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Comment by the judge: Superb story about something that happened many years ago that even the most ardent college football fans probably don’t know about. Researching something as far back as the early 1960s is never easy and the writer does a fine job presenting it from all angles.

By Tom Shanahan

TomShanahan.Report

The 1962 Rose Bowl established a college football Civil Rights milestone, but the 60th anniversary of the New Year’s Day game came and went without attention or even a fractional accounting. What should be remembered as a tipping point quickly turned into an oxymoron – a “forgotten milestone.”

The culprit was a 1960s media custom of avoiding race in sports stories. In this case, failing to fully report on the maneuvering of a segregationist coach, Alabama’s Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Events began with a small group of UCLA Black students and the Bruins’ eight Black players angered upon learning Bryant attempted to gain a backdoor invitation to Pasadena in place of the traditional Big Ten entry. The Black students discussed a gameday protest at the stadium. The Black players, led by Kermit Alexander, a future NFL Pro Bowler with the San Francisco 49ers, threatened to not take the field.

The UCLA reaction was largely word-of-mouth — until Los Angeles Times sports columnist Jim Murray got wind of it. Murray understood its significance, unlike his peers – including those on his own paper — who followed media customs. Some looked the other way. Other writers lobbied for Alabama oblivious of social issues.

Despite the Times’ influential stature in Southern California, the 1961 UCLA protestations weren’t reported in the newspaper outside of Murray’s two Pulitzer Prize-worthy columns. They were published Nov. 19 and Nov. 20, with Birmingham, Alabama, datelines.

Murray’s biting words – his career later included a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for commentary – derailed Bryant’s backdoor maneuvering. A week after Murray’s stories appeared, Alabama president Frank Rose announced his school was instead attending the Sugar Bowl in segregated New Orleans.

Not a word was mentioned on the ESPN broadcast of the 2022 Rose Bowl, Ohio State’s 48-45 victory.

American sports can provide a stage for social change but telling the stories about race in American sports afterward are often complicated. Major media platforms avoid complicated stories that implicate a legend such as Bryant.

Alabama’s response, though, demonstrates Bryant clearly got the message when his team wasn’t invited. Taking his team outside the Mason-Dixon Line attracted unwanted attention. Bryant retreated into the segregated cocoon for the remainder of the decade. In the South, his antebellum attitudes versus the U.S. Constitution weren’t questioned by a fawning media.

For example, Bryant avoided criticism when Alabama’s campus desegregated in 1963. He blithely maintained an all-white program another seven years until recruiting his first Black player in 1970, Wilbur Jackson.

He didn’t schedule Alabama to play outside the Mason-Dixon until, oddly enough, a 1971 game against USC at the Coliseum. It was likely no coincidence that the 1971 season also was the first year Alabama dressed a Black player in a varsity game.

In 1961, news cycles moved to the day-to-day beat of newspaper reporting. Today’s frenetic minute-to-minute pace fueled by social media, sports cable TV and ubiquitous sports talk radio was decades into the future. Black Historiography – how history was written or ignored – explains how an Ohio State volcanic eruption quickly buried the UCLA/Alabama backstory beneath the lava.

First, Ohio State defeated Michigan 50-20 on Nov. 25 to clinch the Big Ten title. The volcano erupted two days later when the Ohio State Senate Faculty voted to decline a Rose Bowl bid if offered. Ohio State’s Senate Faculty had explained it feared coach Woody Hayes, who was in his 11th year with national titles in 1954 and 1957, had turned their school’s reputation into a football factory.

Ohio State professor Anthony Menitz of the Philosophy Department was quoted in an AP story published in the Nov. 28 Times: “The issue simply is this, we have the opportunity to destroy the image of this being the football capital of the world.”

The end result was the Ohio State tale – sanitized of race – quickly took over the news cycle. The narrative for posterity formed without UCLA/Alabama in historical memory.

Avoiding race in sports stories traced to the 1930s and the “Conspiracy of Silence,” a term that Black sportswriters used. They claimed the mainstream media was complicit maintaining Major League’s Baseball’s color line by failing to write about segregation in the national pastime.

