Monday, June 13, 2005

Evening things out | by Jay

It's about time the NCAA did something about this:

The Glen Mason section of Minnesota's 2004 football media guide spans 10 pages and includes no fewer than 20 photos featuring the head coach. Not a bad tribute to a guy with a career record of 110-109-1.

But schools such as Minnesota might have to cut back on the bios after the NCAA Board of Directors recently voted to limit Division I media guides in all sports to 208 pages.

The NCAA's goal was to help schools help themselves. Now athletic departments can save money on printing costs without feeling inferior to schools such as Texas, which produced a 592-page football guide in 2003.

But many sports information directors fought the ruling because of the problems associated with having to cut hundreds of pages.

"There's not a lot of fluff in ours," said Northern Illinois SID Mike Korcek, whose 2004 guide checked in at 256 pages. "But if you're at Michigan or Texas or Notre Dame, how do you take out all that history, all those All-Americans? SIDs have to be tearing their hair out...if they have any."

John Heisler, an associate athletic director and former SID at Notre Dame, said the challenge will be to determine what belongs in the 208-page guide. How much space should be devoted to recruiting material versus player bios, records and history?

"There are going to be a million different philosophies on how to do this," he said.

Notre Dame's football guides are perennially judged to be among the nation's best, and about 15,000 are printed each year. Its 2004 book was a hefty 464 pages, but only about eight of those specifically targeted recruits. Northwestern's 2004 guide contained about 40 pages of information geared to high school football players, rather than reporters.

"How much of a vehicle is this for recruiting?" Heisler said. "That's what we need to talk to our coaches about."

Just like coaches who sidestep rules limiting practice time, SIDs are determined to find ways to preserve their information and research. Some will put it on their schools' Web sites. Others will print a separate records book. And others might beef up their spring football prospectus.

For those reasons and others, some SIDs simply don't see the benefits of trimming their guides. Many believe the savings will be negligible considering overall athletic department budgets.

"The type already gets smaller every year," Korcek said. "Are we going to go to 5 point? I think this just creates bigger headaches and is counter-productive."
Great move, and long overdue.

You know, if you look around the college football landscape, there are some big programs, and there are some small programs. That's just reality. But you know what? They all play football. Same rules, same field dimensions, same kind of ball and same equipment. These teams are more alike than they are different.

So it's simply unfair that ND, Michigan, USC and the other behemoths of college football were able to exploit their own history as they did. The big boys just have too much -- too much material, too much history, too much tradition -- and every year they inundated the market, washing out the littler programs who don't have as much to write about. I mean, how was Nicholls State supposed to compete with LSU when their football guide is only a tenth the size? Limiting the media guide is an excellent first step. Good job, NCAA.

But frankly, this is still side-stepping the real problems of unfair competition in the college ranks, papering over the underlying issue. It's one thing to cut down the media guide, but that doesn't change the fact that over the years some programs have just been too successful.

We need to do more.

For starters, we really need to cap the number of National Championships and Heismans a school can win. Five NCs should be enough for any school, and seven Heismans? Please. That's overkill. ND should do the right thing, box up a few of those Heismans -- I'm thinking Bartelli or Bernoulli or whoever from way back when -- and send them to some schools that don't have any. Congratulations, Division 1-AA John Carroll University, you just got a Heisman! That would just make their day, wouldn't it? Maybe we can all have a pizza party after the handover ceremony.

We also need to set a maximum limit of all-time wins. I mean, a .700+ all-time winning percentage is just ridiculous. We can comb through old box scores with White-Out and just change a few. A little dab here, a little dab there. Presto! Now ND's winning percentage doesn't look so threatening.

And there's lots more we can do too. We should probably cycle out all the old dusty records and history as the years go by...I mean, some of that stuff happened so long ago it probably doesn't matter and nobody remembers that stuff anyway. Get that clutter out of here!

And at the end of the day, we won't need to artifically set limits for the size of the media guides, will we? We just won't have as much to write about. See, it's a win-win.

So, keep the ball rolling, NCAA. You're off to a good start with the media guide thing, but let's keep the momentum. We need to sotp letting the big boys throw their weight around. All this history and tradition makes for a very unlevel playing field. Remember, it's all about fairness.