Cost cutting

By Steve Brown

It’s one of those things most college football fans never see. Some don’t even know it exists. P A media guide: a Bible of historical and statistical information. A glossy time capsule, filled with just about everything anyone would dream of knowing about an athletic program.

Sports information departments across the country spend their summers researching, compiling and polishing what become their babies: the finished media guides, bound and shipped across the country to promote athletic teams.

But with a new NCAA ruling that placed a 208-page maximum on school media guides, their babies will be a bit smaller, much smaller for a school like Michigan.

The Wolverine football media guide was formerly a 416-page encyclopedia with everything from bowl-game history to Heisman Trophy winners. Now, all that will have to fit in half the space.

The cut wasn’t so drastic for NIU Sports Information Director Mike Korcek, but his downsize from 2004’s 256-page guide to this year’s 208 wasn’t an easy task.

“It’s like staying up all night to do a 36-page term paper, and then finding out in the morning that you have to trim it to 18,” said Korcek of the 48-page cut. “We’re responsible for the history of the whole football program. It’s hard to cut that many pages out.”

Supporters of the NCAA rule hope that by placing the restriction on the guides, lower-income programs won’t have to compete with schools that have higher athletic budgets.

Korcek disagreed.

The 21-year sports information boss estimated the page cut would save NIU $5,000-$6,000.

“That’s not even half a scholarship – what did they do?” Korcek said. “I think they’re missing the boat here. Believe me, I’m a taxpayer, but in the scope of the NCAA, $5,000 is not a lot of money.”

Last season, NIU distributed approximately 3,700 media guides, and will cut back to 3,600 for the fall. Historical football powerhouses like Notre Dame and Michigan send out more than 30,000.

Korcek argued that the cut hurts mid-level schools like NIU the most. A shorter media guide means less publicity to national-level sports media, he said.

“The No. 1 promotional piece for a school is not the schedule card, it’s the media guide,” Korcek said. “How did Turner the Burner hot sauce get to ESPN? We sent it to them.”

Most frustrating to SIDs across the country who have spent the spring and summer frantically debating which of their pages will see the shredder is that the NCAA did not include SIDs in its decision to cut pages.

“Is a 614-page media guide obscene? There’s no doubt in my mind, I understand that,” Korcek said. “Our media guide takes a lot of work and effort, and when someone on the other side of the country decides, ‘we’re going to do this,’ it hurts us.”