Chris Lamb, who is the Chair of Journalism and Public Relations at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, has written six books about race and sports. In Lamb’s 2004 book, “Blackout,” he explains the “Conspiracy of Silence” through the story of Jackie Robinson’s first spring training with the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1946.

Miami University’s Donald Spivey, a Distinguished Professor of History and Special Advisor to the President (Julio Frenk) on Racial Justice, began researching and writing about Black Historiography in the 1980s.

In today’s media world, UCLA’s 1961 players would have gained a place alongside their school’s long history of pioneers. The figures include the 1939 UCLA football team with Jackie Robinson, Kenny Washington and Woody Strode. The trio’s story was recently retold in the 2021 book “The Forgotten First” by Keyshawn Johnson and Bob Glauber.

All three players, who were from L.A.-area high schools, attended UCLA because USC shunned Black athletes in the 1930s. They later wrote more history in pro sports. Robinson, of course, broke Major League Baseball’s color line in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Washington and Strode broke the same barriers in the NFL in 1946 with the Los Angeles Rams.

Basketball Hall-of-Famer Bill Walton, a socially conscious athlete throughout his UCLA and NBA careers, only recently learned about UCLA’s 1961 Black players standing up to Alabama.

“UCLA is full of stories like that,” Walton said. “I love that about UCLA. I’m so proud of and grateful for UCLA.”

The maneuvering behind the scenes of the 1962 Rose Bowl centers on Bryant and a key ally, Admiral Tom Hamilton. They were old Navy World War II friends.

Hamilton was the commissioner of the Athletics Association of Western Universities (a Pac-12 forerunner), but what stood out in his job title was the unique authority granted him to name the AAWU champion’s Rose Bowl opponent. Bryant counted on his old friend for a friendly invite.

The circumstances resulted from controversies seeded in the late 1950s with a West Coast pay-for-play scandal. It broke up the eight-team Pacific Coast Conference, creating a lapse in the exclusive Big Ten/PCC Rose Bowl contract that dated to 1947.

The five-team AAWU was formed: UCLA, USC, Cal, Stanford and Washington. The AAWU retained an automatic bid to the Rose Bowl but not the Big Ten. The first two years Hamilton stuck to the New Year’s Day traditional matchup. The 1959 season/1960 Rose Bowl paired Washington and Wisconsin and the 1960 season/1961 Rose Bowl pitted Washington and Minnesota.

What changed in the 1961 season was Alabama’s return to national prominence.

Alabama, Bryant’s alma mater, brought him back to the Tuscaloosa campus in 1958 to rebuild the program after successful stints at Maryland (1946), Kentucky (1947-53) and Texas A&M (1954-57). His 1960 Crimson Tide finished ranked No. 9 with an 8-2-1 record.

As the 1961 season unfolded and Alabama climbed toward No. 1, Bryant envisioned an undefeated season and his first national title on the Pasadena stage of the Granddaddy of Them All. Bryant knew firsthand the prestige of playing in the Rose Bowl – not to mention the financial rewards.

He played 57 minutes for Alabama in the 1935 Rose Bowl when the Crimson Tide beat Stanford. Alabama’s fanbase took great pride in participating in six Rose Bowls with a 4-1-1 record. In an era when poll voting declared the national champion at the end of the regular season, the Rose Bowl was the denouement to the college football season.

Alabama’s last appearance was in 1946, a year before Big Ten/PCC contract, but times changed by the 1960s. America was coming to terms, slowly, with the Civil Rights movement. Old-world men, Bryant and Hamilton, who failed to understand progress were being left behind.

Bryant, who died in 1983 at age 69, was raised in a world of 19th-century southern attitudes. His career thrived in an antebellum world the Ku Klux Klan violently fought to preserve.

Hamilton was a conservative military officer in addition to old-world man. Decades later, he never forgave Bill Walton for his arrest protesting the Vietnam War as a UCLA student in 1972. When Hamilton, in his retirement years, served on the board of San Diego’s Breitbard Hall of Champions, he told board members that Walton, a San Diego native, would never make the San Diego Breitbard Hall of Fame as long as he chaired the board.

Walton, an all-time talent honored by the NBA as one of its 75 greatest players, wasn’t enshrined in his hometown Hall until 1990 — after Hamilton no longer served. Hamilton died in 1994 at age 88.

