President’s column: The vanishing depth chart Reply

This is starting to get ridiculous.

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

It was one thing when Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t have a flip card with a Wolverine two-deep roster on it in the press box before the home opener against Hawaii.  Now, he’s making it a habit for every home game.

But this isn’t just about Harbaugh.

It’s about the danger of a trend taking place when other coaches begin to believe it’s a good idea to never release a depth chart. That’s why it’s important to stand up to what’s happening in Ann Arbor and make sure it doesn’t spread nationwide.

And coaches need to release accurate depth charts, unlike the one Kansas distributed for its opener against Rhode Island. Eight players started despite not being listed on the first team, according to a story in the Lawrence Journal-World.

One or two is understandable. Coaches make late changes all the time based on a variety of factors, including injuries and tweaks to the game plan.

Not eight.

If a coach doesn’t want to release a depth chart during the week (hello, Jim Mora), we in the media won’t be happy about it, but that can at least be explained away as not wanting to give information to the opponent. But no credible reason can be given to not have a depth chart available shortly before kickoff on a flip card when there is no competitive advantage to be gained. The players already know their roles for that day.

The potential lack of flip cards in the press box also should be a concern for professional scouts and video crews _ not to mention the media, including the broadcasters for radio and television networks which pay millions in rights fees.

So what can be done?

Harbaugh has so much power that no one on Michigan’s campus is going to force him to have one.

We need outside help to make sure not only depth charts are released before kickoff, but that the information is genuine.

So we need the Division I Football Oversight Committee to not only implement rules to provide such depth charts, but to put real teeth in those rules. And while committee members are at it, establish some rules against coaches changing players’ numbers on a weekly basis. Confusion can reign.

A third area of concern is enforcing a rule already in place about the contrast between numbers and the color backgrounds of uniforms. The numbers in some of these combinations are increasingly difficult to identify.

Colorado visits Michigan this weekend, and the Buffaloes released their own tongue-in-cheek two-deep of celebrities and fictional characters. I do wonder about the decision to go with Bernie Sanders over Vladimir Lenin at free safety.

But even though you have to give Colorado credit for making light of the situation, the Buffs won’t release a two-deep because Michigan won’t do it. It’s a perfectly reasonable stance for Colorado to take.

One, however, the Buffs shouldn’t be forced to take.

Sound Mind Sound Body to sponsor FWAA Freshman All-America Team

The Football Writers Association of America is very excited and pleased to announce it has secured a sponsor for its 2016 Freshman All-America Team — Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy.

The 16th annual 2016 FWAA Freshman All-America Team, presented by Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy, will be announced at the association’s Annual Awards Breakfast on Jan. 9, 2017, at the College Football Playoff Media Hotel in Tampa, Fla. The FWAA’s First-Year Coach Award will also be revealed at that tifwaalogobigme.

“The FWAA Freshman All-America team is pleased to have Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy on board as our sponsor,” said 2007 FWAA President Mike Griffith, who has administered the FWAA Freshman Team since its inception.soundmindsoundbody

“The camp, now in its 12th year, is a good representation of how prospective collegiate football student-athletes should be shaped and developed, with its emphasis on community and class room as well as football expertise,” said Griffith, a senior reporter/analyst with SECcountry.com.

Sound Mind Sound Body was established in Detroit in 2004 with the goal of increasing the number of youth who advance to colleges on scholarships, both academic and athletic.

Several of the nations top high school student-athletes have attended SMSB camps, including former FWAA Freshman All-Americas Malik McDowell of Michigan State and Devin Funchess of Michigan. Others include Jourdan Lewis of Michigan and 2015 Jim Thorpe Award winner and 2015 FWAA All-America Desmond King of Iowa.

“The Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy presented by Adidas is honored to announce its partnership with the Football Writers Association of America,” said Curtis Blackwell, the Academy’s co-founder.  “Our partnership with the FWAA Freshman All-America team represents SMSB setting the bar for our campers to reach for the highest goals in their collegiate careers. The FWAA Freshman All-American team has been the first stop for several who have gone on to achieve greatness.”

The SMSB program will expand in 2017 and touch nearly 10,000 students. Camps will be held in Detroit, Los Angeles, Washington D.C, Houston, Atlanta, Toronto, Tampa, Charlotte, New Orleans, New York, Dallas, Phoenix,  Chicago and Ohio.

