Exploring the ins and outs of college football

Exploring the ins and outs of college football

The air has a crisp feel to it. Leaves are rustling. Collegiate sweat shirts have been pulled out of the closet. Yes, college football is in full swing.

Before we had kids, my husband and I would enjoy a leisurely Saturday watching football and eating chips and finger foods. Unfortunately, we now have too many things going on to truly spend the day watching football. But I still like to devote some time to the guilty pleasure.

I recently found some great football-related books:

— First up is "Football Stadiums: A Guide to Professional and Top College Stadiums" by Lew Freedman. The author lives in Indiana but has been a sports editor with the Chicago Tribune and has reported on the Bears, Cubs and White Sox. This time, he turns to the stadiums.

To serious fans, the stadium is home. They know the history, seating capacity and endless trivia about their arena. Freedman focuses on both professional and college buildings, including the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Ann Arbor's Michigan Stadium and our very own Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois.

Do you think you know it all about our coliseum? Take a look at this new book and find out for yourself.

— The politics of college sports is no stranger to publication. Well-known investigative journalists Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian joined forces to uncover the good, the bad and the ugly in "The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football."

After spending two years researching the facts, interviewing key figures and following teams around the country, they've produced a tell-all that's more than a gossipy tattling and more than an outraged diatribe. They've written a book that is at once a look at the workings of the sport, an explanation of the controlling forces behind the scenes and a hard look at the wild business of winning.

Key issues in this volume include coaching, conference realignment, boosters, recruiting and tutoring programs. Of interest locally, there are insider looks at the Ohio State cover-up of player violations and the Missouri sex scandal. What is going on in college football?

— For more details about the Big Ten, check out "Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football" by John U. Bacon. The author took a hard look at four programs — Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and Northwestern — after following their teams to locker rooms, dinners, pep talks, strategy sessions and fan events.

More than an expose, Bacon uses humor to shed light on the good parts about our teams, including the players that put their heart and soul into each game.

There are flaws in the system; I think we all know that. Money hungry executives and numerous scandals come to mind. But there are other things too: camaraderie, physical strength, mental prowess and immense determination.

Some fans may be shocked at some of the information in the book, but some may find reasons to fall in love with the sport all over again.

This is a must-read for every Big Ten fan out there.

— I'd like to finish it out with something fun. "Taste of the Town: A Guided Tour of College Football's Best Places to Eat" by Todd Blackledge has something for everyone: food.

Fans may recognize the author as an ESPN commentator and traveling foodie. The book takes recipes from some of the popular sites visited in his show "Taste of the Town," with four Big Ten cities mentioned, as well as a couple of others from the Midwest.

The author highlights a few local establishments in each town and includes a recipe from each one, then finishes off with his perceptions of football at that college. Some of my favorite eats in the book include the Dead End BBQ Brisket from the University of Tennessee, the University of Arkansas Catfish Hole Hush Puppies and the Mickie's Dairy Bar Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake from the University of Wisconsin campus town.

I now need to get cooking for next Saturday. Go Illini!

Kelly Strom is the collection manager at the Champaign Public Library. She orders books, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks and CDs.

Topics (1):Books