ATLANTA — On the day of the fourth College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Steve Wieberg receives the FWAA’s prestigious Bert McGrane Award, tantamount to the organization’s Hall of Fame.
Wieberg will accept the McGrane Award at the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel. It was an honor well-deserved not only for his ground-breaking role on the CFP Selection Committee, which helped determine the four playoff teams the last four years, but for his long career at USA Today from 1982 to 2012.
“Stunned, incredibly grateful and humbled by the greats who have won it and just as much by those who haven’t,” Wieberg said upon learning he was the recipient of the award that goes to a person who has performed great service to the FWAA and/or the writing profession.
In 2014, Steve Wieberg became a past media member on the first CFP Selection Committee. After completing a four-year stint on the committee, he undoubtedly has paved the way for future past media members to be a part of one of college sports’ most influential bodies.
“Steve’s position on the committee was, well, sort of a breakthrough in college sports,” said FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson. “But it goes to show you there are those in the media who generate great respect from those they have covered over the years.
“He is certainly a person someone entering or now in the journalism field should try and emulate. He wrote stories and covered subjects with tenacity. His ability to explain complex issues in clear terms was classical. And, at the end of the day, the readers of USA Today and our profession were the big winners.”
The McGrane Award was established in 1974 as a memorial to Bert McGrane, long-time Des Moines Register-Tribune sports writer who was one of the founding members of the FWAA. He was the FWAA’s executive director from the early 1940’s until 1973.
“When we decided it would be great to have a former reporter on the selection committee, Steve came to mind immediately,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said. “And he exceeded our high expectations. He contributed with his wisdom, analytical mindset and thorough research.
“Steve wasn’t labeled as a reporter by his colleagues on the committee — he was simply a respected peer,” Hancock added. “And besides all that, his self-effacing humor made working with him a real pleasure. You all know this — Steve is a great guy.”
Wieberg, editor in the public affairs department of the Kansas City Public Library since 2013, recalls what one of his fellow CFP Selection Committee members noted. “Condoleezza Rice has said repeatedly — and I think sincerely — that this is the best committee she has ever been a part of,” Wieberg said. “If it was the best for her, you can be certain it is for me.”
Wieberg said he went on the committee with two priorities. Getting the selections right would reinforce the new playoff system. “I also have been keenly aware that I would represent the writers and other media on this committee, and it has been important to me to do a good enough job to validate the CFP’s decision to give us that seat at the table,” he said.
Wieberg forged an award-winning career in journalism at USA Today. He was a frequent winner in FWAA, USBWA and Associated Press Sports Editors contests as well as a recipient of several other awards. A University of Missouri graduate, Wieberg was able to build an extensive network of relationships across the country that had few equals. He could break stories on the national stage as well provide the reader with insight as to why they were happening.
“As an original staff writer, I also took great pride and satisfaction in seeing USA Today grow form a startup in 1982 to a publication with a circulation of more than 2 million and influence on the way newspapers nationwide came to look,” he said. “I knew we’d made it when I saw a USA Today box in a street scene in Ghostbusters in 1984.”