'Trophies and Tradition, the History of the Big Ten' by Chris Clouser

By: Jay Flemma

You can't help root for Chris Clouser, and excellent researcher and writer and even better guy. The affable Hoosier who made his name as author of the definitive work on the life of Perry Maxwell has now penned an in-depth book detailing the history of the Big Ten athletic conference. Anyone with an interest in college athletics will find it a useful trove of both history and anecdotes.

"My goal with this book was to provide that history and tell the story of the conference and explain why the Big Ten is still important to college athletics," Clouser explained in an interview with your author. "With a history so rich and so full of many of the greatest athletes, coaches, teams and administrators in the history of intercollegiate sport, it is a story that deserves to be told."

Clouser tells the story well, if a little glossy at times. The real success of his work is that the reader realizes how the individuals who built and nurtured the various programs are more critical to the success of the programs and their storied traditions than the powerhouse institutions themselves. The people are the story.

Yes, Clouser traces the formation and growth of the conference. He also outlines the duality between the rise of sports television and the rise of the conference. But by tying in the individual stories of the people - such as John Wooden, Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes, Charlie Ponds and Hoosier swimming teams - he personalizes the story of an otherwise faceless corporation that people outside the Big Ten region can find compelling. Jerry Lucas, Bob Griese and Jack Nicklaus are the story - both in their own personal success and in how that success benefited the growth of the conference.

[Author's Note: Clouser should add in Nicklaus's section that he got to dot the famous "I" on "Ohio" at a recent OSU-Michigan game.]

Clouser also handles certain social issues well, particularly the preconception that the conference is really the "Big 2 and Little 8" (9? 10?), and the impact of the addition of Penn State and Nebraska. If there is a drawback I wish he hadn't dismissed the Penn State scandal and the Jim Tressel violations in mere asides; but the book's use as a resource and research tool is perhaps adequate compensation.

Finally, it's nice to see that a writing style I call "good guy-chic" is still in vogue. Clouser's writing is similar to Adam Schupak's (of Deane Beman book fame) and David Barrett's (who wrote an award winning book about Hogan's win at Merion). Their styles may be a little dry and their prose unadorned, but their in-depth research and the thorough way in which they tackle a complex subject carries the day successfully, and their work is the finest analysis to date of the subject matter they discuss. They give every indie writer hope and are a great "nice guys finish first" story in which we can all find inspiration.

[Editor's Note: Clouser also authored a book on Indiana public golf courses called "A Month of Sundays," as well as a GolfClubAtlas.com article he co-authored with Jay Flemma comparing and contrasting major championship venue Southern Hills Country Club with nearby Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club.]

"Trophies and Tradition: The History of the Big Ten Conference," by Christopher Clouser, 2012, C2 Publishing, 290 pages, ISBN 9781477661703

Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, http://jayflemma.thegolfspace.com, Jay Flemma 's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 420 nationally ranked public golf courses in 40 different states, and covered seven U.S. Opens and six PGA Championships, along with one trip to the Masters. A four-time award-winning sportswriter, Jay was called the best sports poet alive by both Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports writers and broadcasters. Jay has played about 3 million yards of golf - or close to 2,000 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (www.golfobserver.com), Cybergolf, PGA.com, Golf Magazine and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.