Wikipedia:WikiProject College football/Style guide

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The College Football WikiProject's style guide is intended to apply to all articles within the project's scope—in other words, to all articles related to college football and the pageantry surrounding it. While the recommendations presented here are well-suited for the vast majority of such articles, there exist a number of peculiar cases where, for lack of a better solution, alternate approaches have been taken. These exceptions are often the result of protracted negotiation; if something seems unusual or out-of-place, it may be worthwhile to ask before attempting to change it, as there might be reasons for the oddity that are not immediately obvious!

Naming conventions[edit]

Following are the agreed-upon naming conventions for the most-common types of articles in Wikiproject College Football. Many unique and special articles do, however, fall outside these categories, and editors are encouraged to use their best judgement and logic when naming articles. In the event that a name cannot be agreed upon, editors are encouraged to post on the project talk page so other editors can help establish a consensus.

Game fundamentals and awards[edit]

When creating an article about a fundamental aspect of college football, such as touchdown, field goal, or punt, use the most common term or the appropriate college football-specific term for that item. Remember to name the article in the manner that would be most easily recognized by a reader familiar with American football. In the event that a non-football article exists with the same name, use the optional qualifiers (American football) or (College football).

Articles about awards, such as Heisman Trophy or Lou Groza Award, should use the official name of the award or the most common nickname associated with the award.


College football seasons have been known by several different names throughout the history of the sport, and Wikiproject College Football uses the official name for the season wherever possible to ensure simplicity. Prior to 1978, the project makes no distinction among NAIA, NCAA, or other college football programs. Between 1869 and 1977, [year] college football season is the default naming system for a college football season article. Subsections in these articles, as required, deal with the various college football leagues, though NCAA Division I college football discussion makes up the vast majority of these articles.

Beginning with the 1978 season, the NCAA divided college football programs into the modern I-A, I-AA, Division II, and Division III system. For seasons between 1978 and 2005, the appropriate name is [year] NCAA Division I-A football season. Season articles for Division I-AA, Division II, or Division III football would follow the system [year] NCAA [division] football season.

In 2006, the NCAA again changed the official name of its top two college football divisions. The default naming system for college football seasons after 2006 is [year] NCAA Division I FBS football season or [year] NCAA Division I FCS football season, depending on the appropriate league.

Non-NCAA and lower-NCAA divisions follow the default naming convention of [year] [division/league] football season. Examples include 2007 NCAA Division II football season, 2007 NCAA Division III football season, and 2007 NAIA football season

Conference seasons[edit]

The default naming preference for individual seasons of single conferences is [year] [Conference Name] football season. For example, this formula results in 2010 Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference football season and 2010 Ivy League football season. This "conference season" article was created for smaller conferences where coverage would be worthwhile but single season articles make little sense.

Team seasons[edit]

The default naming preference for individual seasons of single teams is [year] [university name] [mascot] football team. For example, this formula results in 2007 Virginia Tech Hokies football team and 2007 Oklahoma Sooners football team. In many cases, particularly with smaller schools, single-season articles would be overkill, creating many stub-length articles with no hope of expansion. In these cases, an alternative naming convention is used.

[University name] [mascot] football under [coach name] creates an umbrella article useful for smaller schools or articles encompassing several seasons under a single coach. Minnesota Golden Gophers football under Bernie Bierman is one such example. This style of article can also be used alongside single-season articles for easier indexing and information access, but may be seen as redundant. Generally, one or the other style is preferred over a blending of the two styles.

Single games[edit]

Where available, single-game articles should be named with the most common nickname or name assigned to the game, such as Lateralpalooza, Fifth Down Game (1990), or Chicken Soup Game. As most articles do not have a popularized name, the default naming practice for single-game articles is to use the format [year] [visiting team] vs. [home team] football game when naming an article.

The qualifier "football game" is needed at the end of the name to distinguish the game from any other meeting or contest between the two schools that may have taken place during the year in question. As most official team names are too long to make an effective article name, the use of shorter versions of teams' official names is encouraged. Instead of 2007 Appalachian State University Mountaineers vs. University of Michigan Wolverines football game, use 2007 Appalachian State vs. Michigan football game or 2007 Trinity vs. Millsaps football game.

Players, coaches and other individuals[edit]

The default naming preference for articles about individuals associated with college football is to use the most common name associated with the individual, such as Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, or Ryan Leaf. Diminutives of the individual's legal name are appropriate if that individual is better known by the diminutive, such as in Eli Manning. Nicknames should be avoided wherever possible. In the event that an article already exists for a person with the same name, the optional qualifier (American football) should be used in the format [first name] [last name] ([optional qualifier]).

