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March 1, 2006
Posted online March 15, 2006

Everything you ever wanted to know about college football — all in one book

By Andy Clendennen

ESPN College Football Encyclopedia The University of Texas may have been crowned the NCAA football champions more than a month ago, but several names of the prime-time players in the title game are still in the news.

Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and Vince Young are all expected to be among the first names called when the NFL holds its annual draft April 29-30 in New York.

While most college football fans are aware of the three players mentioned above, what if someone wanted to know how the draft went down in, say, 1976? Or who won the Heisman Memorial Trophy in 1952?

Well, now — thanks to a Herculean research effort — almost everything the casual or passionate fan wants to know about college football has been compiled under one cover.

On the heels of a highly acclaimed book on the NFL comes another football tome from Michael MacCambridge. In an era of stat freaks, over-analysis and just plain numbers-crunching, the literary world — and sports world — needed a book like the ESPN College Football Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Game (ESPN Books, 2005).

MacCambridge, adjunct professor of journalism in University College in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, took three years worth of exhaustive research by several football experts and edited it into an easy-to-read format.

"I sent a proposal to ESPN back in the summer of 1999, even before I started work on my own book, 'America's Game,'" MacCambridge says. "I had just completed editing 'ESPN SportsCentury,' a coffee-table book, so there was interest in doing another book.

"This was the big one that had never been done before, and if it made sense for anyone to do it, it was the people at ESPN."

The features of the book are endless — and are a fan's Christmas, birthday and spring break all rolled into one. They include:

Capsule histories for each of the Division 1-A programs, the Ivy League schools and the historically black colleges;

• Year-by-year schedules and scores for each school
• Statistical leaders from each school
• Fight-song lyrics
• Box scores for every bowl game ever played
• Weekly AP and UPI polls dating back to 1936
• A four-color insert illustrating the evolution of each school's helmet design
• Essays by the game's top journalists, including Dan Jenkins, Beano Cook, Chris Fowler and more
• A lively round-table discussion on the state of the game with ESPN's popular "College GameDay" broadcast team (Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit)

"We had 25 different writers on the project, and assembled stats not only through the NCAA but also each of the 119 different Division I-A schools," MacCambridge says. "We began work in earnest early in 2001, when the project was finally given the go-ahead.

"And we're still working on it. I just finished writing a piece that will run alongside the updated version that goes on the Web site, to include the just-completed 2005 season," says MacCambridge, whose "America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation" tracks the rise in popularity of the NFL since 1958.

In the ESPN College Football Encyclopedia, almost every school in Division I-A gets 6-10 pages of text, citing its best player, coach and team; its biggest upset and heartbreak; and its annual leaders, All-Americans, national titles and game scores.

Another section highlights annual conference standings, bowl results, All-American teams, the top 10 Heisman Trophy candidates, statistical leaders and weekly poll results.

Essays found in the book include pieces on the state of the game, coaches, recruiting, integration, college football at the movies, the polls and computer rankings, the eternal playoff debate and more.

"Much of the effort came from just getting all these histories to conform to a central style," MacCambridge says. "But there was a tremendous amount of painstaking work, especially by Bowl Championship Series pollster Richard Billingsley, who compiled the database of all-time scores.

"Some school's records show the dates of each of their games, some don't. Some show when a game has been played at a neutral site, some don't. In nine out of 10 cases, Richard had to track down the missing information. And that's just for scores. Don't even get me started on all the different All-America selectors."

 
© 2005 The Cairo Gate