Why I Save Sick Days

by - Correspondent -
More than 16,000 media guides will be distributed this year.

Just so you know. Next week, I’ll battle a 24-hour strain of Catawba Cholera Lumbago, the Conestee Cough or Moonville Malaise. Something exotic like that. Mind you, my recovery will be nothing short of miraculous: a Terry Allenesque plant, spin and bolt. The boss won’t buy my standard, “You can’t predict these things.” Bosses rarely do. They ask questions. They collect data. They concoct bizarre scenarios about the release of Clemson’s 2001 football media guide coinciding with my annual relapse. What a mistrustful, paranoid bunch bosses are.

A little extreme? Maybe. But then, Clemson SID Tim Bourret, Assistant SID Todd Lamb and their staff expect such aberrant behavior from Clemson fans by August. Football junkies suffer from “statistical withdrawal,” as a friend of mine calls it. “I need to read about my team like Michael Irvin needs legal consul,” he openly admits. This why the football media guide is the Holy Grail of summer reading, especially after a season full of mind-numbing reality TV.

* Try this one on for size: Ed McClendon, a member of the 1939 Cotton Bowl team, has a grandson playing on this year’s squad. Name him.

“Clemson gets a lot of [media] exposure. The fans have high expectations, especially when it comes to football, and they have a lot of interest in these football media guides. So there’s some pressure. We have to make sure we do a good job and cover as much as we can,” notes Lamb, a 1994 Ohio State grad who joined Bourret’s staff in 2000 after a stint as Assistant SID at Rice University. The result is a guide that Lamb says “the staff is very proud of,” a valuable commodity that includes everything from the names of players’ siblings to Jess Neely’s record as head coach to the number of tackles Charles Hafley had in 1998 – a veritable cornucopia of Tiger tidbits, it is.

After the Tigers’ 16-14 victory over rival USC, Bourret’s staff of graduate assistants and students started working on updating all of the team’s records, scores and stats. “For example, against Virginia last year, Woody Dantzler ran for 220 yards – setting a Clemson record. We had to update information like that,” says Lamb, noting that, after last season, the Tiger quarterback alone was responsible for more than 15 alterations to the Clemson record book. Looking ahead, Lamb predicts that the Heisman-hopeful “will get a few more [records] this year.” He points to Travis Zachery as another Tiger who will most likely eclipse a few Tiger standards this year. Coach and team bios needed to be updated as well; otherwise, fans wouldn’t have the latest trivia ammo.

* Quick! A current Tiger player and coach both played football at the same high school. Name them and their alma mater. Collect 5 more points if you can name the positions they played.

"By the time we returned from the baseball super regional [in June]," offers Lamb, "Most of the information had been updated. All that was left for me to do was create the design and then layout the entire book." The modern versions are monsters when compared to those generated in the 1960s, which contained little more than cursory player bios and jersey numbers and were intended primarily for reporters. Much more than info sources for the press, they serve as excellent avenues for the university to showcase what it has to offer.

Says Lamb, “The guides are great recruiting tools, and ours gives general information about the school, the team and the Clemson area – where to eat, where to stay, what to do. It tells what we’re about and really serves as a good selling point for the university as a whole.” This recruiting factor is why you’ll see such emphasis on players who used their time at Clemson to launch careers in the NFL, guys like Brian Dawkins, Tony Horne, Levon Kirkland, Trevor Pryce and Anthony Simmons. This year, Tiger fans also will see “more photos of players and coaches – we tried to include as many photos as we could,” making the book more visually attractive.

* Want another shot? Here goes: Collect 5 points apiece for naming each former Tiger QB who played in the NFL.

More than 16,000 of these gems will be distributed this year, with around 12,000 of them going to IPTAY donors. To put that into perspective, the number of media guides Clemson sends out far surpasses the average number of people in attendance at Duke home games – probably not the best comparison, sure, but amusing nonetheless. “We also exchange courtesy copies with SIDs at other colleges, including our opponents. Our coaches use them as scouting information. Of course, copies also go to the press,” says Lamb, “And there will also be some available for the general public to buy [the cover price is around $15].”

Bourret and staff must be doing something right. As Lamb proudly notes, “Last year’s guide received an award for top cover design from CoSIDA (the College Sports Information Directors of America) and was voted one the 8th best overall guides in the country,” not to mention the fact that it continues to maintain a place of honor in latrine-libraries throughout the Southeast. The high praise is even more impressive when you consider that they are competing against schools like Texas, Ohio State, and Florida, some of which have staff members working solely on their school’s media guides.

* Last chance and, boy, it’s an easy one: Which Heisman Trophy winner scored more touchdowns against Clemson, USC’s George Rogers or UGA’s Hershel Walker?

So, next week, I’ll hold vigil for that white envelope with the orange lettering and book-rate postage. The one whose contents will be my excuse for playing hooky, yet again. Rumor has it that this year’s cover tops the one from last year. Coach Tommy Bowden worked closely with Bourret on its design, which includes pictures of . . . well, you’ll see it soon enough. By the way, about the sickness thing, it’s all mine. Don’t even think about copping it.

A look back at past media guides

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