Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Michigan Includes Audio Of "The Catch" In This Week's Program

Michigan State
David Stluka | Getty Images

When she was in high school, Barbara Cossman bought a magazine that had an audio chip in it. It was one of things that she never forgot. So when she came to the University of Michigan and became director of publications for the Wolverines, her dream was embed the audio file of a famous play into a gameday program.

Saturday, Cossman's dream will become a reality, as Michigan has printed 15,000 programs to be sold for its game against Notre Dame. Each gameday program includes an audio file of "The Catch," Desmond Howard's famous touchdown against Notre Dame twenty years ago.

But it's not just the audio of the call, from the announcers that day — Frank Beckmann for the Michigan Sports Network and Brent Musburger for ABC — it also includes the play call from Michigan's head football coach at the time Gary Moeller and sound from Michigan quarterback Elvis Grbac in the huddle.

Thanks to the Internet, gameday publications seems to be a dying business. But Cossman has just changed her approach to make sure she can still sell programs to at least five percent of the total audience in Michigan Stadium each game.

"People want fewer words and more images," Cossman said. "So we've included amazing photography. But we've also focused on having a commemorative issue. We did an issue for the 100th game between Ohio State and Michigan in 2003 and we did a special issue in 2007 for (former Michigan coach) Bo Schembechler a year after he died."

The commemorative issues typically cost $10, but to cover the cost of the investment in the chip, this program cost $15.

That's still an incredible price considerating the 30-second compilation of all the sound didn't exist before. Cossman said she's glad that the athletic department greenlighted the financial risk they're taking, though the athletic department's chief marketing officer Hunter Lochmann said they don't even have to sell out the all the programs to make money. If early sales are indicative, Wolverines fans are going to snap them up quickly.

They've already sold more than 1,000 online. IMG also sold the back of the audio card to Absopure water in order to make the deal more financially viable. Besides it being the 20th anniversary of the catch, it also comes at a time when Michigan is honoring Howard for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. Howard will be on campus broadcasting with ESPN's College Gameday crew. Plus, it's the first game in Michigan history under the lights in Ann Arbor.

To give fans who buy the program a bonus, the card with the audio has a QR code to it that leads to a Web site that includes more audio.  Prediction: Michigan sells out of these programs and college gameday programs around the country get revitalized by adding this feature.

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