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TOURISM : Proposed Weeklong Gathering Would End in College Title Game

May 25, 1994|Chris Woodyard, Times staff writer

The Walt Disney Co. has enlisted the county's top business executives to help sell the idea of Disney Classic Week, a proposed gathering of scholars, musicians and athletes that would culminate in a mid-January matchup between the nation's two top-rated college football teams at Anaheim Stadium.

"We see this as a real opportunity to showcase the county, more of a chance to bring the county together," said Robert Fluor, chairman of Partnership 2010, a business group trying to encourage economic development into the next century.

Proponents are painting Disney Classic Week as a boon to tourism. The ABC television network would build 22 hours of broadcasting around the week, much of which would focus on Orange County. Backers add that a study by Chapman University shows that the event would pump $125 million a year into the county.

While continuing efforts to get the county to rally behind the idea, the backers need to persuade a majority of the 106 presidents of colleges that play NCAA Division IA football who have collectively never shown much interest in a national championship of college football.

To entice the reluctant, the game is being sold as a package along with events that would bring in top scholars, artists and musicians from all the schools--not just those with the two top football teams. The game would also generate a guaranteed minimum of $70,000 for every college in the division.

"This isn't about a football game," said former Disneyland President Jack Lindquist, who is heading the Disney Classic efforts. "We're talking about bringing in 1,200 to 1,500 students, of which (about) 200 will be football players."

So far, Lindquist said, 35 college presidents have endorsed the idea and five said they oppose it. The matter will likely be taken up at a NCAA meeting next January.

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