Jimmie McDowell, Sportswriter, Football Executive, (1926-)

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish sketches of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:  http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the 21st installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Jimmie McDowell was the 2000 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

By Gene Duffey

Whenever college football history was made in the state of Mississippi, it seemed that Jimmie McDowell was there.

Working at the Jackson States-Item, McDowell covered the famous 1959 Mississippi at LSU game, when the Tigers’ Billy Cannon returned a punt 89 yards to beat Ole Miss 7-3.

Jimmie McDowell, 2000 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Jimmie McDowell, 2000 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

“It was Halloween night,” recalled McDowell. “(Mississippi coach Johnny) Vaught kicked a field goal and sat on it, relying on his defense. Cannon wasn’t supposed to field any ball inside the 15. The ball bounced up right in his face. Some of the Ole Miss players didn’t think he would field the ball and eased up.”

McDowell served as director of public relations and athletic publicity, the precursor of sports information directors, at Southern Mississippi in 1953. The school, then known as Mississippi Southern, scored one of its biggest upsets, knocking off Alabama and quarterback Bart Starr, 25-19 to open the 1953 season in Montgomery. Later, he helped start the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and worked with the Jackson Touchdown Club in acquiring a building in 1992. Three years later he founded the All-American Football Foundation, which has honored media members, athletic directors and college presidents as well as players and coaches.

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President’s column: One month in, college football is a world turned upside down

ffaw_redesignOMAHA — My god, isn’t this fun?

It’s difficult to recall a college football season in which we seem to have more questions than answers after the first month than we did before the darn thing started.

Ohio State quarterbacks? Oregon down, Utah up? Defensive coordinator mental-health warnings in the Big 12? Alabama, Auburn and Arkansas a combined 0-4 to start SEC play? Clemson rolling and Louisville falling in the ACC?

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

Good luck to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. Looks like you’ll need it. As for those of us chronicling the action, the stories get more interesting by the week.

Something worth following this season is the amped-up work on recognizing our national players of the week (offense and defense) and national team of the week.

The Football Writers Association of America has partnered with a new valued sponsor, AutoNation, to honor deserving players and teams as selected by the FWAA All-America Committee. AutoNation generously donates $1,000 for each team of the week and each player of the week (offense and defense) toward the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. AutoNation also is presenting sponsor of our All-American team and the 75th Anniversary All-America squads.

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Coach Eddie Robinson’s wife, Doris, has died 1

Doris Robinson, the wife of legendary Grambling football coach Eddie G. Robinson, passed away last Wednesday morning at the age of 96.

Eddie Robinson, who was Grambling’s head coach for 56 years, retired as the winningest coach of all time in NCAA Division I and was the namesake of the FWAA’s Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award.

Click here to read the entire story in the Monroe (La.) News Star.

Pillars of the FWAA: Dan Foster (1928-2009), Greenville News

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:  http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the 20th installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Dan Foster was the 2003 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

By Gene Duffey
Dan Foster, 2003 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Dan Foster, 2003 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Dan Foster turned to Blackie Sherrod, who was seated next to him in the press box of a World Series Game. “Quit shaking my seat,” Foster told Sherrod.

It wasn’t Sherrod that was shaking Foster’s seat. It was an earthquake! Game 3 of the 1989 World Series between the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park was just about to begin.

“That was a memorable night,” said Foster, who had already filed a column back to the Greenville News.

Foster hung around with three other writers at that World Series and other major sporting events around the country. They were among the best writers in the business: Sherrod of The Dallas Morning News, Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times and Edwin Pope of the Miami Herald.

Foster became the foursome’s designated driver, mainly because Murray and Sherrod had poor vision.

Sherrod received the Bert McGrane Award in 1985 and Pope in 2001. Foster joined them in 2003.

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Pillars of the FWAA: Jack Hairston (1928-2010), Gainesville Sun

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:  http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the 19th installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Jack Hairston was the 1990 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

By Gene Duffey
Jack Hairson, 1990 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Jack Hairson, 1990 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Jack Hairston worked for the Jacksonville Journal in January 1968 when he attempted to interview Joe Namath. The New York Jets quarterback was in town for the American Football League All-Star Game. Hairston met Namath at 10 a.m. in the hotel lobby.

“He was nice as could be,” said Hairston. “I walked around with him for 15 minutes. He introduced me to other players. Then I asked him to sit down for an interview.”

“I don’t have time for no (bleeping) sports writers,” replied Namath.

