Media Guides Slimming Down

FAYETTEVILLE -- It's an eye-catching recruiting tool, a one-stop almanac and commemorative yearbook all rolled into one.

Flip through the 328 pages of Arkansas' 2004 football media guide and the multiple purposes are evident.

A history section documents memorable milestones, magical moments and legendary players and coaches. Facilities, like Razorback Stadium, Bud Walton Arena and the Broyles Athletic Center, also are on display. Every player has a bio. So do coaches and athletic department personnel. Even non-football topics like school traditions, academic support and campus information are given ample space.

Arkansas sports information director Kevin Trainor said the three-in-one philosophy won't change in the Razorbacks' 2005 football media guide, which will be distributed to athletic department donors, recruits and media members later this summer.

But the number of pages and amount of in-depth material included in it will.

Media guides must be limited to 208 pages this fall after the NCAA adopted a new policy in hopes of leveling the financial playing field in college football. The decision, which has been met with mixed reviews, left sports information directors like Trainor trimming details, altering sections and eliminating pages in football guides.

"You kind of shave a page here, shave a page there, take out some major sections," Trainor said. "But overall, I think it still will strike the balance of being a recruiting piece as well as providing fans and the media with a sense of our history."

Trainor said the NCAA decision didn't come overnight. It began discussing media guide cuts about a year-and-a-half ago, searching for ways to curb costs for smaller programs and eliminate any advantage for big money schools.

The Southeastern Conference proposed a media guide that would be cut to 240 pages, but the idea was rejected. Trainor said another major conference proposed a 300-page guide. In the end, the NCAA decided on 208 because the books are produced in sets of 16 pages.

Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles believes it was a good decision.

"What happened is, it kind of got to be an arms race on who was going to have the best media guide for recruiting purposes," Broyles said. "They just started getting larger and more expansive and expensive at the same time."

The overall growth is obvious. Just look at Arkansas' media guides.

The Razorbacks produced a 152-page book in 1990. It jumped to 216 pages by 1994 and dipped to 208 pages -- the new NCAA guideline -- in 1996.

It has done nothing but grow since, increasing to 228 pages in 1998. It jumped to 264 pages (1999), 280 (2000), 320 (2001) and topped out at 328 in 2003.

The bulge was necessary to keep up in the SEC, where recruiting has become an unofficial, year-round sport. Schools distribute media guides to high school recruits in hopes that it will catch their eyes. The Hogs had the fifth-largest SEC guide in 2004 behind Florida (340), Tennessee (372), LSU (380) and Georgia (420).

"I wish I had a press guide from when I was at Georgia Tech," Broyles said. "It probably had 60 pages. You could put it in your pocket."

That's not the case anymore. Other 2004 media guide samplings around the country include Florida State (416), Nebraska (440) and Texas (398).

Missouri's media guide topped the nation at 614 pages.

"Having a 600-plus page media guide, I think, is ridiculous," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "I don't believe in that. But it's something that's very nice and gives information about your school, your coaches, your facilities, what we've done. I think that's awesome. You need it (in recruiting) and you use it.

"But I just don't believe a 17-year-old, an 18-year-old will sit there and go through 600 pages."

That won't be a question under the new guidelines and Arkansas made several decisions to cut 120 pages the past few months. Trainor said the program did its best to preserve valuable recruiting pages, while keeping as much information and history to satisfy the media and Arkansas supporters.

Some of the moves were easy. Others weren't.

Administrative bios, other than Broyles and UA chancellor John White, were removed from the 2005 guide to save seven pages. The opponents section, which took up 11 pages in 2004, was limited to one.

Trainor said the sports information department made the difficult decision to remove a 12-page written history on the football program that included diagrams of some of the key plays in school history. It also eliminated a six-page season outlook story because "when that goes to press, it's dated already."

Another major section, Arkansas' bowl history, was cut tremendously. The 22-page spread in 2004 included game recaps, statistics and scoring summaries for each bowl game. But it has been trimmed to one page that will include basic information.

"Certainly, in our minds, we had an idea of what to cut and so we've done that now," Trainor said. "But this is the first year (of the new NCAA guidelines). There's some things we can add back in or find ways to do things."

"People were trying to outdo one another and it all costs money," Broyles said. "It's foolish. It doesn't help. As long as we get adequate information for our sports writers and for our fans who get one, as long as it's adequate for them, we'll sell the university with other things."

Arkansas is printing 18,000 media guides this summer and will give 12,500 to donors. The rest are for recruits, the media and other in-house purposes.

Trainor estimated that the production and printing costs for 18,000 media guides last season equaled approximately $83,000. This year, with 12 fewer pages, the program estimates it will save between $20,000 and $25,000.

That's not much for an athletic department like Arkansas, which brings in millions in revenue and spends millions more every year.

But for other smaller programs, Nutt said the changes will make a big difference.

"I think it does (level the playing field)," Nutt said. "Everything is an arms race now whether its bigger weight room or nice stadiums, as it is. I think this is one of the things that can just calm it down a little bit.

"You can still sell your school. It doesn't take 600 pages to get that done."

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