Digitizing history, Citadel works to preserve old game film
What’s an old can of 16mm football game film worth?
The Citadel Football Association is selling DVD copies of football game films at cfabulldogs.org. These five should be in any Bulldog fan’s collection:
Year Opp. Comment
1990 USC 88 minutes of Citadel’s 38-35 upset
1960 Tenn. Tech Tangerine Bowl, Dogs’ only bowl game
1980 Wofford Stump Mitchell at his best in 35-3 win
1988 VMI Gene Brown’s school-record 286 rushing yards
2012 App State Proof that 52-28 win was real
Probably not a lot on the open market, when you consider that some colleges have simply dumped their old game film when they needed more office space.
But for John Carlisle, president of The Citadel Football Association, those flickering black-and-white images from the 1950s — and the computerized cut-ups from recent years — are irreplaceable history.
Following through on an effort first begun by former CFA president Charlie Baker, Carlisle has worked in recent years to compile a collection of 409 Citadel game films. His goal is 450, which would be about 65 percent of the 685 games the Bulldogs have played since 1950.
The films range from a Sept. 23, 1950 game against Florida (the Gators won, 7-3) to last year’s 42-20 trouncing of Furman. Most of them are available for purchase for $25 each at cfabulldogs.org, with proceeds benefitting the CFA.
“A lot of colleges don’t realize what they are sitting on,” said Carlisle. “This is history.”
Carlisle said The Citadel’s collection is one of the largest in the country.
“Notre Dame has an extensive one, and Florida has a big one, too,” he said. “And some other schools have realized what they have and what they need to do.”
What Carlisle, along with archivist John Daye, a former high school coach in Columbia, has done is locate, collect and digitize game films. They can then be recorded on DVD and stored on computers.
“We’ve found film on 8 mm, 16 mm, Super VHS, small Beta tapes, you name it,” Carlisle said.
His search began at The Citadel, where many films had been loaned out to former players. After running those down, he branched out to opposing colleges like Furman and Wofford, which were glad to share what they had.
“We just call schools,” he said. “It’s a long, time-consuming process, but it’s worth it.”
He found film of a 1953 game against Florida on the desk of former Citadel player Buford Blanton.
“I told him what I was doing, and he said, ‘I’ve got the Florida game right here,’ ” Carlisle said. “He dug down about two feet on his desk, and there it was.”
Some years have proved more difficult to track down than others. Carlisle said he has complete collections for 17 seasons, but he has only one game for 2000 and just four for 1998.
The collection also includes “The Citadel’s Golden Moments” DVD from 1961 and Charlie Taaffe coach’s shows from 1990 and 1995.
Daye, who does similar work for other schools, has some $10,000 worth of equipment he’s collected over the years. He puts the film through a projector-like device that digitizes the images and produces a DVD in real time. For example, a 30-minute game film is recorded to DVD in 30 minutes.
“Once it’s digitized, the school can put it on a terabyte or a main frame and they will never lose it,” he said.
The film quality ranges widely, Daye said, from crude coaching films in the 1950s to tapes of TV broadcasts in recent years. The 1950 game against Florida is 13 minutes of silent black-and-white; a 45-31 loss at Wisconsin in 2007 is a four-hour, six-minute copy of a Big Ten Network broadcast.
Earlier games tend to follow “normal progression,” recording the game from beginning to end. In recent years, film is divided up into offense, defense and special teams for easier use by coaches.
“It’s interesting to watch the way football has developed over the years,” said Daye, who has film dating back to 1903 in his own collection. “You see some of the 1920s film and it’s unbelievable. They did some things that are very good.”
The Citadel’s athletic department and Brigadier Foundation have used the old films in producing videos, and Daye said college libraries also find the digitized game films valuable for their collections.