NFF’s Steve Hatchell named recipient of FWAA Bert McGrane Award

At FWAA Past Presidents Dinner on Friday night at the Dallas Country Club, the National Football Foundation's Steve Hatchell (left) was surprised with the word he was the 2015 FWAA Bert McGrane winner. FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardsonl (center) and Ivan Maisel, an FWAA Past President, look on.  (Melissa Macatee photo)

At FWAA Past Presidents Dinner on Friday night at the Dallas Country Club, the National Football Foundation’s Steve Hatchell (left) was surprised with the word he was the 2015 FWAA Bert McGrane winner. FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardsonl (center) and Ivan Maisel, an FWAA Past President, look on. (Melissa Macatee photo)

DALLAS — The Football Writers Association of America announced Tuesday that National Football Foundation President and CEO Steve Hatchell has been named the 2015 recipient of the FWAA Bert McGrane Award.

“Steve Hatchell has been a great friend of the FWAA for a number of years,” said FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson. “The National Football Foundation has sponsored a Past Presidents Dinner for the Association for several years and now is a co-sponsor of the Grantland Rice Super 16 Poll, which had a successful first-year run. The two organizations have partnered to stage a Football Forum in the past. That’s not to mention the association the FWAA has with several awards in the College Football Hall Fame, for a long time in South Bend and now in Atlanta, and the NFF Annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.”

The official announcement was made during the annual FWAA Annual Awards Breakfast at the Renaissance Dallas Hotel in front of the FWAA members and the national media that had assembled to cover the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, which had taken place the previous day.

“We have a small but powerful team at the National Football Foundation that has been together for more than eight years and cares deeply about the sport, including Matthew Sign, Ron Dilatush, Hillary Jeffries, Philip Marwill, Will Rudd and Sue Tuggle,” said Hatchell. “The success of the Foundation has only been possible because of the support and vision of a great board of directors, and they have has allowed us to keep the staff together and make it happen.

“I am deeply touched by this honor. I have watched the presentation of this award since the early 1970s working at the Big 8 Conference, and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be recognized alongside some of the greatest writers and advocates in college football. My appreciation of this honor is beyond words. All I can say is thank you, and I feel blessed to be able to count many of the football writers among my dear friends.”

Hatchell becomes the 42nd recipient of the award, which is symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame and is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. The award is named after Bert McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa sports writer, who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973.

“We are proud that the FWAA has chosen to recognize Steve Hatchell for his support of the college football writers,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning upon learning about the announcement. “Steve has a deep appreciation for the work of the football writers, and he has remained a staunch advocate of promoting their critical efforts in capturing the drama and rich storylines that surround our great game.”

Hatchell has served as president and chief executive officer of The National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, since January 2005. During his tenure, the NFF has experienced remarkable growth. His leadership played a critical role in the recent opening of the state-of-the-art $68.5 million College Football Hall of Fame in the heart of Atlanta, and he spearheaded the launch of the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame, which has helped raise millions and distribute millions of dollars for the NFF scholarship programs.

His impact on the NFF scholarship program, which currently distributes more than $1.3 million, has been profound.  He led the charge to create the NFF Hampshire Honor Society, which has honored 4,927 student-athletes since its inception in 2007, and he realized the need to highlight the critical role of the nation’s faculty athletics representatives, introducing the NFF Faculty Salutes, presented by Fidelity Investments, in 2011.

He has significantly raised the profile of the NFF William V. Campbell Trophy, presented by Fidelity Investments, which recognizes the nation’s top scholar-athlete, finding an official home for the trophy at the prestigious and historic New York Athletic Club. He also worked with College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock to make sure that the recipient of the trophy is recognized each year on the field during the national title game.

Hatchell’s vision and leadership recently led to the launch of the NFF “Football Matters to Me” campaign, which includes the website and a series of public service announcements that highlight the positive and lifelong impact that football has had on those who play the game. Millions of people have been exposed to the campaign with the TV spots airing on ESPN, the NFL Network, FOX Sports Southwest and countless college and university jumbotrons across the country.