The qualifiers (football player), (football coach), or (football announcer) should not be used, as these may indicate only a portion of an individual's career, and suggest a preference on the part of the editor for one portion of that individual's life over another. In addition, a player may become a coach or announcer later in life, necessitating a change in the article title. When in doubt, the qualifier (American football) is the default preference.

Mascots and pageantry[edit]

Mascots should be referred to by the most common name associated with them. Examples include Sparty, Hokie Bird, and Ralphie. For more common names, it may become necessary to include the optional qualifier (mascot) following the name of the mascot. Examples include Uga (mascot) and Buzz (mascot).

Articles about events associated with college football and other college football pageantry should be named after the official name of the event, show, performance, or other item. An example includes Aggie Bonfire. If the event does not have an official name, the most common nickname should be used. In the event that an unrelated article already exists with the same name, an optional qualifier consisting of the name of the event holder should be used in the format [event] (school/place name). Examples include "The Walk" (Virginia Tech) and "The Walk" (Clemson). (College football) is not preferred as an optional qualifier because an event may also be prominently associated with non-football events.


In general, a topic is presumed to be notable if it has received significant coverage in reliable sources that are independent of the subject.

In particular, the following subjects will almost always have sufficient coverage to qualify:

Article content[edit]

Article structure[edit]

The structures suggested in this section are intended to serve as a starting point for writing a good article; they are not meant to enforce a single, binding structure on all articles, nor to limit the topics a fully developed article will discuss. Suggested additions or revisions of these recommendations should be brought up on the WikiProject College football talk page in order to establish a consensus before becoming codified here.


Conference seasons (content)[edit]

Example: 2009 Big Ten Conference football season

Team seasons (content)[edit]

Examples: 2005 Texas Longhorn football team, 2006 Oklahoma Sooners football team, 2005 USC Trojans football team

Single games[edit]

Examples: 2008 Orange Bowl, 2007 ACC Championship Game, 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl, 2007 Hawaii Bowl

Single-game articles are the second most-common article in Wikiproject College Football. Only articles about individual players, coaches, or other important people are more common, and they are far less represented in featured content. The guidelines established here have resulted in multiple Good and Featured Articles, and any article following these instructions and fully completing each section should have an excellent chance at Featured Status.

The single-game infobox is the largest and most noticeable portion of the lead, and should be the first item on the page. Following the infobox is the lead, the most important part of the article. It should mention every other section, highlighting the biggest points in each, and give a reader everything he or she needs to know about the game in a few short paragraphs. Most casual readers will never go beyond the lead — if they're in a hurry, the lead should answer all of their questions in a few short paragraphs:

  • Who played in the game, and why?
  • Who won the game?
  • What was the final score?
  • Were there any big plays or achievements?
  • Where and when was the game played?

These few questions will be answered in the first two paragraphs of a well-written lead. The remainder should be devoted to summarizing each section of the rest of the article. Don't try to fit everything in — just include the most important sentence or two. It can be tough to strike a balance between including enough information and including too much. A good rule of thumb is to compare what you've written with the length of the infobox. A good lead section will be approximately half the length of the infobox at 1600x1200 screen resolution. At 800x600 screen resolution, a good lead will be no more than 10 lines longer than the infobox. Note that the lower the resolution, the longer the lead will display. In order to keep the article accessible for readers with low-resolution monitors, it's a good idea to keep within these length boundaries as much as possible. Citations are not necessary in the lead, though some editors encourage them. Be warned, however — if you do not use citations in the lead, you must have a citation for each fact later in the article.

The first section after the lead is the team selection or selection process section. This is your chance to talk about the two teams involved and the events leading up to the game in question. If the article is about a bowl game, this section is where you would discuss how the bowl selected these two teams in particular and not some other teams. This section is also an excellent place to discuss past matchups, and the two teams' schedules leading into the game in question. In general, there are a few critical questions you should address in this section:

  • Why are the two teams playing this game? Is it a conference game, a bowl game, a rivalry game, or just a regular non-conference game?
  • Have the two teams met before?
  • If it's a bowl game, what was the selection process for these teams — how and why were they picked?
  • Is this another edition of an annual contest? For example, if this is a rivalry game, give a few sentences about why the rivalry is important. If it's a bowl game or conference championship game, feel free to write a sentence or two about past matches.
  • How have the two teams done in other games during the season? Give an overview of each team's season thus far, pointing out highs and lows, particularly if they had an impact on the game the article is about.
  • Were there any controversies about the teams selected for the game?