The 1962 Rose Bowl, when studied chronologically in the archives of L.A. Times, provided an example of Critical Race Theory through football – without, hopefully, the political football. CRT’s purpose is to teach stories that haven’t been fully told. Sometimes those stories include exposing painful truths – a revered coach who was a segregationist, in this case.

It’s unclear when Alabama was first floated to exploit the Big Ten/PCC contract lapse, but speculation mounted by mid-November. In the Associated Press polls (released on Mondays) Alabama climbed from No. 5 to No. 4 on Oct. 23 at 5-0. The Crimson Tide jumped to No. 2 on Nov. 6 at 7-0.

On the same day the Nov. 6 poll was released, the weekly Southern California Football Writers Luncheon convened at the Sheraton-West on Wilshire Blvd. The luncheons were routine gatherings to hear from UCLA coach Billy Barnes, USC coach John McKay, Los Angeles Rams’ coach Bob Waterfield and other invited speakers.

Ken Hooton, the director of public relations for the Southern California Big Ten club, was invited as a Nov. 6 speaker. He foreshadowed impending events, dropping news hefty enough to top Al Wolf’s Nov. 7 Times story.

The headline:Ohio State, Minnesota May Shun Rose Bowl”

At the time of luncheon, No. 3-ranked Ohio State and No. 5 Minnesota shared the Big Ten lead with unbeaten conference records.

Hooton, addressing the Big Ten race and Rose Bowl bid, said, “The Academic Senate at Ohio State is opposed to the Rose Bowl game and probably would not let the school accept a bid, were one received.”

Although the news was stunning, it wasn’t unusual in the 1960s for a college’s academic side of campus to wield authority over the athletic department. Notre Dame’s administration banned bowl games for academic reasons from 1925 until the 1969 season.

In those days, Notre Dame’s bowl ban had no impact on winning national titles since the final poll votes were tabulated after the regular season. Once the polls shifted the final votes to the conclusion of the bowl season, Notre Dame played Texas in the 1970 Cotton Bowl.

But Hooton’s time at the microphone didn’t stop with his Ohio State bombshell. He proceeded to inflame the Alabama speculation.

“It is my personal opinion,” Hooton added, “that Minnesota wouldn’t accept, even though it’s an individual matter for the schools now, because of a repeat trip would be contrary to Big Ten thinking.”

When the 1947 contract was signed, the Big Ten insisted on a no-repeat clause, although it only applied to the Big Ten entry. Minnesota had won the 1960 Big Ten title and played in the 1961 Rose Bowl. Although No. 1-ranked Minnesota lost to No. 6 Washington 17-7 in the 1961 Rose Bowl, the Gophers already had been declared national champion at the end of the regular season.

Wolf’s Nov. 7 story, using the Big Five nickname for the AAWU, continued: “So … Alabama may yet be the team which will oppose the Big Five champion next New Year’s Day. The Southeastern Conference does not have a tie-up with the Sugar Bowl, or any other bowl. Alabama has expressed a keen desire to play in the Rose, where it last appeared in 1946.”

In the Nov. 12 edition of the L.A. Mirror, the afternoon paper owned by the morning Times, sports editor Sid Ziff’s column addressed the issue.

The headline: “One Vote for the South.”

Ziff, noting a new Big Ten/AAWU contract was expected to be renewed prior to the 1963 Rose Bowl, suggested taking advantage of the outsider opportunity before the door closed. He nominated Alabama or Georgia Tech, another segregated team from the SEC (Georgia Tech left the SEC after the 1963 season).

On Monday, Nov. 13, Times sports editor Paul Zimmerman wrote in his column similar thoughts favoring the two SEC schools.

In the AP poll released in the same Nov. 13 edition, Alabama (8-0) remained No. 2 with three first-place votes. Texas was No. 1 with 41 first-place votes. Georgia Tech, which was also segregated, was No. 9 on Nov. 6, but its upset loss to Tennessee dropped the Yellow Jackets out of the Nov. 13 rankings (the AP poll was only the Top 10 in those days).

Wolf again covered the coaches’ luncheon on Nov. 13. His story in the Times on Nov. 14 was about an informal poll of writers.

The headline: “’Bama choice of writers for bowl”

On Nov. 15, the Times published an AP story with a Tuscaloosa, Alabama, dateline.

