President’s column: Welcome to the West, and a week of FWAA activities, awards

By Stefanie Loh/2018 FWAA President

SAN JOSE — Welcome to the West Coast, everyone.

2018 FWAA President Stefanie Loh of the Seattle Times

I’m excited to welcome you all to sunny San Jose for our FWAA meetings and to nearby Santa Clara to witness the first College Football Playoff national championship game that will be played in the Pacific time zone.

Thank you all for coming West, to the land both touched and built by the spirit of manifest destiny.

That indomitable pioneering spirit is embodied by Bill Clark, the latest winner of the FWAA/Allstate Sugar Bowl Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, whom we will honor on Saturday, Jan. 5 at a reception at the San Jose Marriott.

What Clark has accomplished this season at the University of Alabama-Birmingham makes him one of the greatest stories in college football. The Blazers’ remarkable story has unfolded like a Hollywood movie, one I’d love to see on the big screen someday.

Clark was less than a year into his tenure as head football coach at UAB in 2014 when the program was disbanded due to a lack of funding. That decision was reversed six months later, and Clark was signed to a new contract. His challenge? Build an FBS football program from scratch and get the Blazers ready to compete with a regular schedule beginning in the fall 2017.

This fall, in the second season competing after the Blazers reinstated football, Clark led UAB to its first C-USA championship, its first bowl victory in school history – a 37-13 victory over Northern Illinois at the Boca Raton Bowl — and its first 11-victory season. You can’t script this stuff.

So please, give UAB head coach Bill Clark a standing ovation when he’s presented with his well-deserved award.

Following the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Reception, the FWAA Board Meeting with take place on Jan. 6, and we’ll kick off the FWAA Awards Breakfast sponsored by ESPN, on Monday, Jan. 7, before the national championship game. In addition, FWAA Past Presidents will be honored by the National Football Foundation at a private dinner presented by diDNA on Friday night.

At the awards breakfast, we’ll honor the FWAA/Armed Forces Merit Award Recipient, Dr. Chris Howard, the president of Robert Morris University and the first Campbell Award recipient. The Volney Meece Scholarship winner, Mallory Rosetta of Lubbock, Texas, will be honored as well. We’ll also acknowledge the accomplishments of a couple of illustrious members as 2018 FWAA Co-Beat Writers of the Year: FWAA Past President Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com, and Chris Vannini of The Athletic. And our prestigious Bert McGrane Award (FWAA Hall of Fame) will be presented to FWAA Past President Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star. Another longtime tradition, Mike Griffith will announce the FWAA Freshman All-America Team.

In keeping with the West Coast theme, the great Dave Plati, Colorado’s longtime SID, will be honored as our Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

It’s been quite an eventful year for our organization. We made a concerted effort to step up our social media efforts, partnered with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) to present the Outland Trophy to Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, and conceived the Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award – we’ll announce the inaugural winner at the FWAA Awards Breakfast.

So enjoy your trip to the Best Coast, and let’s raise a toast to the completion of another successful, thoroughly entertaining college football season!

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