The FWAA’s Freshman Team is selected by a 10-person panel of nationally-prominent writers who represent each of the FBS conferences. Both true freshmen and redshirt freshmen are considered for the team. The pool of coaches for the First-Year Coach Award consists of those who are coaching in their first year at a school.

About the FWAA: The Football Writers Association of America, founded in 1941, consists of 1,400 men and women who cover college football. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game-day operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson at tiger@fwaa.com.

President’s column: Membership directory is in the mail

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

Welcome to the beginning of the FWAA’s next 75 years.

We have a lot to live up to given all that’s happened during the organization’s first 75 years. That birthday we celebrated in 2015 is in our rear-view mirror. But with a membership that is strong and talented, there is little reason to think the future can’t be at least as bright.

The information-packed FWAA 2016-17 Membership Directory will be in your hands soon, if not already. Coming to a mailbox near you is one reason your membership is so valuable. You have access — cell numbers, emails and twitter handles — of contacts that your non-FWAA member friends don’t possess.

And that’s only part of what the guide offers: informative team pages on all FBS schools; bowl, award, conference and media contacts, as well as individual listings for FCS schools. I-30 East’s Ted Gangi, Executive Director Steve Richardson, the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic’s Charlie Fiss and staff deserve a big thank you for the work they put into the guide, which alone is worth the price of FWAA membership.

Between now and the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on Jan. 9 in Tampa, we have a lot of ground to cover.

On Sept. 6 the first regular-season FWAA-National Football Foundation Super 16 Poll will be released. Please write about it and talk about it every week. The FWAA-NFF already has conducted a pre-season poll by its 40-plus member panel, composed of FWAA members and College Football Hall of Famers.

We are already beginning to send out information for player nominations for the Armed Forces Merit Award, sponsored by the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth. We will have flyers at many of the early-season big games that explain the award. Those nominees should be sent to Tim Simmons at bfishinc@aol.com

In the next two weeks, we will have exciting news, officially announcing a sponsor for our FWAA Freshman All-America Team

Once we get into the season, we will announce a Team of the Week each Monday, our Bronko Nagurski Defensive Player of the Week on Tuesday and our FWAA/Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominee on Wednesdays, starting a little later than  the other two weekly awards.  Please send any nominees for the Courage Award to ESPN’s Matt Fortuna at matt.fortuna@gmail.com.

And later …

FWAA members will receive their offensive line and defensive All-America ballots on Nov. 7 and offensive skill and special team ballots a week later. During our All-America Team selection conference calls, we look carefully at how the membership votes.  The 26-man 2016 FWAA All-America team will be announced in mid-December.

We also will be busy with announcements of the Bronko Nagurski  (Best Defensive Player) and Outland Trophy (Best Interior Lineman) Award winners in early December. A highlight in early January will be the honoring of our 60th Annual Coach of the Year with the Eddie Robinson  bust presentation  on Jan. 7 in Tampa. The legendary Robinson has been the namesake of our award since 1997.

During the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast on Jan. 9 in Tampa, we will hand out, among other in-house awards, the “Steve Ellis Beat Writer of the Year Award.” His widow, Karen, will present it, a year after the FWAA Board decided to name the award after her late husband. Steve was a former colleague of mine at the Tallahassee Democrat and the best reporter I’ve ever been around. He once filed a story on his honeymoon. I don’t recommend that, by the way.

It’s sure to be a memorable year.

Members: Nominate your son or daughter for the Volney Meece Scholarship

The FWAA is now accepting applications for the 20th annual Volney Meece Scholarship.

For an application please contact Dave Sittler, 8314 S. Jamestown Ave, Tulsa, OK 74137. His email is davesitt@aol.com and his cell phone is 918-629-3851 (text).

Applications must be received by Dec. 15, 2016.

The scholarship is awarded annually by the FWAA and named for the late Volney Meece, who served 22 years as the FWAA’s Executive Director and was the organization’s President in 1971.

The $1,000 annual grant for four years is awarded to a deserving son or daughter of an FWAA member. Since the program started in 1997, the FWAA has distributed more than $60,000 in scholarship money to deserving children of FWAA members.

