SB Nation writer, local-beer drinker and college football fanatic Bill Connelly is releasing his first book. Study Hall: College Football, Its Stats and Its Stories is all about — check it — college football.
How does Connelly renew his energy for sports stats again and again? Well, coffee, a dece Miami Dolphins season, love games (i.e. tennis) and some sizable dolla dolla bills he says he can’t believe he makes. (#shockcollarcareer)
JH: Is there an official release date for Study Hall yet? Who published?
BC: The unofficial release date is July 29, but I won’t know for sure until we’re about a week or so out. I’m publishing it through CreateSpace, Amazon.com’s publishing wing.
What was the original idea in putting Study Hall together?
The goal was to create an accessible, enjoyable look at the world of college football through the eyes of coaches, writers, and numbers geeks. Generally speaking, it’s about the college football topics I enjoy the most. So that means it’s basically one-third current events (why the sport is popular, why the negative things people say about the sport are completely true), one-third stats (how coaches use them, how we should use them), and one-third strategies and tactics (finishing drives, field position, underdog tactics).
What first drew you to the book project? Was there a certain event that sparked your interest or has it been a lifelong goal?
I wanted to explore the stage. I wanted to get a feel for the book-writing experience and see how it comes together differently than the daily writing I’ve been doing for the last few years. The idea had been in my head for a while, and I felt it was time.
Why did you decide to write about college ball as opposed to pro?
I’ve long preferred college to pro. I grew up in Oklahoma, where college football is king, and the obsession stuck. I enjoy the stupid/great traditions, the massive volume of teams, the ways coaches go about trying to win games (the strategies are much more diverse than in the pro game), etc. If the NFL is national politics, college football is state politics — weirder, messier, more diverse.
What proved the most challenging part of putting the book together? What was the biggest takeaway from the project?
The toughest part was pulling it all together when it had to be pulled together. I did about 40 interviews and put together a lot of both research and my own thoughts and opinions, and each chapter became a puzzle you had to put together. Some were easy in that regard, but a few were quite difficult. It was a good kind of challenge, but it was certainly a challenge.
Did you play ball in college?
Ha, the only physical skill I brought to the table was decent hand-eye coordination. That doesn’t get you very far when you’re not big, strong, or fast. I was involved in filming for the team, editing videos, etc., but that was as far as it got. I never played organized football; tennis was the sport for me in that regard.
What’s your most vivid memory from college football as a fan?
As a fan, my memory is Mizzou-colored. I’ve been witness to complete joy (the wins over Kansas in 2007, Nebraska in 2003, Oklahoma in 2010), heartbreak (Nebraska in 1997, Oklahoma in 2007), and random silliness and madness. The fun part is realizing that every fan base in the country has experienced the same ridiculous moments of their own. Granted, each team has had a different mix of happiness and sadness (and not every fan base has had to deal with fifth downs and flea kickers), but every time you are dipped into the world of another team and set of fans, you realize how deep and ridiculously passionate the college football world is.
In your professional opinion, should college athletes get paid?
I think a full-cost-of-attendance stipend is a perfectly logical idea and will probably happen one day. Anything more than that, and you begin to run into as many negatives as positives. There is no easy solution to this issue.
What was the first thing you did after finishing the book?
I announced it on Football Study Hall and Facebook and had a beer.
Yeah? What beer?
Besides writing and talking football, what gets you out of bed in the morning?
Coffee. That, and the fact that I get paid a good wage to write and talk about college football. I don’t take that for granted — it still feels like I’m stealing money.
What’s next for you?
If the book sells at least 10 copies or so, I’m pretty sure I’ll write another one in the future. Beyond that, though, the next thing on the docket is football season. It’s a whirlwind.
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