The Fifth Down

President's column: Fascination with media guides continues

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Tim Griffin

I faced some excruciating choices a few weeks ago.

A recent downsizing in my library area meant that space on my shelves was at a premium. It left me with a tough decision.

Namely, would I keep my collection of college football guides, even if many of them have evolved into promotional tools for their programs that become dated and of little use after only a year?

Most of them still are safely tucked away, mainly because I can read the handwriting on the wall. In the not-too-distant future, these informational sources will be eliminated at least in their current printed and bound format.

The Southeastern Conference's recently accepted proposal to return these sources to their stated use as an informational tool for the media rather than a recruiting guide has only bought them time. The inevitable still seems likely to happen much sooner than we'd all like.

We as media members should feel fortunate that media guides haven't already been legislated out of existence by the NCAA. That idea became more worrisome last season after Big Ten powers Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin announced that they would not print media guides and also were actively encouraging other schools to follow suit.

In this issue of The Fifth Down:
President's column: Fascination with media guides continues
Hairston was always out to get story
Eddie Robinson Award presentation moved to New York City
Outland Trophy Watch List
Bronko Nagurski Watch List
2010-11 FWAA awards calendar
Frequently Asked Questions about the FWAA

That announcement came after the Pacific-10 Conference proposed to do away with all printed media guides, instead providing them in a PDF format. Some schools made printouts that were available in press boxes when needed. Others didn't.

The forces of cost containment are becoming more prevalent in college athletics. Other schools have made "going green" an important consideration. But President's column with television revenues and coaching salaries soaring, it's clear that these guides rank low on the spending priorities of most schools.

Some conferences have talked about grouping all of their schools on a thumb drive. And the Cotton Bowl folks with the help of our own Ted Gangi had that handy compilation of all of the guides on a disk last season and will again this season.

But it's not the same.

These humble sources of information have been around for many years, evolving from a simple guide that could be fitted into your back pocket into the mega promotional guides for the biggest national programs. I remember counting one coach I covered being pictured more than 100 times give or take a group shot with a movie star or a group of Shriners in one book.

I've been fascinated with media guides since I was a kid. I remember buying one late each summer to get ready for the start of Tennessee football at my neighborhood newsstand in Memphis.

Later, I learned how to compose business letters by writing to every major sports information director and majorleague franchise across the country. Somewhere buried in my parents' home, those guides are tucked away for posterity.

The digital age has made those halcyon days of my youth seems much farther removed than the 35 years on the calendar. It's a little sad for me to see them go. But it's not surprising.

By my count, about 30 major football-playing schools did not print guides last season. The number appears to be growing as we enter the 2010 season.

There's no doubt that the savings of not printing these guides are becoming more prevalent in these costcontainment days. Only the biggest of the programs can expect these guides to come close to paying for themselves.

There's an argument that a new generation of reporters who are savvy with computers can use the information on a stick or a website as quickly as if they had the computer in front of them.

That might be true, but ask those reporters who were trying to cover the Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville where the Gator Bowl's spotty wireless system struggled to accommodate all of the users. And other facilities don't have wireless access, leaving fact-checking forays on deadline a harrowing concept.

So before we do away with printed media guides, forgive me for buying an extra bookcase or two for my home. Something tells me that more room is needed for some of the most prized items of my collection before they are done away with completely.

KEY FWAA CONTACTS

Bert McGrane Award nominees: Mark Blaudshun (blauds@aol.com)
Volney Meece Scholarship nominees: Dave Sittler (davesitt@aol.com)
Website, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team of the Week: Ted Gangi (webmaster@sportswriters.net)
Membership Directory: Charlie Fiss, AT&T Cotton Bowl (charlie@attcottonbowl.com)
Ethics/Press Relations Committee: Kirk Bohls (kbohls@statesman.com)
College Football Playoff Liaison: Gina Lehe, College Football Playoff (glehe@collegefootballplayoff.com)
Eddie Robinson Award: Steve Richardson (tiger@fwaa.com)
Fifth Down Blog/FWAA Best Writing Contest: Ken Stephens (ken.stephens@sbcglobal.net)
Bronko Nagurski Award: John Rocco, Charlotte Touchdown Club (jrocco@touchdownclub.com)
Outland Trophy, All-America Team: Steve Richardson (tiger@fwaa.com)
Grantland Rice Super 16 Poll: Phil Marwill, National Football Foundation (pmarwill@footballfoundation.org)
Discover Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award: George Schroeder, USA TODAY (gschroeder@aol.com), Ron Higgins, Nola.com (rhigg@aol.com)
Freshman All-America Team: Mike Griffith, MLive Media Group (mgrif32@aol.com)

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