Yo NCAA: Cut out fluff, keep print guides

Jim Martinho

A few fun facts, for your enjoyment and edification, courtesy of the Northwestern football and men’s basketball media guides:

*Evan Seacat once scored 50 points in a high school game.

*Ryan Field was named the 2000 College Football Field of the Year by the Sports Turf Managers Association.

*Davor Duvancic wears “Lucky 31” because he believes it is the opposite of “Unlucky 13”. Laugh if you want, but the man has a point.

I dug these up in 10 minutes of perusing the media guides. But if the NCAA Management Council passes a proposal next week seeking to prevent schools from distributing print guides, I’ll no longer be able to enjoy my favorite bathroom reading material.

Schools would be required to convert the guides to digital form, saving athletic departments thousands of dollars in printing costs — one reason why it’s supported by most athletic directors, including NU’s Mark Murphy.

Even if you ignore the inherent foolishness of complicating an important reporters’ resource to save a few thousand bucks when most major head coaches are pulling in at least $1 million a year, the proposal seems like the next in a long line of crackpot ideas from the NCAA.

Many sports information directors, like NU’s Mike Wolf, don’t believe the technology is far enough along to replace paper guides.

“I might need to look something up and have my computer crash,” Wolf said. “I don’t have time for that.”

The NCAA says the proposal stems from the “arms race” between programs to see who can produce the biggest book — several Big Ten school’s 2003 football guides included nearly 400 glossy pages, and Texas’ weighed in at 592 pages. (Everything is bigger in Texas.)

To give some perspective, these are the kinds of books that you’d drop a C-note on at Norris for your Art History class. Lugging them around is the most strenuous workout most sportswriters will get all year.

NU’s 2003 football guide, at a relatively light 256 pages, includes coach and player bios, opponent information, statistics and all-time records — all useful info for reporters. But the guide also devotes 31 pages to a section called “This is Northwestern” — some of which look like they were pulled straight out of the viewbooks distributed to all prospective students.

The section includes picturesque views of the Lakefill, a list of famous alumni (hey, Brent Musberger went here!) and a page boasting the myriad entertainment options in Evanston. It actually calls the city “arguably the most diverse and cosmopolitan suburb in the Chicagoland area.” A lot of words come to mind when I think of Evanston — most of them four letters long — but never cosmopolitan.

Bowling Green’s 2003 football guide’s student life section includes a large picture of rapper Ludacris. Maybe he played a concert there. Or maybe he graduated with a B.A. in Pimpology.

Every school’s guide’s contains a similar section that any reporter might as well tear out. So what’s the point? This is where it gets interesting: Team media guides are the only athletic brochures schools can send to potential recruits, hence all the gushing about student life and coaches’ credentials.

Take the basketball guide’s quote from ESPN’s Dick Vitale on coach Bill Carmody: “Bill brings a wealth of basketball knowledge and has a great understanding of how to win. He’s awesome, baby!”

OK, so I made up that last part. But you get the picture — the guides try to simultaneously shape a public relations campaign and entice high school players.

The NCAA also will vote next week on a proposal preventing schools from sending media guides to recruits. If it passes, schools can eliminate all the fluff from guides, ending the arms race, cutting down on printing costs and making the proposal to digitize guides nearly obsolete.

Let’s face it. If I’m on deadline, I don’t want to have to open up a CD or web site to find out that Jason Wright’s middle name is Gormillion.

Online editor Jim Martinho is a Medill junior. He can be reached at [email protected]