DALLAS — Veteran journalist Ivan Maisel, whose work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Newsday, Sports Illustrated and on ESPN.com, is the winner of the FWAA’s prestigious Bert McGrane Award. He will be honored next Monday at the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Celebrating its 75th Anniversary — founded in 1941 — the FWAA will bestow the honor on Maisel, 55, an award-winning journalist who served as the FWAA’s President in 1995.
The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, has been awarded to person who has performed great service to the organization and/or profession since 1974. McGrane is a former Des Moines, Iowa sportswriter-editor, who served as the association’s executive director from the early 1940s until 1973.
Maisel is the 43rd recipient of the Bert McGrane Award, which appears in the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. He succeeds National Football Foundation President and CEO Steve Hatchell as winner of the award.
“I can’t imagine an award more worthy than one selected by your peers,” Maisel said. “The Bert McGrane Award winners are featured in the College Football Hall of Fame, and there can’t be anything cooler than that.”
A sportswriter since 1981, he has covered national college football at The Dallas Morning News (1987-94), Newsday (1994-97), Sports Illustrated (1997-2002) and ESPN.com (2002-present). Maisel, who hails from Alabama but graduated from Stanford, lists a long list of friends and associates who have boosted his career.
“Dan Jenkins, then and now; the late Ron Fimrite, who not only wrote with a clean grace and a man-about-town style, but showed me how to treat my subjects; Steve Wulf, who taught me how to make the little anecdote tell a bigger story; Dave Smith, who hired me at The Dallas Morning News and put me on the national college football beat, if not on the front of the Sunday sports section; and my friend and colleague for the last 13 years, David Duffey, who shares my passion and sensibility about what makes a story.
“And my writing colleagues: I learned reporting from Mark Blaudschun; fresh ideas, humor and integrity from Gene Wojciechowski; passion from Tony Barnhart; hard work from Dennis Dodd, and from our beat writer of the year, Chris Dufresne, just great wit.”
Maisel adds what the FWAA has meant to him: “As our collective voice to the schools and conferences, as the publisher of the directory, which for its 20-year existence has remained in my bag, and as the gathering place for my friends and colleagues, the FWAA has developed into an invaluable professional resource.”
His year as FWAA President was tumultuous. The organization was in transition.
“I had not been president more than a few weeks when I received news that our executive director, Volney Meece, had died suddenly,” Maisel said. “My two greatest accomplishments as FWAA President were one, I picked up the phone when Steve Richardson called to inquire about replacing Volney; and two, I suggested that we create a directory similar to the NFL Black Book. Tiger made it happen, as he has made everything happen for the FWAA for more than 20 years.”
Maisel has had a working bag at most of the big college games during the last three decades, but two or those stand out even to him, a grizzled writing veteran who has adapted well to the new communications age. Maisel has served as host of the ESPN Championship Drive podcast since 2007.
“I was in the press box when Kordell Stewart threw the Hail Mary at the Big House in 1994,” he said. “Vahe Gregorian and I didn’t leave early for the locker room, and that taught me not to leave if the winner is in doubt. I saw Reggie Bush go off on Fresno State in 2005. I was in the press box in 2013 at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the Kick Six.”
He wrote a first-place story in the FWAA Best Writing Contest on that Auburn thriller over Alabama, one of six awards he has captured over the years in the FWAA Contest alone. He has won three straight game story first-place awards. The football for that one is already in his den back in Fairfield, Connecticut, where he resides with wife Meg. They have two daughters, Sarah, who lives in San Francisco, and Elizabeth, a freshman at Stanford. Their son Max, 21, died in February.
“We miss Max every day,” Maisel said. “My life is not as full as it had been for 21 years, and I expect it never will be. You learn to carry the pain and loss, because they are just … there. We are going about the task of putting one foot in front of the other.”
Maisel’s FWAA Awards
- 1993, Enterprise: The state of minority coaches in I-A football.
- 2002, Column: Dennis Franchione’s sudden departure from Alabama
- 2005, Feature: the Tulane football team in the days after Katrina
- 2012, Game: No. 1 Kansas State is stunned at Baylor
- 2013, Game: The Kick Six
- 2014, Game: Oregon embarrasses Florida State.