The headline: “Rose Bowl Fever falls on ’Bama”

The story highlighted Alabama’s pride in its Rose Bowl history. Curiously, though, the story also noted Bryant declined to answer questions about his Rose Bowl interest. Apparently, no one pressed him.

Two days later, though, Zimmerman’s Friday, Nov. 17 Times column made it clear Bryant wanted the Rose Bowl bid despite his silence. Zimmerman quoted Birmingham News sports editor Zipp Newman:

“The Crimson Tide would walk there if they had to, and that goes for Alabama’s president, Dr. Frank Rose, on down, although they can’t talk about it yet.”

In another story the Times published on Nov. 17, this one with a Miami dateline, the AP reported Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl scouts were attending the Nov. 18 Georgia Tech-Alabama game at Legion Field in Birmingham. Hamilton was indirectly quoted through the Orange Bowl’s executive director, Van C. Kussrow:

“Hamilton explained to me the Rose Bowl’s interest in Southeastern Conference teams,” Kussrow said. “He said their position had been made more difficult because Minnesota and Ohio State aren’t considered strong possibilities out there.”

That was more than Hamilton ever said directly to the Times or other Southern California media outlets.

By that same day, Friday, Nov. 17, Murray arrived in Birmingham for Alabama’s Saturday, Nov. 18 game. The Crimson Tide (9-0) beat Georgia Tech 10-0 to remain unbeaten.

In the Sunday, Nov. 19 Times, Murray’s column mocked Alabama’s Jim Crow society, fans and media deifying Bryant. They liked to say he could walk on water. Murray’s story led with the first reference to UCLAs protestations found in the Times archives.

The headline: “’Bama and Ol’ Bear”

“BIRMINGHAM — The University of Alabama just about wrapped up the all-white championship of the whole cotton-picking world here this weekend in a game quietly relegated to the 18th century before it began by a band of Negro students at UCLA.”

Murray, based on his column, seemed assured pressure would prevent Alabama from receiving a Rose Bowl invitation, but it wasn’t reflected elsewhere in his own paper. In the same Sunday edition, the Times’ college football roundup of Saturday game results touted Alabama’s hopes.

The headline: “’Bama scores Rosy win”

In the Monday, Nov. 20 poll, Alabama had climbed to No. 1 after former No. 1 Texas was upset by Texas Christian.

Murray saved his best writing – worthy of a 1961 Pulitzer vote recount — for the Monday, Nov. 20 edition.

The headline: “Bedsheets and ’Bama”

Murray labeled Birmingham as the “showplace of the South – gateway to the Ku Klux Klan.” He continued it was the place where, “when they say evening dress, they mean a bedsheet with eyeholes. And bring a match. We’re lighting a cross.”

Ouch! But it was fair.

Alabama in 1961 was known for the KKK bombing Black homes and churches. Birmingham, where Alabama played games at Legion Field, was known as “Bombingham.” Legion Field was located only blocks from the 16th Street Baptist Church that KKK members bombed two years later, killing “Four Little Girls.” The bombing was the KKK’s response to Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream Speech” on Sept. 15, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial.

“The bombed-out houses aren’t the work of the enemy,” Murray continued in his column. “White male Americans are the enemies of America here. The Constitution is being torn in half by people whose ancestors helped write it. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s worse than un-American. It’s un-human.”

Then Murray got down to Rose Bowl business, explaining he joined Alabama writers on Friday to interview Bryant on the upcoming game at his Bankhead Hotel suite. But Murray’s questions weren’t about X’s and O’s.

He wrote, “Coach, Bryant,” I asked. “What do you think of the announcement out of UCLA that the colored players would not take the field against your team if it got to the Rose Bowl?”

Murray described a silence that fell over the room. Alabama’s media wasn’t accustomed to hearing reporters press Bryant – and certainly not about segregation. Then Murray quoted Bryant’s response:

“Oh,” he says. “I would have nothing to say about that. Neither will the university, I am sure.”

That Bryant response, especially in retrospect, added new insight to the old joke Bryant didn’t have a boss.

Murray’s “Bedsheets and Bama” story continued, describing the Alabama’s sycophantic writers looking at the floor until one with a “beet red” face spoke up: “Tell them West Coast N-lovers to go lick your boots, Bear.”

