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The College Football Association (CFA) was a group formed by many of the American colleges with top-level college football programs in order to negotiate contracts with TV networks to televise football games. It was formed in 1977 by 63 schools from most of the major college football conferences and selected schools whose football programs were independent of any conference.[1]

One by one, the major conferences (and Notre Dame, the most prominent independent program) would eventually negotiate their own separate TV deals, reducing the importance of the CFA. The CFA shut down in 1997.



In 1977, when the CFA was formed, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) had controlled all college football TV rights since the early 1950s. It limited the number of games shown on TV because of a concern that televising more games would hurt attendance.[2]

The schools that formed the CFA banded together because of what they viewed as obstructionism of the NCAA by smaller schools. "People were just fed up with the NCAA's parochialism, power grab, etc., but also they wanted more money, they wanted to maximize and they wanted their fans to be able to see them on TV," said James Ponsoldt, a law professor at the University of Georgia.[3]

The CFA was formed by schools from the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big Eight Conference, the Southeastern Conference, the Southwest Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference, plus independents Notre Dame, Penn State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and the service academies. Schools from the Big Ten Conference and the Pacific-8 Conference did not join the CFA.[4]

After the CFA negotiated its own TV deal in 1981, the NCAA threatened sanctions against any colleges participating in the CFA deal, in all sports, not just football. The Universities of Georgia and Oklahoma, two prominent members of the CFA, sued the NCAA in U.S. District Court, seeking an injunction that would prevent the NCAA from imposing sanctions against CFA members, and asserting that the NCAA was engaged in restraint of trade and price-fixing.[5]

On June 27, 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in NCAA v. Board of Regents of University of Oklahoma that the NCAA's television plan violated the Sherman Antitrust Act. As a result, individual schools and athletic conferences were freed to negotiate contracts on their own behalf. Together with the growth of cable television, this ruling resulted in the explosion of broadcast options currently available. So beginning in 1984, the CFA sold a television package to ABC and CBS. The Big Ten and Pacific-10 conferences sold their own separate package to ABC.


By 1990, the television landscape changed. ABC had both the CFA and Big Ten–Pac-10 packages, and in 1991, Notre Dame split from the CFA to sign an exclusive deal with NBC.[6] The CFA was once again relegated to limited appearances. The beginning of the end for the CFA occurred in 1995, when the Southeastern Conference and Big East broke from the CFA, signing a national deal with CBS.[7] Since CBS began covering the SEC exclusively in 2001, the SEC is the only major conference guaranteed a national "game of the week" on network television as FOX and ESPN have the rights to multiple conferences (although the SEC's primary broadcast partner is CBS).[8]

The CFA was officially terminated on June 30, 1997.[9]


  1. ^ William Reed (August 26, 1991). "All Shook Up: Seismic Shifts Are Altering the Sport's Landscape". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  2. ^ Keith Dunnavant (2004). The Fifty-Year Seduction: How Television Manipulated College Football. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. pp. 5–8. ISBN 978-0-312-32345-5.
  3. ^ Marc Weiszer. "Fall Saturdays will never be the same". Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  4. ^ Keith Dunnavant (2004). The Fifty-Year Seduction: How Television Manipulated College Football. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-312-32345-5.
  5. ^ Keith Dunnavant (2004). The Fifty-Year Seduction: How Television Manipulated College Football. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. p. 154. ISBN 978-0-312-32345-5.
  6. ^ Sandomir, Richard (August 25, 1991). "COLLEGE FOOTBALL; Notre Dame Scored a $38 Million Touchdown on Its TV Deal". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-06.
  7. ^ Ivan Maisel (February 12, 1994). "SEC Officially Leaves CFA; Big East Will Follow Soon". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
  8. ^ Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 Archived January 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Tom Dienhart; Mike Huguenin (June 30, 1997). "CFA bids farewell after accomplishing its goals". The Sporting News. p. 62.

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