Review: The College Football Book By Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated has just released "The College Football Book", a coffee table book measuring 12" by 10.5" that contains tons of great photography, interspersed with facts about college football throughout the years.

The book begins with a foreward by Rick Telander, then steps through the history of college football. Each decade is presented as a section starting with the "Pre 1920s" and continuing on to present day. Each section starts with a page full of pictures of game day programs, then proceeds with an overview on that decade's  dynasties. Included are snippets on the best games during the decade and a "Campus Culture" side bar places you in the context of the times - pointing out the political issues along with popular books, musicians and movies.

A "By The Numbers" sidebar contains interesting tidbits about football through the ages, for example, the 1920s section includes:

32 - Fumbles by Iowa and Wisconsin in a game on Nov. 7th, 1925, played during a driving snowstorm in Iowa City.
 
From the 1940s we get:

31 - Head coaches who either played or began their coaching careers at Miami (Ohio), a.k.a. the Cradle of Coaches. Among them: Red Blaik, Paul Brown, Sid Gillman, Weeb Ewbank, Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian, Bo Schembechler, and Jim Tressel.

And from the 1960s:

102 - Age of Amo Alonzo Stagg when he died on St. Patrick's Day 1965.

Most of the 288 pages are filled with great game day photography - action shots of great hits and great catches. We see a young Joe Namath, Darrel Royal looking astute from the sideline, John Elway's grime-covered face, and Johnny Rodgers taking off upfield. One of the stranger pictures is from 1889, where one of the teams looks like they're playing in long johns (winter underwear for you Southerners).

There are also pictorials centered around historical themes. For example, there are series of photographs that show the progression of the football shoe/cleat throughout the years and the progression of the football helmet. Another set shows several nose guards that were used before face masks.

There are several article excerpts with subjects including the obligatory salutes towards college greats such as Joe Paterno and Johnny Rodgers. There is also a piece on Jerry LeVias, the first black scholarship player in the Southwestern Conference in 1965.

Several Sports Illustrated writers chose an All-Time All-Star Team. They were not allowed to pick more than one player from any one school.

The All-Time College Football All-Star Team is as follows:

Coaches
-          Knute Rockne, Notre Dame, 1918-30
-          Paul (Bear) Bryant, Alabama, 1958-82
 
Defense
-          Charles Woodson: Defensive Back/Receiver, Michigan, 1995-97
-          Jack Ham: Linebacker, Penn State, 1968-70
-          Kenny Easley: Defensive Back, UCLA, 1977-80
-          Bubba Smith: Defensive End, Michigan State, 1964-66
-          Lee Roy Selmon: Defensive Tackle, Oklahoma, 1972-75
-          Bronko Nagurski: Tackle/Back, Minnesota, 1927-29
-          Hugh Green: Defensive End, Pittsburgh, 1977-80
-          Tommy Nobis: Linebacker, Texas, 1963-65
-          Deion Sanders: Defensive Back, Florida State, 1985-88
-          Lawrence Taylor: Linebacker, North Carolina, 1977-80
-          Jim Thorpe: Back, Carlisle, 1907-08, ’11-12
 
Offense
-          Glenn Davis: Back, Army, 1943-46
-          Chuck Bednarik: Center/Linebacker, Penn, 1945-48
-          Leon Hart: End, Notre Dame, 1946-49
-          Orlando Pace: Tackle, Ohio State, 1994-96
-          Jerry Rice: End, Mississippi Valley State, 1981-84
-          Red Grange: Back, Illinois, 1923-25
-          Jim Brown: Back, Syracuse, 1954-56
-          Herschel Walker: Back, Georgia, 1980-82
-          John Hannah: Guard/Tackle, Alabama, 1970-72
-          Ron Yary: Tackle, USC, 1965-67
-          Pudge Heffelfinger: Guard, Yale 1888-91
 
Specialists
-          Johnny Rodgers: Returns/Receivers, Nebraska, 1970-72
-          Gale Sayers: Returns/Back, Kansas, 1962-64
-          Doak Walker: Kicker/Back, SMU, 1945, ’47-49
-          Sammy Baugh: Punter/Back TCU, 1934-36

Notice that there are no quarterbacks.

In a word: gorgeous. It's a nicely done coffee table book that should be a conversation piece for college football fans. Anyone with an appreciation of history could spend a fair amount of time pouring over the photography before they bothered to read a single word.

The holidays are coming, and for under $20, the price is very fair. If nothing else, you could pick one up and leave it laying around to keep the family occupied during the Christmas holidays. It's sure to start a conversation, if not an argument or two.

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