For years and years, the Rose Bowl fought the good fight and stayed away from commercial sponsorship. Even as its traditional New Year's Day brethren bowls -- the Orange, Sugar and Cotton -- all succumbed to the perversion of big corporate dollars, the Rose remained above the fray.
"It's kind of a dream come true," said Harriman Cronk, chairman of the Tournament of Roses committee that runs the game and the parade.
No financial terms were disclosed for the multi-year deal, but Cronk remained emphatic that AT&T; will not get to place its corporate name before the game, as in "The AT&T; Rose Bowl." Instead, the game will be called "The Rose Bowl Presented By AT&T.;"
"We have consistently said that we would not accept a title sponsor. AT&T; falls into the category of a company that we're proud to be with," said Cronk.
While Cronk said the Rose Bowl does not want AT&T; signs and logos inside the stadium, ABC, which pays the bowl a reported $19 million per year, retains the right to control signage and even to place AT&T;'s logo on the field if it chooses.
"AT&T; is not looking to plaster the place with logos or to plaster the players uniforms. We like to think we're beyond that. We hope to bring class, not crass," said Burke Stinson, an AT&T; spokesman.
Yesterday's announcement is just the latest of a series of stark changes that have come to the "granddaddy" of all bowl games over the past 10 years, starting with its move from NBC to ABC, followed by its agreement to become part of the new championship series, which guarantees that the top two teams will meet for the national championship in one of a four-bowl rotation.
In exchange for joining the series, the Rose Bowl agreed to release its long-term hold on both the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions, if either is ranked No. 1 or No. 2, and to accept a team from outside those conferences in 2002, when it is host to the national title game.
While the women's tennis scene has become a fascinating mix (( of youth and experience, the men's draw, particularly at Wimbledon, essentially has one star, top seed Pete Sampras, who according to NBC analyst John McEnroe is the heavy favorite to repeat.
"I would say that there's a handful of guys that could beat him, but not more than that," said McEnroe. "Anytime you've won as many as he has, it makes it tougher to keep pulling it off. But I think that Pete has not won since last Wimbledon, so this is real big for him. I think he would really like to win this."
NBC (Channel 11) begins an unprecedented run of nine straight days of Wimbledon coverage tomorrow at 1 p.m., and continuing Sunday at 2 p.m. and Monday at 10 a.m. HBO's coverage continues today at 9 a.m., takes the weekend off, and returns at noon on Monday.
The art of the deal
ESPN has announced that former Green Bay Packers receiver Sterling Sharpe will return to its Sunday and Monday NFL pre-game shows, having signed a new multi-year deal.
And speaking of multi-year deals, CBS and the Professional Bowlers Association have extended their deal by two years and have added a 10th television tour stop, up from the current nine.
Around the dial
With half the city of New York expected to be within shouting range of Shea Stadium for the Yankees-Mets series, Fox, which carries tomorrow's game (Channel 45, 1 p.m.), is beefing up its "Game of the Week" coverage with reporter Suzy Kolber joining Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.
The X Games wraps up this weekend, with coverage on ESPN tonight and tomorrow at 8: 30 p.m., on ABC (Channel 2) tomorrow at 5 p.m. and on ESPN2 on Sunday at 8: 30 p.m.
NBC resumes its WNBA coverage tomorrow with the defending champion Houston Comets playing host to the Los Angeles Sparks at 4 p.m. Lifetime's game of the week tonight pits the Sacramento Monarchs against the New York Liberty at 8. New York also is host to the Phoenix Mercury on Monday night on ESPN at 7: 30.
Finally, the World Cup moves to the second round, and tomorrow's Brazil-Chile match (Channel 2, 3 p.m.) looks to be the most exciting of the weekend, or as exciting as it can be.
Pub Date: 6/26/98