At last, a well-organized comprehensive reference for college football history!
The heart of the book is the chapters for the 119 I-A programs and the annual reviews of every season.
Each school gets 3-6 pages of text, citing their best player, coach, and team, their biggest upset and heartbreak, their fight song, and more. Annual leaders, All-Americans, national titles, and game scores are included. The Ivies, Grambling and 18 other historically black schools are also covered, though less thoroughly.
The annual reviews include standings, bowls, All-Americans, the top 10 Heisman Trophy candidates, statistical leaders, and weekly polls.
Another section includes box scores of every certified bowl ever played, with pre- and post-game ranks of the teams and MVPs. There are also essays on the state of the game, coaches, recruiting, integration, college football at the movies, the polls, computer rankings, the eternal playoff debate, and more.
At 1630 (!) pages, this is probably the most complete reference on college football history ever published.
There is clearly room for improvement:
* Amazingly, there is no list of national champions anywhere in the book! This is particularly confusing for the pre-poll years. Navy's chapter claims a share of the 1926 title. Who did they share it with? I had to check elsewhere: Alabama and Stanford. Stanford's chapter, but not Alabama's, claims this title.
But even in the poll years, things are sometimes unclear. Notre Dame's chapter claims 21 titles (11 outright, 10 split), but lists only 8: those won in the two major polls. Stanford's chapter says 1926 was its only title, but then claims 1940. At least five teams - Tennessee 1938, Stanford 1940, Georgia 1942, Mississippi 1960, and Ohio State 1961 - are called consensus champions although neither the AP nor the coaches concurred.
* Chapters for I-A newcomers may or may not include I-AA scores. For example, Marshall's are listed but not Connecticut's. There appears to be no rhyme or reason.
* I'd like to know how many schools were classed as major/I-A in any given year. The standings include the Ivies before and after they became I-AA in 1982, but omit the I-A Southern Conference from 1953-81.
* The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball includes a short summary for each season with its statistics. I hope this book adopts this excellent feature in the future.
OK, I've dwelled enough on the book's imperfections, which mostly occur because the book falls short of its own high standards. A great deal of facts not easily available elsewhere are here in this book. That by itself earns five stars.
The ESPN College Football Encyclopedia, like baseball's 1969 Macmillan Encyclopedia and 1989 Total Baseball, sets a new standard for its sport. I predict it will be reissued regularly and become steadily more accurate with new and better features and essays.