The breathless prose practically leaps from the page. "Our cadence will be: Rhythmic: Down-Seeeeeeeeeeeet-Go!" wrote author-coach Terry Bowden in the multiple offense chapter of the 1995 Auburn playbook.
Houston Nutt is a virtual pigskin Pynchon with his recondite turns of phrase. "Our scheme will promote over-populating the L.O.S. [line of scrimmage] (i.e., 8 on 7; 7 on 6, etc.), thus creating advantages for us," Nutt wrote in the 1997 Boise State playbook. Nutt's fans will notice the seeds of this abstruse style in an earlier effort, the 1995 Murray State playbook. The most peripatetic author since Mark Twain, Nutt is now the coach-in-residence at Arkansas. If you enjoy his 135-page Boise State tome, you'll also like former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky's 4-4 package musings (a breezier read at 65 pages) from the Nittany Lions' 1996 defensive playbook.
All the above works, and more than 100 others like them, were available until two weeks ago from www.sportsplaybooks.com to anyone with Internet access and a major credit card. Founded by a trio of twentysomething high school coaches from Austin—Matt Karnes, Henry de Keratry Jr. and Armando Ordonez—this gridiron version of Amazon.com launched on March 15. The books retailed from $10 for a work of fewer than 100 pages to $34.95 for 300-plus page volumes. The most popular were the option tales: a young man's dilemma of whether to pitch the ball or tuck it and run. " Nebraska [whose 1999 quarterback, Eric Crouch, is shown optioning at left], Air Force and North Dakota State," says de Kerarty. "They were all big sellers."
Then a few authors threw fits. "I don't think it's ethical or appropriate," says Central Michigan coach Mike DeBord.
"There have only been a handful of [angry coaches]," de Keratry says. "They think, Oh, no, our schemes can be sold to an opponent, or they're going to steal our plays."
Exactly. On May 19, de Keratry and his publishing partners closed down the on-line bookstore, at least temporarily, amid questions as to whether the playbooks are in the public domain. "We're just trying to help out high school coaches," says de Keratry, who nevertheless is loath to reveal how he came to possess such a plethora of rare, used books. "We never meant to piss anyone off."
Perhaps de Keratry can gain solace from Steve Spurrier. "It doesn't matter to me," says the Florida coach. " Tennessee has had our play-book since 1991."