This issue is a first for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, reflecting the acute and continuing interest in football in America. It has been only 22 weeks since the networks agreed to disburse $2 billion for the right to televise NFL games from 1982 through 1986. Network TV is paying $65 million a year to put college football on the tube for the next four years. Last year, attendance at college games was up 266,065 over 1980, when 35,540,975 fans turned out, and percentagewise the pros did even better, up 214,760 from 1980's 13,392,230. To keep pace with the boom, SI is devoting this entire special issue to greatly expanded previews of the college and pro seasons.
The concept was the brainchild of Assistant Managing Editor Mark Mulvoy, with the enthusiastic backing of his colleague Peter Carry.
The germ of the idea dates back to the early '70s, when Mulvoy and Carry were our hockey and pro basketball writers, respectively. "We toyed then with the idea of doing a combined NHL and NBA special playoff preview," Mulvoy recalls. That one didn't fly, but last year Mulvoy, who had edited pro football for five seasons, suggested a combined pro and college football special. And here it is. It doesn't replace any of our regular issues; rather it supplements them.
"What we're doing," says Mulvoy, "is publishing 139 pages of football—far more edit pages than in any other single issue in our history—in a special package that our readers are going to be able to keep on hand all season."
A fair amount of double time was put in by college football editor Bob Brown and Joe Marshall, his pro football counterpart. Brown and Marshall mobilized writers and reporters; extra press time was purchased; story ideas were examined. Pro football reporter Linda Marsch sacrificed part of her vacation to go to Dallas to do interviews buttressing an analysis of the Cowboys' singular success (page 160); college specialist Brooks Clark sandwiched his wedding between writing scouting reports and conference roundups; and reporter Jill Lieber spent her birthday moving miniature football players around a Manhattan photo studio for a photo essay that, it turned out, didn't run.
But the greatest responsibilities fell to Brown and Marshall, who between them edited virtually the entire issue. "The pro scouting reports are 50 percent longer, and we've been able to go into subjects more deeply than in past issues," says Marshall. "In our act on the sack, for example, we present not only a feature-length story on the defensive lineman's techniques but also a box on the offensive lineman's perspective and a first-person observation from the victim's point of view, plus a photo essay."
As for Brown, probably the most difficult part of his job had little to do with the creation of a special issue. It was something he has had to do for each of the five college football issues he has edited: determining who's No. 1.
"I was at Syracuse when the school won the national championship in 1959," says Brown. "I roomed next to the late Ernie Davis. So picking Pittsburgh really pained me."
EDITORS BROWN, MARSHALL AND MULVOY