With Murray having brought UCLA’s opposition into the open, two Alabama newspapers attempted to discredit the UCLA Black students.

Author Kurt Edward Kemper documents this in his 2009 book “College Football and American Culture in the Cold War.” The Montgomery Advertiser reported UCLA’s administration was unaware of a Black student organization planning a protest. The Birmingham News wrote the protest plans were “greatly exaggerated.”

Some context is needed here. The claims were specious with the perspective of time. Black student groups mobilizing and gaining recognition from campus administrators was a product of the late 1960s. African-Americans didn’t have a voice on campus until examples of the UCLA’s 1961 students spoke up as activists.

Bryant’s lack of comment to Murray suggested he still expected Admiral Hamilton to bring the USS Alabama to the Rose Bowl port.

On the West Coast, Hamilton matched Bryant’s silence. He had little to say about the Rose Bowl pairing, even though there was heightened interest over the upcoming Nov. 25 USC-UCLA game at the Coliseum to decide the AAWU title.

It’s interesting to note Murray broke a sports media custom in only his first year with the L.A. Times (he wrote from 1961 until his death in 1998 at age 78). He had previously worked for Time magazine as an entertainment writer and the founding of Sports Illustrated in 1954.

A search of the LA Times archives reveals Murray’s Nov. 20 column was only the second and last reference to the UCLA protestations prior to the Rose Bowl. His colleagues failed to pick up on the significance of winning a standoff with a segregationist coach.

“Jim always believed that calling out injustice in the sports world was more important than reporting the results of games,” said Linda Murray Hofmans, Murray’s wife at the time of is death who directs the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation. “He wasn’t intimidated by other sportswriters, angry readers who demanded he ‘stick to sports,’ or even legends like Bear Bryant. He was a trailblazer in that regard.

“Most sportswriters of ‘60s and ‘70s defended the status quo or looked the other way, but Jim used his column as a bullhorn to fight for civil rights whenever he deemed it necessary.”

The Black weekly L.A. Sentinel and the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student paper, were two Southern California newspapers not as likely to follow a 1960s media custom avoiding race, yet they also lacked UCLA protest references.

The Sentinel published a story criticizing Alabama as a potential choice but without mentioning a threatened UCLA protest. Brad Pye Jr. wrote the Rose Bowl Committee would avoid “adverse publicity” if it picked Ohio State over Alabama.

The headline: Forget Alabama–Bring on Buckeyes

Pye wrote, “Alabama hasn’t seen fit to put integration in action before now, so there is no reason why it should get an invitation to the Rose Bowl until such a time when it decides to put the American way into action on its own soil.”

Melvin Durslag of the Los Angeles Examiner also wrote a column criticizing segregated Alabama as a Rose Bowl choice.

The headline: “Alabama—An Insult to the Bowl.”

But only Murray confronted Bryant about the reaction of UCLA Black students and Black players. Kermit Alexander, a junior halfback in 1961, explained the players’ stance in my 2015 interview with him for FanRagSports.com (now out of business).

“If we can’t play on their field in Alabama, why should they be able to play on our field in Pasadena?” Alexander said.

Alexander added no one in the 1960s media questioned him or his teammates about Alabama. Alexander’s recent health has prevented a follow-up interview.

The Alexander interview was framed around the 2015 Missouri protest. By then, an enlightened media thoroughly reported such news and hailed Missouri’s football team for threatening a boycott if racial issues on campus weren’t addressed. The players were successful, forcing the school’s president to resign.

UCLA’s 1961 response was fueled by the progress of the Civil Rights movement. Only six months earlier, May 14, 1961, a white mob in Anniston, Alabama, ambushed and firebombed a busload of 1961 Freedom Riders — including Civil Rights icon John Lewis — protesting segregation on busses and at terminals.

In the Nov. 2 edition of the Times, an AP story with an Atlanta dateline reported a federal judge ordered police in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi – states where African Americans at bus terminals continued to be arrested — to uphold federal laws outlawing segregated busses.

But there were no follow-up sports stories hailing UCLA like there was for Missouri. Only a new narrative that Ohio State turned down the bowl bid. The Ohio State story remained entrenched in time.

