Media guides disappearing in every non-AQ conference

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
While some college football conferences have been fighting over access, the college football media has been waging a fight over access of information.

Save the media guide.

I know, lame. But it's a fundamental part of college football and one that if removed will have a trickle down effect that will ultimately hurt the type of stories you're reading every day.

For me, it's the not the individual team guides that hurt -- most of those are recruiting blather anyway. It's the conference guides, which are almost exclusively going online. The conference guide is a one-stop shop for everything anyone would want to know about a conference from a numbers perspective and general information about a team. It's the easiest thing to carry on a road trip and a valuable source of information when looking up a random stat on deadline.

Have you ever read a fact or figure in a story and thought it was the most interesting part of the entire piece? Yeah, that's gone because it likely came from a media guide that was pulled out of a bag from the floor of the press box.

Why am I even talking about this? Well, it's two things. As you've probably noticed this week, we at ESPN.com have been looking at the economics of college athletics and the dire straits with which some programs are contending. There are more stories coming, including one about what cost-cutting measures are really worth the effort.

Also, the Football Writers Association of America -- sort of the college football writer governing body -- announced Tuesday that it's fighting to save the media guide. It's backing the SEC -- one of the few conferences keeping all of its media guides intact -- to combat an NCAA proposal by the Pac-10 to do away with media guides altogether.

Among the nonautomatic qualifying conferences, the Mid-American Conference and Conference USA aren't printing league guides.

The following nonautomatic schools aren't printing media guides: Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada, Marshall, Rice, SMU, Ball State, Bowling Green, Florida International, Louisiana-Monroe, North Texas, and Arkansas State. New Mexico and Tulane are printing a limited number of guides for their media days.

Speaking of media days, those are something else that's slowly disappearing. The Sun Belt Conference and Conference USA have opted to do online media conferences this year and both conferences say they've received interest from other conferences about doing the same in the future.

Personally, I'm OK with this. I'm attending one media day this year -- Mountain West next week. But unlike last year, I'll actually be able to provide content from both the Sun Belt and Conference USA media days because I'll be on their online conferences. To me, that's a tool that's helping the media instead of hampering it.

Really, I'm just looking out for you guys.

In the grand scheme of things, these cuts represent less than 7 percent of a school's overall athletic budget and cutting these things isn't going to make or break the bottom line. But as schools are looking for ways to make sure they don't have to cut teams or personnel, tools that can be provided online are often the first to go.

So, this season is kind of an experiment. We'll learn if this is a better way to operate for both athletic departments and reporters and perhaps this will be the beginning of a dramatic change in college athletics altogether.