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August 29, 2007

Olin's Notebook: The media guide awards

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. Click his name to send him a question for his weekly mailbag.
Previous notebooks
Aug. 23: Keeping streaks alive
Aug. 15: No. 2 not so bad
Aug. 8: New tradition

MORE: COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF ARCHIVE

Old time wisdom taught us books cannot be judged by their covers.

Media guides can't either.

As a case in point, there is Florida's media guide. It has fancy holograms on the front and back covers, but no statistics from the Gators' 2006 national championship season inside. The same goes for Texas and Ohio State.

In many cases, media guides stopped being a guide for the media a few years ago. The NCAA irritated that many schools were turning out guides thicker than the New York City phone book mandated that the annual publications be limited to 208 pages.

That left Sports Information departments around the country faced with a tough decision: Print an actual media guide - complete with basic information like previous season statistics, game recaps, yearly results, team records, etc. - or put out a collage of photos showing everyone associated with the football program enjoying some kind of leisure activity.

In many cases they opted for the scrap books.

Of course, we in the media realize the average fan couldn't care less about issues that make our jobs more difficult.

But wouldn't the average fan who purchases the media guide be more interested in looking up who holds school records and reviewing the history of seasons past than looking at photos of the coach posing with every celebrity that ever came through town? Wouldn't you want substance over image?

Now, I really like Texas A&M's hard-back cover that makes its media guide resemble a high school annual. It doesn't fall apart and it's easy to stow.

But if in need of a memory boost to find exactly what season the Aggies lost 77-0 to Oklahoma - or the opponents and scores of A&M's 1939 national championship team - one would have to look elsewhere.

Now, instead of a reference and history book, the media guide is used as a recruiting tool. In fact, Missouri's guide from last year says "2006 MIZZOU FOOTBALL RECRUITING GUIDE" on the cover. Although to date, I've yet to hear a prospect mention the coaches' photo with Tiger Woods as the determining factor in choosing a school.

That's why I give Southern California the nod as the nation's best media guide. Nobody recruits better than the Trojans, and if any program could justify producing a scrap book rather than a media guide, it would be USC.

Yet the Trojans remain committed to producing a guide that actually chronicles the past as well as provides information for the present.

The same goes for several others. Joining USC on my top five for the best media guides are Auburn, Notre Dame, Michigan and Nebraska.

These guides all have the helpful basic information of yearly results, 2006 statistics and recaps, school records and other historical reference material. Bowl history, all-conference players, All-American players, players in the pros and all-time lettermen are included.

From my point of view, what really sets these guides apart is they include a game-by-game performance breakdown with the individual bios.

If I need to see how John David Booty performed in Pac-10 games, I need only look up his personal bio and its all there.

Some schools like Tennessee also include that information, but it requires flipping through the guide to find it on other pages.

But at least the information is there, which is more than can be said for a lot of scrapbooks disguised as media guides.

Watch Rice run

To make sure Heisman Trophy voters get a close look at running back Ray Rice, the Rutgers Sports Information Department mailed out binoculars to voters nationwide.

As part of the SeeRayRun campaign - which includes a Web site that features Rice's bio, stats, feature stories and video clips - the binoculars came in a black case marked SeeRayRun.com.

Similar mail-outs aren't unusual. BYU once sent out neckties to promote quarterback Ty Detmer, and Memphis distributed dye-cast model race cars to hype DeAngelo Williams.

But the Rutgers approach is ingenious in that its item can actually be used in coverage of games. Many voters may take the binoculars with them to games each week and then be reminded to check up on Rice.

Of course, if Rutgers had wanted to really make a lasting impression, it could have sent a Sea Ray boat.

Trivia

What Division I football team has the nation's longest current winning streak in season openers? (Answer at the end of the column.)

Quick hits

  • Miami has named Kirby Freeman as the starting quarterback over Kyle Wright.

  • Daniel Evans won North Carolina State's starting quarterback job over Harrison Beck and Justin Burke.

  • Florida cornerback Markihe Anderson has a sprained ligament in his right knee which may force him out of the season opener.

  • Northwestern center Trevor Rees has been suspended for one game as a disciplinary measure for a DUI charge he received in April.

  • Two true freshmen have won starting jobs at Michigan State. Mark Dell will start at receiver and Aaron Bates is the Spartans' No. 1 punter. Also, tackle Mike Gyetvai (shoulder) could miss the first month of the season.

  • Sophomore tailback Richie Rich will stat for North Carolina ahead of redshirt freshman Johnny White and Anthony Elzy, who has been bothered by a sprained ankle. However, coach Butch Davis has indicated that all three may play on Saturday against James Madison.

  • West Virginia running back Steve Slaton is excited for the upcoming seasons for several reasons, including the fact that he's pain free. Last year Slaton set a school record with 1,744 yards, but he suffered a broken right wrist that bothered him in the second half of last season and limited his play in the Gator Bowl.

  • Rutgers receiver Tim Brown, who averaged 25.2 yards on eight catches last season, may play Thursday night despite breaking his left hand two weeks ago.

  • Cincinnati defensive tackle Terrill Byrd has been suspended for the season-opener for missing a class. That will end Byrd's streak of 24 consecutive starts.

  • Sean Canfield will open the season as Oregon State's starting quarterback, but fellow sophomore Lyle Moevao is expected to enter the game in the second quarter of the Beavers' game against Utah.

  • USC running back Chauncey Washington (shoulder) and backup quarterback Mark Sanchez (thumb) are not expected to play against Idaho on Saturday. However, running backs C.J. Gable and Joe McKnight are among players coming off injuries that may be available. Also, former safety Josh Pinkard is a likely starter at cornerback.

  • Oft-injured cornerback Cory Nicol has left the University of Washington football team because of recurring health issues. A possible starter, Nicol's departure ensured that freshman Vonzell McDowell will be in the Huskies' starting lineup.

  • Texas Tech true freshman Colby Whitlock may start at nose tackle against SMU. Red Raiders coaches have raved about Whitlock's ability to make plays consistently. Whitlock is vying with redshirt freshman Clint Stoffels and sophomore Richard Jones for the starting job.

  • Texas coach Mack Brown is expected to have a pay raise approved by the Board of Regents. Brown currently makes $2.66 million annually with an automatic $100,000 raise each year.

  • Colin Brown, a former walk-on, has earned Missouri's starting job at right tackle over Dain Wise.

  • Oklahoma running back Chris Brown has been suspended for the season-opener against North Texas. No reason was given for the suspension.

  • The Fresno Bee reported that Fresno State's Chris Lewis, who is currently suspended from the football team, pleaded not guilty to charges of vandalism and throwing a substance at a motor vehicle in an incident that occurred on July 14.

  • Houston coach Art Briles said his choice of a starting quarterback may be a game-time decision. Blake Joseph and Case Keenum are vying to replace 2006 Conference USA player of the year Kevin Kolb.

  • San Jose State backup tailback Pat Perry is out for the season with a knee injury he suffered on Sunday.

    Trivia answer

    The Nebraska Cornhuskers have opened 21 consecutive seasons with a victory. The last time the Cornhuskers lost an opener was in 1985 when they fell to Florida State 17-13.

    Florida and Kansas State are tied for the second-longest streak with 17. Both lost their openers in 1989.

    Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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