The winner will be unveiled at the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast in January.

Past winners of the Volney Meece Scholarship
1997  Brett Goering  Topeka, Kan.
1998  Kelly Brooks  Denver, Colo.
1999  James Butz  Schaumberg, Ill.
2000  Sara Barnhart  Atlanta, Ga.
2001  Patrick Davis  Coventry, Conn.
2002  Jacqueline O’Toole  Gaithersburg, Md.
2003  Garrett Holtz  Denver, Colo.
2004  Katie Hersom  Oklahoma City, Okla.
2005  Katie Wieberg  Lawson, Mo.
2006  Kaylynn Monroe  Winter Park, Fla.
2007  Nate Kerkhoff  Overland Park, Kan.
2008  Jack Caywood  Lawrence, Kan.
2009  Haley Dodd  Overland Park, Kan.
2010  Donald Hunt  Philadelphia, Pa.
2011  Alaina Martens  Papillion, Neb.
2012  Emily Alford  Tupelo, Miss.
2013  Sarah Helsley  Edmond, Okla.
2014 Robert Abramson Palos Verde, Calif.
2015 Danielle Hoover Tulsa, Okla.

Outland, Nagurski Award watch lists featured on ESPNU tonight

Pre-season watch lists for the FWAA’s two premier awards, the Outland Trophy and the Bronko Nagurski Award are being featured tonight on the Home Deport College Football Awards Preview Show, beginning at 8:30 p.m. EDT Friday  on ESPNU.

The Outland and Nagurski are among nine college football awards to be previewed on the show.

Click here to see the Outland watch list.

Click here to see the Nagurski watch list.

National Football Foundation details rule changes for 2016 season

As the 2016 season draws near, the National Football Foundation has partnered with Rogers Redding, the national coordinator of College Football Officiating, to generate awareness for rule changes in college football.

Changes for the upcoming season involve:

  • Blocking Below the Waist
  • Input From a Medical Observer
  • Low Hits on the Passer
  • Outcome of a Suspended Game
  • Scrimmage Kick Formation
  • Sliding Ball Carrier: Defenseless Player
  • Starting the Clock Near the End of a Half
  • Targeting: An Expanded Role for Instant Replay
  • Tripping the Ball Carrier
  • TV Access Inside the Limit Lines
  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct by a Coach
  • Use of Technology for Coaching
  • Experimental Rule:  Collaboration in Instant Replay

Click here to see a release from the NFF providing detail about each of these rule changes.

Barfknecht profiles Indiana candidate for Outland Trophy

outland trophy bwFormer FWAA President Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald takes a look at Indiana’s impressive offensive line and Dan Feeney, a 6-foot-4, 311-pound guard who will start his senior season as a strong contender for the Outland Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top interior lineman.

Feeney is one of four fifth-year seniors expected to start on Indiana’s offensive line. Last season, in 475 called pass plays, he never allowed a sack. He also led the Hoosiers with 102 knockdowns.

CLICK HERE to read the entire story at omaha.com.

Funeral mass for Kensler will be Saturday in Wheat Ridge, Colo.

Tom Kensler

Tom Kensler

Former FWAA board member Tom Kensler will be remembered Saturday Aug. 6 at memorial services in Colorado.

A funeral mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Archdiocese of Denver Mortuary Chapel, 12801 W. 44th Avenue in Wheat Ridge, Colo.

Kensler suffered a brain aneurysm on July 6 at his home in Arvada, Colo., and died on July 22.

Kensler, 64, retired after a long tenure at the Denver Post in June 2015. He had previously worked at newspapers in Oklahoma and Texas.

1958 Outland Trophy winner Zeke Smith passes away

Zeke Smith, 1958 winner of the Outland Trophy.

Zeke Smith, 1958 winner of the Outland Trophy.

Zeke Smith, winner of the FWAA’s Outland Trophy in 1958, died Friday at the age of 79.

Smith was a two-way player and a member of Auburn’s 1957 national championship team.

After Auburn, he played in the NFL in 1960 and 1961 and the CFL in 1962 and 1963. He was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1982.

Today Auburn’s top defensive player each season is given the Zeke Smith Award.

CLICK HERE to read Smith’s obituary at AuburnTigers.com.