With those questions answered, you're now ready for the next section, pre-game buildup. Any significant college football game will have wide coverage in popular media and online in the days and weeks leading up to the game. The pre-game buildup section is intended to answer questions about what was expected from the game, who the star players were from each team heading into the game, and other concerns that would have been covered by "preview" news stories before the game. Emphasis should be placed on the different aspects of the game, ideally resulting in each team's offensive and defensive unit receiving a separate section backed up by citations. When forming the section, keep these questions in mind:

  • Who were considered the "difference-makers" heading into the game?
  • Who were the most important players heading into the game?
  • Who were the key players on each team's offense, and what were they expected to do?
  • Who were the key players on each team's defense, and what were they expected to do?
  • Were there any outside distractions for either team? If so, what were they and why were they important?
  • What other outside events were predicted to have an effect on the game?
  • Were there any injuries on either team, and what effect were those injuries predicted to have?

In general, a good pre-game buildup section will summarize the various preview news stories released in the weeks leading up to the game. It is suggested that you avoid hindsight wherever possible — Instead, discuss the things that the news writers and pundits believed to be important — rather than what actually turned out to be important. This section is about expectations, rather than results.

Now that you've given your reader a complete background on the game's importance and how the two teams arrived at the game, it's time for the central portion of the article — the game summary. This section is, in many ways, the most difficult to write. A good author must cover important plays and events without becoming bogged down in an exact play-by-play of events. Start by describing the weather conditions, how full the stands were, who sang the National Anthem, who won the coin toss, and all the other minutiae that takes place between the time the teams arrive at the stadium and the time of the opening kickoff.

After that, begin taking apart the game, quarter by quarter to give the reader the best possible idea of the important events of the game and any turning points within. Using a play-by-play from ESPN or the game's box score is recommended, but don't go overboard with detail. If the two teams struggle in a defensive battle, just say so rather than describing every single three-and-out possession. Keep in mind the following things:

  • What were the quarter's big plays?
  • Did the momentum shift? If so, how and why?
  • If you say the momentum shifted, you need to back it up with a citation.
  • Summarize rather than describing every single play.
  • Don't describe how a play was executed — Instead, describe the play's end result: a 44-yard pass or a 2-yard run.
  • Use your judgment. If a game-changing trick play takes place, feel free to describe it in more detail than just another three-and-out.
  • Don't forget to note the time at which a score took place or when a game-changing play was made. Telling when something happened can give insight into why something took place — a late-game onside kick, for example.
  • At the end of each quarter's section, note the score. In addition, the final thing in the game summary should be the final score.

It can be difficult to strike a balance between detail and summary. One rule of thumb is to use the reaction of the in-stadium crowd (if known) to judge the importance of a play. When in doubt, leave it out. Remember, this is just supposed to be a summary of events, not a blow-by-blow account of every counter play and draw.

After you've written down the final score to end the game summary section, it's time to begin the final statistics. The best place to begin is with the game's most valuable player. After that, talk about the game's leading scorers and the statistic that tells the most about the game. Use your judgment on this. For example, if a team loses because its quarterback threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter, allowing the other team to score twice, use turnovers as the key statistic. Back up your assertions and statistics with citations. The final statistics section should be the most number-heavy and needs the most citations, proportionally, of any other section in the article. Tables, graphs, and charts are highly recommended, as they present information in a far more accessible form than plain text.

With that done, break down each team's performance, separately. Keep these things in mind:

  • Who had a good game? What were his statistics?
  • What was the biggest statistical difference between the two teams?
  • What did the offense do?
  • What did the defense do?
  • Who were the leading performers?
  • Were the players' performances better or worse than predicted in pre-game previews?
  • What worked and what didn't for each team?

You'll have to cite each statistic in detail. Box scores, media guides, and other stat sheets are highly recommended. keeps most game statistics in an easily-readable form, as do most athletics department websites. Remember that you're not there to interpret—If you say that something was the key point of the game, you must back it up with a citation that says so. Most Good- and Featured-Article reviewers will remove speculation as a matter of course.

With each team's performance broken down, it's time for the last big section — Post-game effects. In the days and weeks immediately after a game, this section will be by far the shortest. Even long after a game, this section will likely remain the shortest. It's often difficult to draw a direct line between a game and it's effects unless there is a citation that says so. There are a few things that should automatically be covered in this section, however:

  • The participants' records after the game — What did the teams do next?
  • Next season's edition of the game (if any).
  • Any players entering the NFL Draft (following a bowl game, in particular).
  • Future sites of the game.
  • Coaching/administration changes as a result of the game.
  • Injuries that took place in the game and had lasting effects.
  • If during the regular season, how did the team perform during the remainder of its season?