Hairston went to the East team’s practice that day and received the same type of rejection from Namath after practice. Later, Hairston attempted to call Namath at the hotel, but the operator told him that all calls to Namath’s room were blocked.

“I went back to the paper and blistered the son of a bitch,” said Hairston, who joined the FWAA in 1954. “I must have gotten 250 letters. Most of them were pro Namath.”

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Pillars of the FWAA: Jim Brock (1934-2008), Cotton Bowl Athletic Association

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:  http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the 18th installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Jim Brock was the 1989 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

By Gene Duffey

Several reporters were attempting to gain access to the Olympic Village at the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal. Because of the massacre at the 1972 Games in Munich, security was extremely tight.

Jim "Hoss" Brock, 1989 winner of the Bert McGrane Award

Jim “Hoss” Brock, 1989 winner of the Bert McGrane Award

One of the reporters finally got hold of Jim Brock, one of the press stewards for the American delegation, who could approve entrance to the Village.

“I’m burning my feet in that direction right now, Hoss,” replied Brock. The line became the most repeated of any among the media covering the Games and Brock became as popular as U.S. boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and high jumper Dwight Stones for his unlimited cooperation.

You couldn’t help but have a good team if you were around Jim Brock. If he had been an actor he would have been perfect for movies like “The Sting” or “Eight Men Out,” wearing a black bowler hat and handling an unlit cigar.

The name “Hoss” became Brock’s trademark. He called nearly everyone “Hoss.” He never had to worry about forgetting anyone’s name. And if the guy’s wife was along, she was usually “Darlin’ ” to Brock. Even though he knew thousands of “Hosses,” the way Brock said it made every one of them feel special.

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President’s column: 2015 directory an invaluable resource

ffaw_redesignOMAHA  Members of the Football Writers Association of America are in the process of receiving a piece of pure gold.

That’s how strongly I feel about the value of our annual directory: 250 pages of precious information to help all of us work smarter and faster. This book will pay dividends on your membership fee over and over and over again.

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

Don’t just toss this gem aside when it arrives. Place it in your workbag immediately. The contact information from fellow members is invaluable. The names, addresses and cell numbers of sports information directors are there in an easy-to-read-and-find format. Need to contact a beat writer or a play-by-play announcer for a bit of background? That’s there, too. Also, calendars detailing the dates of various games, awards and meetings are included. And it’s in this one spot. You don’t waste time sifting through multiple websites looking for what you need. Practice schedules, times and contact information for weekly teleconferences and lists of all-time award winners are all there, too. A special addition this year is our 75th Anniversary All-America Team.

As a member, you have online access to the guide, too.

If you get a chance, offer a big thank you to Executive Director Steve Richardson and Editor Ted Gangi and our friends at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic for their toil on this important project. One more thing: show the directory to someone who isn’t a member. Hopefully, he or she will see what they are missing and want to join.

Super 16 Poll More…

2015 Best Game Story, by Ivan Maisel

ffaw_redesignComment by the judge, Alan Cox: Good look at one of the bigger games of the season as Oregon beat seemingly unbeatable Florida State, hitting home the key plays from the game. The article gave you a feel for what happened without simply being just a complete play-by-play recap, and had a great variety of quotes from both sides. It had a great lead and was easy and enjoyable to read.

By Ivan Maisel

ESPN.com

PASADENA, Calif. – Give a game ball to the data geeks, the emotionless analysts who crunched the numbers and determined that No. 2 Oregon would beat No. 3 Florida State and advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T.

Ivan Maisel

Ivan Maisel

Those of us governed by the pit of our stomachs, the ones who had seen the defending national champion Seminoles find a way to win no matter how scruffy their play, had trouble buying into the staging of Duck Dynasty at the Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual.

Yes, Oregon had a plus-20 edge in turnover margin, but Florida State had come from behind in nine of its last 11 games.

Yes, the Ducks dominated the Pac-12, winning their last eight games by an average of 25 points, but the Seminoles had won seven games by six points or fewer. They had the indomitable quarterback, Jameis Winston, who had not lost since a high school game in 2011.

When the sun no longer lit the San Gabriel Mountains and the fourth quarter of the inaugural semifinal began, Florida State would seize control.

It didn’t quite work out that way on a typically spectacular New Year’s Day in the Arroyo Seco. By the time the fourth quarter began, all Florida State had seized was up. The Seminoles’ 29-game winning streak vaporized, their composure lost somewhere amid five turnovers in six possessions in the second half, Jimbo Fisher’s squad got steamrolled by the Ducks 59-20.

