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