He has assembled and engaged one of the most powerful non-profit boards in the country that includes 28 corporate CEOs, eight athletics directors, four bowl executives, three conference commissioners and the executive directors of the American Football Coaches Association and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. He has also cemented several key sponsorship deals with blue chip companies, including Fidelity Investments and Under Armour, to support the NFF’s many programs.

A career sports administrator, Steve joined the NFF after serving for six years as the commissioner of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).  Prior to the PRCA, Steve served as the first commissioner of the Big 12 Conference in Dallas, an entity he helped establish in 1995.  While with the Big 12, Steve played a key role in negotiating the television contracts and bowl game formula that would make the conference one of the strongest in the nation today.  During his time at the Big 12, he also served as the first chairman of the Power of One/NCAA Football Committee, a collegiate promotional initiative to combine the marketing resources of collegiate sports into a unified force.  He was chairman of the Football Bowl Association for six years.

From 1987-93, Steve headed the Orange Bowl as its executive director, landing Fed Ex as its title sponsor, a landmark relationship at the time.  Steve was director of sports information for the University of Colorado from 1976-77 before leaving to become an associate commissioner of the Big 8 Conference from 1977-83. He left to become the commissioner at the age of 33 of the Metropolitan Collegiate Athletic Conference, a post he held from 1983-87.  After his time at the Orange Bowl in 1993, he began a three-year stint as the commissioner of the Southwest Conference.

Steve has also served on several U.S. Olympic Committee boards and as part of the staff for three Olympic games.  Steve graduated with a journalism degree in 1970 from the University of Colorado.  He is married and has two sons, a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

Former Texas Sports Information Director Bill Little was also honored at the FWAA Breakfast with a the FWAA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and 2014 NFF William V. Campbell Trophy winner David Helton, an All-ACC linebacker who boasted a 3.64 GPA at Duke, was recognized for his accomplishments as college football’s top scholar-athlete.

Hatchell’s name will join the names of the previous McGrane winners as part of a display at the new College Football Hall of Fame, which opened in August 2014 in the heart of Atlanta’s entertainment and sports district adjacent to Centennial Park. The past recipients include:

1974 Charley Johnson, Minneapolis Star

1975 Wilfrid Smith, Chicago Tribune

1976 Paul Zimmerman, Los Angeles Times

1977 Dick Cullum, Minneapolis Tribune

1978 Wilbur Evans, Cotton Bowl Athletic Association

1979 Tom Siler, Knoxville News-Sentinel

1980 Maury White, Des Moines Register

1981 Fred Russell, Nashville Banner

1982 Furman Bisher, Atlanta Journal

1983 John Mooney, Salt Lake Tribune

1984 Si Burick, Dayton News

1985 Blackie Sherrod, The Dallas Morning News

1986 Raymond Johnson, Nashville Tennessean

1987 Tim Cohane, Look Magazine

1988 Dave Campbell, Waco Tribune Herald

1989 Jim Brock, Cotton Bowl Athletic Association

1990 Jack Hairston, Gainesville Sun

1991 Murray Olderman, Newspaper Enterprise Assoc.

1992 Volney Meece, The Daily Oklahoman

1993 Bob Hentzen, Topeka Capital Journal

1994 Edgar Allen, Nashville Journal

1995 Dick Herbert, Raleigh News & Observer

1996 Bob Hammel, Bloomington (Ind.) Herald-Times

1997 Bill Lumpkin, Birmingham Post-Herald

1998 Don Bryant, University of Nebraska

1999 Field Scovell, Cotton Bowl Athletic Association

2000 Jimmie McDowell, All-American Football Foundation

2001 Edwin Pope, Miami Herald

2002 Orville Henry, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

2003 Dan Foster, Greenville News

2004 Pat Harmon, Cincinnati Post

2005 Steve Richardson, Kansas City Star, The Dallas Morning News

2006 John Junker, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

2007 Mark Blaudschun, Boston Globe

2008 Claude Felton, University of Georgia

2009 Tony Barnhart, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

2010 Tom Mickle, Florida Citrus Sports

2011 Beano Cook, University of Pittsburgh/ESPN

2012 Dave Sittler, Tulsa World

2013 Dick Weiss, New York Daily News

2014 Tim Tessalone, University of Southern California