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2015 Best Feature, by Pete Thamel

ffaw_redesignComment by the judge, Steve Richardson: Thoughtful, well-researched piece on UT’s Charlie Strong. This story got way below the surface and explained why Strong is the way he is. It explains his life every step of the way from his childhood to becoming the CEO of one of college football’s traditional powers.

By Pete Thamel

Sports Illustrated

Pete Thamel, Sports Illustrated

Pete Thamel, Sports Illustrated

Charlie Strong opens his eyes. It’s 4 a.m. He rises, dresses and, without caffeine, drives 20 minutes to the Texas football facility. On Mondays he runs south to downtown via Red River Street and returns on Guadalupe Street. On Tuesdays he heads through neighborhoods to the north. The routes vary each day, but the goal remains the same — shave a few seconds off his time from the week before.

He does not always succeed, but Strong still bangs out five miles at a nine-minute clip, straining to outrace some previous version of himself. He has done this for his entire career, through 14 coaching jobs at eight universities — three decades spent pushing himself forward while running in loops. And yet even when he has reached his destination, Strong cannot help but do what he has always done, so he runs just as hard.

Last winter, after going 23-3 during his final two seasons at Louisville, Strong landed what many consider the best coaching gig in the country, signing a five-year, $26 million deal at Texas. If everything is big in Texas, the task of reviving the football team is no exception. The Longhorns went 18-17 in the Big 12 under Mack Brown over the last four seasons; this year they didn’t have a player drafted by the NFL for the first time since 1937. And Strong’s hiring as the program’s first black coach carries with it a social significance that matches the breadth of his improbable journey. “Could you ever believe,” Strong confided to a friend recently, “that I ended up at Texas?”

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2015 FWAA Best Writing Contest winners announced

ffaw_redesignThree previous first-place winners occupied top spots again in the 23rd annual FWAA Best Writing Contest results announced on Sept. 1.

ESPN.com’s Ivan Maisel claimed first place for the third straight year in Best Game Story Category. This year, Maisel’s winning account: Oregon’s victory over Florida State in one of the two College Football Playoff semifinal games. Maisel also added an Honorable Mention in the Columns Category.

The other previous winners were Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated and Ted Miller, also of ESPN.com. Thamel won the Feature Category this year for a well-researched piece on new Texas Longhorns coach Charlie Strong, showing an emotional side of the coach’s trail to one of college football’s top jobs. Miller won the Column Category for an inside look at the rise of Oregon’s program and with it the expectations and the change of attitude in Eugene.

Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star was a first-time winner for his Enterprise Category Story on the rise and fall of the Kansas football program, from a Top 10 team in 2007 to one of the lower echelon teams only a few years later.

Andrea Adelson of ESPN was a second-place finisher in the Enterprise Category and Columns.  One of her stories focused on former head coaches at UAB and New Mexico State re-starting their careers and the other was a column on a perceived in-season snub of Florida State by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.

The winners in each category will receive a personalized football from The Big Game and a cash prize.  Second and third places win cash prizes and certificates. Honorable mentions receive certificates.  All will be recognized at the FWAA’s Annual Award Breakfast on Jan. 11, 2016, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The following is the complete list of honorees in the 2015 FWAA Best Writing Contest.  Click on the write’s name to read the first-place story in each category.

Game

First place — Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com

Second place — Jesse Temple, FOXSportsWisconsin.com

Third place — James Crepea, Montgomery Advertiser

Honorable mention — Mike Griffith, MLive Media Group; Steve Helwagen, Bucknuts.com; Matt Fortuna, ESPN.com

Feature

First place — Pete Thamel, Sports Illustrated

Second place — Andrew Greif, The Oregonian

Third place — Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com

Honorable mention —  Brian Hamilton, SI.com; Tod Palmer, The Kansas City Star; Bill Landis, cleveland.com/The Plain Dealer

Column

First place — Ted Miller, ESPN.com

Second place — Andrea Adelson, ESPN.com

Third place — Ben Jones, StateCollege.com

Honorable mention — Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com; Bill Bender, Sporting News; David Visser, TomahawkNation.com; Glenn Guilbeau, Gannett Louisiana Newspapers

Enterprise

First place — Rustin Dodd, The Kansas City Star

Second place — Andrea Adelson, ESPN.com

Third place — Bobby La Gesse, Ames Tribune

Honorable mention — Alex Scarborough, ESPN.com; Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle; Kevin Armstrong, New York Daily News