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Hoop hoopla

The basketball ratings are down on television. And that has some college administrators worried. College administrators?

Yes, indeed. According to news reports, a number of school officials around the United States are concerned because of an overexposure of college basketball games on TV these days. Put too many games on all at once and the ratings for each individual game tend to plummet as viewers have to pick and choose among such a full plate of hoop hoopla. One analyst, for example, notes that in Dallas recently a viewer could watch 13 college basketball games from morning until night, if the viewer kept changing the dial.

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That type of airwaves saturation is considered bad news at many an alma mater - especially if the school is counting on hefty ratings to help boost advertising revenues for its games.

A tidy advertising return, after all, means money in the bank for the colleges that share in the game's broadcasting rights.

Advertising . . . ratings . . . revenues . . . What happened to college basketball as an amateur sport, helping to teach young people lessons about team esprit, cooperative effort, athletic agility? The increasing grip of television on sporting events, particularly professional teams, is not new. Major league baseball shifts its schedule for prime time play. What does it matter that a pitcher has to go for four or five innings in subfreezing weather if the ratings are up? And football adjusts its season to run around the year - the better to get a cable or network contract.

But those, after all, are the pros. Somehow, though, the priorities seem mixed up when college administrators start fretting about the ratings for amateur teams in a competition that is supposed to build character - not profits.

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