Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook impacts the college season from start to finish.
Coaches prize it as the first step in their opponent scouting process. NCAA tournament selection committee members use the book throughout the season as they track teams worthy enough to earn a spot in the bracket. Television commentators from ESPN, CBS and other networks rely on Blue Ribbon for their preparation, as do radio play-by-play announcers and print media. And NBA scouts use the book as a tool to help them find the next generation of talent.
Blue Ribbon was first introduced in 1981-82 by Chris Wallace, a West Virginia native who recognized the need for a comprehensive college basketball preseason publication.
Wallace built the book literally from scratch. Working from the basement of his parents’ home and selling books out of the trunk of his car, Wallace helped Blue Ribbon gain a foothold in the market in its first year.
Along the way, kindly sports radio talk show hosts around the country helped spread the word about Blue Ribbon. And a then-fledging cable network, ESPN, helped champion the cause by embracing the book and handing it out as a textbook to its personnel, both on the air and off. Wallace even served as an in-studio analyst during the network’s broadcasts of early-round NCAA Tournament games.
Wallace was able to capitalize on the success of Blue Ribbon and his growing notoriety as a basketball expert, realizing his dream of working in the NBA, first as a scout for the Denver Nuggets and later the Miami Heat.
Change in Leadership
After a couple of years of editing Blue Ribbon and working as a scout, Wallace realized he no longer had time to devote his full energy to both pursuits. A deal was struck in 1994 to sell 80 percent of the book’s assets to Joe Lunardi and Chris Dortch, both of whom had helped Wallace write and edit the book the previous few years.
Lunardi served as managing editor until 1996, when his work with “Bracketology,” a term he coined when he began predicting the NCAA tournament field for Blue Ribbon’s special tournament edition, grew into the oft-imitated, never-duplicated monster it is today, utilized by ESPN across all its multi-media platforms.
Wallace went on to become general manager of the Boston Celtics and later the Memphis Grizzlies.
After Lundari left, Dortch took over as editor and publisher, dual roles he still holds today. Already established as “the Bible” of college basketball in Wallace’s tenure, Blue Ribbon under Dortch’s direction has, though the years, made subtle improvements in content and design. Today the book features all 351 NCAA Division I schools and has been expanded from its original 220 pages to 400.