NBC quickly tees up golf following


The TV Repairman:

Did you ever wonder why or how networks get around to figuring out which sports to go for and which to back off from?

Bailouts occur when CBS puts up the money it did for baseball about five years ago, and that venture proves far from a success. Then there's the money Fox put up to wrest the strongest NFL conference from CBS, which was licking its baseball wounds. Both were billion-dollar-plus deals.

jTC Which leaves us with what sports the net goes after, alias affordable sports with a chance to make a few bucks.

Until recently, golf was a sport dominated by CBS and its PGA tournament deal together with the Masters. There was also ABC, which didn't do anywhere near as many tournaments but was solid nonetheless with "majors" and amateur tourneys run by the U.S. Golf Association.

NBC wasn't really a factor -- until now. Not only will the Peacock have the U.S. Open for the foreseeable future, one of its high-profile anchors, Dick Enberg, will serve as host and the net has gone out and become involved with other aspects of the game.

The recent "Skills Challenge" program, for instance, didn't produce ratings that made you gasp, but it did realize a 25 percent jump over viewership from the year before. That's a huge step forward and the kind of thing that gains a network a reputation of being a "golf network."

Thing is, NBC didn't want anything to do with boxing and, as co-owner of the "Skills Challenge," it can spot it in and around valuable properties like Notre Dame football on Saturdays and the NFL on Sundays. In other words, they're in the golf business seriously -- a good place to be, considering the demographics.

* It's another one of those dynamite college football days on the tube tomorrow with ABC sending along Colorado (2) at Nebraska (3) at noon (it will be 11 a.m. in Lincoln, Neb., yikes!) and Ohio State (21) at Penn State (1) at 3:30 p.m. ESPN goes at noon and 7 with Michigan-Wisconsin and Florida-Georgia, respectively. Navy gets exposure other than the Army-Navy annual, but the opponent is Notre Dame, which is down but not that down. NBC has this one at 1:30 p.m. and the analyst will be Randy Cross, who says, "After snapping the ball to Joe Montana all those years, I thought it was time I checked N.D. out. I was recruited by the Irish but skipped the visit because I had already decided to go to UCLA."

Because ABC is doing football, ESPN once again will be sending along the PGA Tour Championship from one of the great courses anywhere, Olympia in San Francisco. The third round is slated for 4 p.m. tomorrow before the network pulls in for the final Sunday (3 p.m.)

* If Purdue's footballers aren't camera-shy by now, they certainly should be. The Boilermakers, in 26 national and regional appearances over the last decade, have a 1-25 mark.

* Ken Burns, producer of the 18-hour "Baseball" series for Public Broadcasting, tells the story of a recent call from Donald Fehr, head of the players association. He wanted Burns to do a film on Marvin Miller, the MLBPA's first negotiator and guardian angel, so it "might inspire a fervor of unity among the players."

Burns suggested to Fehr that "he gather up his striking millionaires and put on a game just for the fun of it, so fans might come out and watch them play for free. But Don didn't seem to get it."

* The fisticuffs CBS sends along tomorrow (4:30 p.m.) to everyone, it seems, but Baltimore (Channel 11) is Orlin Norris (41-3) against KO artist Robert Daniels (25-2) for one of the cruiserweight belts. It's not as though WBAL is anti-violence on TV because it fills in with "Rescue 911."

* Tonight (9) TNT has San Antonio and Houston trading slam dunks in Mexico City. The light air (7,500 feet) should lead to some memorable slams before the breath gives out.

* CBS has a boatload of figure skating programs lined up for the late fall and winter, but ABC steals some of the thunder Sunday when it sends along the amateur "Skate America" competition in Pittsburgh.

Speaking of figure skating, ESPN is going against "Monday Night Football" -- Packers at Bears (the over/under is 11) -- with the World Championships taped in Japan last March. That's so long ago, you've forgotten who won, right?

* Home Team Sports has the Baltimore-Winnipeg CFL clash at Memorial Stadium at 2 p.m. tomorrow.

* An ESPN special entitled "Sports Greats: One on One with David Hartman" plays next Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and, among other things, Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman admits, "I really had no sense playing in the Super Bowl." He had suffered a

serious concussion in the NFC title game. Ken Griffey Jr. and Hakeem Olajuwon are the other subjects.

* The Maryland Special Olympics has named Channel 2's Keith Mills as its outstanding sports broadcast personality for 1994. . . . The "Fight Night '94" show in Washington last night, the black-tie fund-raiser that netted about $300,000 for charity, capped the evening by naming Pernell Whitaker its fighter of the year.

* It's a bit more than a week before George Foreman, who's getting dangerously close to being in shape, challenges Michael Moorer for his WBA-IBF heavyweight title on HBO. . . . The first half of Bud Greenspan's "16 Days of Glory" for the Lillehammer Winter Olympics last February goes on the Disney Channel Nov. 27.

* Haul out a tape, senior golf fans. Round 3 of the Kaanapai Classic in Hawaii is on ESPN at midnight tomorrow, then 8 p.m. Sunday.

* NFL teams wearing the so-called "Throwback" uniforms do grow on you after a while, don't they? The Lions in their silver and Honolulu blue unis with the stripeless socks of the '50s bring back memories of Doak Walker, Joe Schmidt, Leon Hart, Bobby Layne and Cloyce Box, far more enjoyable than thinking about today's under-.500 cast despite Barry Sanders.

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