In an increasingly digital world, one collector has been quietly working to preserve the history of college football. The collection, which started some 50 years ago, has grown to compile the near complete publication history of the game. While the methods of acquisition have evolved from sports collecting shows and phone book research to eBay, Abebooks.com and the global exchange made possible by the internet, the goal has never wavered and the result is a remarkable collection that tells the story of the sport, from the 19th century to the present day.
College Football Preservation Project
The College Football Preservation Project, as it is known, has produced the Complete Library of College Football. The collection includes more than 25,600 publications. When broken down into its catalogs, the collection houses: 7,000 books, 10,000 media guides, 4,000 magazines, 1,000 bowl programs, a complete run of NCAA guides, and an expansive memorabilia holding that includes dozens of valuable items.
The collector, who has requested anonymity, hopes to keep the Library together for the benefit of current and future generations of football fans and has let it be known that it is for sale through a website that showcases the collection. Its cultural value—both to fans and to institutions of the game—could well increase through time as tangible reference materials become a thing of the past.
Just what is the Complete Library of College Football?
The book catalog contains 99% of every nonfiction title published about the game, more than 7,000 titles in all. This includes the first ever book referencing American football, Public Business published in 1864. The library contains an expansive catalog of books authored by Walter Camp (including all five editions of the seminal American Football dating from 1891) which detail the evolution of the game and an expansive collection of historic publications predating 1950.
The 10,000 volume media guide catalogue consists of three sections. The school section has nearly 9,000 different volumes, the conference section has over 800 different volumes, and the bowl section has over 260 different volumes. All are separated by school, conference, or bowl. Although media guides proliferated after World War II, the oldest in the collection dates from 1910.
The conference section includes 54 different conferences while the school section includes over 540 different schools. The primary focus was to assemble a complete run of each Division I program. Although that objective was not met, many schools have over 50 annual guides. Also included is a sub-collection of 300 Historically Black Colleges media guides.
Vintage Football Magazines
The Complete Library of College Football also contains complete runs of many of the national and regional magazines that have enabled the ascendance of the game into what it has become today. The “Illustrated Football Annual,” “Dave Campbell’s Texas Football,” “Street and Smith’s College Football,” and many other magazines are included in the more than 4,000 volume catalog. The collection includes the first ever magazine published on the game in 1921 and many titles from 1930-1960.
NCAA Football Guides
The scholarly approach employed by the collector is perhaps best embodied by the NCAA guide section of the library. The NCAA Annual Guide, and its predecessor The Spalding Guide, were published continuously from 1891-2009. The Complete Library of College Football contains a guide from each year—the only complete run known to exist.
One guide was published each year except for 23 years when multiple regional editions were issued instead of one national edition. Only three of the regional editions ever published are missing from the collection. Thus, the NCAA Guides are complete for every year and nearly complete for every Regional edition. From 1951 to 1981 the NCAA also published Record Books. There is a complete run of these books.
Special Collections for Notre Dame, Alabama
The Library includes a Special Collections Catalog that profiles two of the game’s most storied programs and Walter Camp, the father of American football. The Notre Dame Collection includes books, memorabilia—an original photograph signed by all members of the Four Horseman and a 1920 National Championship fob awarded to the running back that backed up George Gipp—and more. The Alabama Collection houses a coaching genealogy that traces each of the University’s football coaches, with a particular emphasis on the great Bear Bryant.
College Football Coaches
As he compiled the library, the owner of the collection placed special interest in the importance and influence of coaching on the game and the development of its players. The result, the Art of Coaching Catalog, profiles the men who devoted their lives to making the game what it is. This catalog includes 232 signed coach photographs, 265 original correspondences and a collection of coaching clinic notes, playbooks and magazines.
The College Football Preservation project is documented in further detail at: www.libraryofcollegefootball.com.
In the coming days, we’ll bring you more stories about the items inside the Library.