Click Here To Purchase Sports For Dorks: College Football (Volume 1)

Editors: Mike Leach and Ferhat Guven

Publisher: Sports Dorks CFB, LLC

ISBN: 9780615484976

Contrary to the appearance of your average college football stadium on game day, many fans of the sport consider themselves serious students of the game. In fact, there’s a whole class of fan that gets as excited by predictive metrics as play-action passes. These people, however, tend to be overshadowed in their cerebral enthusiasms by the mob of high-fiving yahoos who scream, and boo, and do the wave, bratwurst enwrapped in a giant foam finger. (“WE’RE NUMBER ONE! WE’RE NUMBER ONE!)

If you find you’re more caught up in the mind games being played by the coaches on the sidelines than the actual game unfolding on the field, I’d like to recommend a book to you (with apologies for any offense implied by the title). Sports for Dorks: College Football, might just be the thinking person’s guide to the game’s complexity that armchair analysts are looking for.

Edited by Mike Leach, former successful-but-embattled Texas Tech football coach and Ferhat Guven, a real estate investment professional and graduate of the London School of Business, Sports for Dorks ranges widely over the landscape of college football (for some readers, perhaps a bit too widely). There’s no real connection among the nine chapter-length essays – except, of course, they all deal with college football in some aspect (although the last chapter of the book, about a method of psychological profiling called “facial coding,” is only marginally related to college football.)

Each of the chapters is so different from its companions that a quick review of each is necessary for an appreciation of the overall book.

The first chapter, though interesting in its own right, is the odd duck in the flock. “Inside the Mind of Mike Leach” takes a look at the successful career of its titular figure, a head coach with an impressive track record who managed to wear out his welcome at Texas Tech amid some mild scandal. The chapter reads somewhat like an attempt to resurrect Leach’s coaching career and to explain away his stormy tenure at Texas Tech. In a book filled with objective data and impersonal analysis of the game, this chapter stands out as misplaced, focusing as it does on what the author considers unfair media treatment of his subject. Leach was a great coach, no doubt about it, but the intrusion of such a lengthy and impassioned personal plea is jarringly at odds with the rest of the book (lots of other college football coaches have been embroiled in controversy – yet none of those cases are explored). The chapter is written by Leach’s co-editor, Ferhat Guven, casting aside any pretense of objectivity.

Now, back to the game. Chapter Two explores the controversy surrounding the current BCS ranking system – a selection process doomed to perpetual second-guessing. The chapter proposes a corrective to the somewhat misleading data that is used to arrive at the Number One team in the country. Chapter Three explains why smaller, less competitive schools continue to show up on the schedules of perennial powerhouses, even though most of those games result in blowouts for the big schools (hint: follow the money). Chapter Four offers an overview of the challenges of bringing American-style football to British colleges (“You have to understand,” one coach notes, “that roughly nine out of ten kids who try out for the team have probably never played American football.”) Chapter Five provides a computerized analysis about why more teams should go for it on fourth down, rather than punting away the football.

Chapter Six addresses a hot button issue to many non-fans: coaching salaries. Why should college football coaches make, in some cases, 10 times what college presidents make? (Hint: keep following the money – a successful football program leads to alumni donations, robust recruitment, and lucrative TV contracts). Chapter Seven explores the often-difficult transition for college athletes heading to the NFL and how colleges can serve their student athletes’ needs while retaining academic integrity and not merely turning into the minor leagues for the NFL. Chapter Eight looks at the no-huddle offense, and provides the single most interesting fact I’ve read anywhere in the past year: The football huddle was invented in 1892 by Paul Hubbard, quarterback for Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf. To keep opponents from stealing his hand signals, “Hubbard would organize his teammates in a tightly enclosed circle while their backs were turned to their opponents.” Fascinating. And Chapter Nine goes high tech, proposing that college recruiters use “facial coding” technology to determine if highly rated high school prospects will pan out. The theory behind the technology is that the facial muscles serve as a kind of window to the soul, revealing under questioning whether prospective recruits can handle pressure, have a competitive edge, and give evidence of leadership qualities.

As a sports wonk myself, I enjoyed reading Sports for Dorks: College Football. The randomness of the essays could, I suppose, be said to mirror the randomness of the game itself. And the idea lends itself beautifully to innumerable sequels, perhaps ushering in a new era when the role of the intellect in sports will finally receive its proper due. When that happens, sports geeks around the world can join our sweaty, behemoth brethren in shouting “WE’RE NUMBER ONE! WE’RE NUMBER ONE!” Just be careful with the giant foam fingers – those things could put an eye out.

Click Here To Purchase Sports For Dorks: College Football (Volume 1)