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NCAA to ban media guides

According to a story in the Chicago Tribune (registration), the ACC and Big 10 are pushing a proposal to ban media guides, at least in the printed form. The reason? Competition in recruiting has transformed the media guide from information source into a costly vessel of glorification.

When Bob Brooks started covering Big Ten football in the 1940s, media guides did not exist.

"You'd be given a roster," Brooks recalled. "And maybe a background of the head coach."

As the years went by, an entirely different problem emerged. Football media guides grew like sewer rats, some swelling to 500-plus pages as schools beefed up their books to impress recruits.

"From the press standpoint, those things are terrible," said Brooks, who talks Iowa football on KMRY-AM in Cedar Rapids. "What I did for years was go through them and rip out all the fluff."

......Most NFL guides weigh a fraction of what college guides do. Although they're often more than 300 pages, they can be half the size of the 8½-by-11-inch college guides and typically contain thin paper, rather than the shiny and glossy pages.

"Why they have not done something about this in the past is unbelievable," Brooks said. "Michigan wanted to have the biggest guide. Then Michigan State did. Now we're up to the Webster Fully Unabridged Dictionary."

The modern media guide is a form of rent dissipation, that stems from the rule which prohibits schools from paying players. Schools thus compete on non-monetary margins - lush locker rooms and player lounges, recruiting parties (we've seen recently where that has led), tutoring services, athletic dorms - to get an edge on recruits. Rules are then subsequently passed in a futile attempt to reduce these costs. The recruiting rule book has gotten so big and complicated that athletic departments need a lawyer on staff to interpret it!

The current record holder for the media guide is Notre Dame, checking in at 788 pages. No surprise there. Notre Dame has plenty of rent to dissipate.