These questions are usually easy to answer, but can take time to answer fully — in some cases, a year or more. If you don't know the answers to some of these questions, don't worry. A Good-Article or Featured-Article review won't take into consideration events that haven't happened yet. Simply fill in the information that is available and the rest can be filled in as it develops.

At the very end of the article are the standard maintenance elements: notes/citations, external links, navigation boxes, and categories. Citations should use the reflist template, and for large numbers of citations, it's a good idea to use two columns. Otherwise, the page gets very long. The external links section should go below the citations section. Put links to the two teams' official websites, the bowl game (if any), and other appropriate links.

Many reviewers suggest uploading images you've used in the article to Wikimedia Commons, the free image database run alongside Wikipedia. If you decide to do so, be sure to include the appropriate link to the category that contains those pictures, even if they're all displayed on the article's page.

Categories are important because they allow readers to more easily find your article. For single-game college football articles, include the category of the season in which the game took place, Category:College football games, a bowl games category (if appropriate), and categories for each of the teams that participated. Many cities with a large number of sports teams or sports events also have their own categories. Don't worry if you don't get them all. More can always be added later. And besides, you've got more important things to worry about — your next college football article!

Players, coaches, and individuals[edit]

Examples: Jim Thorpe, Eli Manning

Biographies of individual people associated with college football are the most common college football articles in Wikiproject College Football. Due to the difficulty of writing a good biographical article, however, proportionally fewer are of Good or Featured status. For the most part, college football biography pages follow the standards set in the Manual of Style for biographies.

For a template on how best to create a list article of head coaches (such as List of Oklahoma Sooners head football coaches), see here.

Mascots and pageantry[edit]

Examples: Sparty, Aggie Bonfire, Ramblin' Wreck

Sourcing and citation[edit]


Policy requires that articles reference only reliable sources; however, this is a minimal condition, rather than a final goal. Because college football articles tend to deal with recent events on a far more regular basis, newspaper and magazine articles are acceptable barring a review of the reliability of the source. For historical articles, such as 1950 Oklahoma Sooners football team, secondary sources are preferred, particularly those that have been published on a national, rather than regional, scale. Any source that analyzes and gives the historical background of a specific game, event, or individual should be prioritized over one that merely gives a summary of a game's events.


The nature of Wikipedia requires that articles be thoroughly—even exhaustively—cited. At a minimum, the following all require direct citation:

  1. Direct quotations of outside material
  2. Paraphase or other borrowing of ideas from an outside source
  3. Controversial or disputed statements
  4. Subjective or qualitative judgements
  5. Numerical quantities or statistics

In general, any statement for which a citation has been explicitly requested by another editor should be provided with one as well.

Beyond this, editors are encouraged to cite any statement that is obscure or difficult to find in the available sources, as well as any significant statement in general. There is no numerical requirement for a particular density of citations or for some predetermined number of citations in an article; editors are expected to use their best judgement as to how much citation is appropriate. When in doubt, cite; additional citations are harmless at worst, and may prove invaluable in the long term.

Citation styles[edit]

In general, articles may use one of two citation styles:

  • Footnotes
    Footnotes are generally the more appropriate option when the level of citation is very dense, or where the citations include additional commentary. A number of different formatting styles are available; so long as an article is internally consistent, the choice of which to use is left to the discretion of the major editors. For example, discursive notes may either be combined with citations (as here and here), or separated (as here).
    A single footnote may be used to provide citations for any amount of material; while they typically apply to one or a few sentences, they may also cover entire paragraphs or sections of text. In cases where the connection between the citations and the material cited is not obvious, it is helpful to describe it explicitly (for example, "For the details of the operation, see Smith, First Book, 143–188, and Jones, Another Book, chapters 2–7; for the international reaction, see Thomas, Yet Another Book, 122–191").
  • Harvard-style references
    Harvard-style references are useful where a limited number of simple citations is needed; they typically should not be used if the article has a significant number of other items in parentheses, or if citations must be accompanied by commentary.

The final choice of which style to follow is left to the discretion of an article's editors.

Requesting citations[edit]

Editors should attempt to take a reasonable approach when requesting citations. Unless the accuracy of a statement is in significant doubt, it is generally better to start with a request for citations on the article's talk page, rather than by inserting {{fact}} tags—particularly large numbers of such tags—into the article. Over-tagging should be avoided; if a large portion of the article is uncited, adding an {{unreferenced}} or {{citation style}} tag to an entire section is usually more helpful than simply placing {{fact}} tags on every sentence. Note that some articles contain per-paragraph citations, so checking the citations at the end of a paragraph may yield information about facts or figures in the paragraph as a whole.