses for all participating schools ? plus guarantee at least $75,000 to each university as its share of revenues. The two universities playing in the football game each would receive $1 million.
In its pitch to the university presidents, the Times said the festival would be an opportunity "not only to report the news but to participate in innovative and effective programs that help build a better society."
Jim Colonna, director of special events at the Times, said the extensive program demonstrates that the Times would not be simply sponsoring a football game.
"This is a full week of activity. One day is a football game. If you put it in that kind of context, this is not just a cursory shot at university excellence," said Colonna, who also is executive director of Los Angeles Times Charities.
He said the Times would not have wanted to sponsor only a national title game.
"As a newspaper, we're primarily interested in things that promote literacy, reading and of course higher education . . . . We probably wouldn't be inclined to be involved in the spon- sorship of a national football title game," he said.
However, the Times and Disney argued, an expensive university festival of the kind that they are proposing would not be financially possible without the game.
? (The Los Angeles Times published a special edition as part of an elaborate promotion package sent by the newspaper, Walt Disney Co. and ABC-TV to presidents of the 106 NCAA Division I-A universities proposing a nationally televised "Disney Classic Week" festival.) [Photo and Caption]


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