The first Rose Bowl bid was decided on the field when UCLA-USC met Nov. 25 in a winner-take-all game marred by a rain-soaked Coliseum field. The unranked Bruins won the mud bath 10-7 to improve to 7-3.

UCLA’s students continued celebrating the Rose Bowl berth at a Monday, Nov. 27 campus rally. The Tuesday, Nov. 28 Times story covering the rally noted Hamilton “would not elaborate” on UCLA’s opponent.

Hamilton limited his comments to a list of five schools, two unnamed teams and three Big Ten schools, No. 2 Ohio State (8-0-1), No. 7 Minnesota (7-2) and No. 8 Michigan State (7-2).

Later in the day, Nov. 27, the Ohio State bombshell exploded. Ohio State’s Faculty Senate voted 28-25 in a secret ballot to reject the Rose Bowl.

Two days before the vote, the temperamental Hayes added to the professors’ perception of him in Ohio State’s 50-20 victory over Michigan to clinch the Big Ten title. Ohio State scored its final touchdown with five seconds to play, and Hayes ordered a successful two-point conversion. He repeated the rub-it-in tactic in 1968, scoring a two-point conversion to cap a 50-14 win. In the 1968 rout, Hayes explained to the media he went for two because he couldn’t go for three.

Hayes heard news of the faculty Rose Bowl vote upon arriving to speak at Cleveland hotel. He was reported to drop his bags and roam Cleveland’s streets without speaking. On the Columbus campus, police estimated students protest crowds of 5,000 on Nov. 27 and 4,000 on Nov. 28. Windows were broken and professors hung in effigy. The Columbus Dispatch printed a list of professors that voted.

On the second night of demonstrations, Ohio State team captain Mike Ingram told the students through a loudspeaker the players had accepted the vote and to go home before someone was hurt.

In retrospect, the student protests were another reason for the professors to believe their conclusions football was running amok weren’t unreasonable. The examples continued through the march of time. At the 1978 Gator Bowl, Hayes punched a Clemson player on the sideline and was fired, ending his career in disgrace.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, the Daily Bruin reported on Nov. 28 Hamilton had watched the USC-UCLA game and returned to his San Francisco office, commenting only that the selection “might be withheld until after the games of Dec. 2.” UCLA athletic director Wilbur Johns said in the Nov. 28 Times he deferred all comments to Hamilton.

With Ohio State out, runner-up Minnesota, third-place Michigan State and fourth-place Purdue began lobbying for the Rose Bowl bid. Michigan State and Purdue hoped Minnesota would be skipped over in deference to the no-repeat Big Ten philosophy.

“If we get the bid, we’ll call the fastest meeting of our athletic council on record to accept it,” said Michigan State athletic director Biggie Munn.

Hamilton’s Dec. 2 games comment referred to Alabama playing its annual Iron Bowl against Auburn and Georgia Tech facing Georgia in their traditional rivalry game.

But Alabama president Frank Rose on Nov. 29 suddenly ended the speculation. Rose said if the Crimson Tide defeated Auburn, the school planned to accept a Sugar Bowl bid. Rose added the Sugar Bowl was the game the players preferred.

Alabama routed Auburn 34-0 and officially accepted the Sugar Bowl bid against Arkansas in New Orleans, but it’s difficult to accept Bryant, who coveted a Rose Bowl berth, left the bowl decision in the hands of a players vote.

Either way, unanswered questions remain.

When did Bryant and Hamilton back down? Did President Rose convince Bryant and Hamilton winning a national title in the Rose Bowl wasn’t worth the tradeoff. TV scenes would show UCLA’s Black students protesting outside the stadium and the Bruins’ Black players boycotting out of uniform. A largely world-of-mouth story would result in images leaping onto TV screens.

Alabama would be further portrayed nationally as a backwards state. And this time Bryant’s apologists couldn’t blame the KKK.

As the Rose Bowl announcement suspense mounted, Murray’s Dec. 1 column provided comic relief. He showed he was an equal-opportunity critic of Southern segregationists and Midwestern bullies.

The headline: “Love That Woody”

“So Woody Hayes is not coming to the Rose Bowl,” he wrote. “Dad rat it! Somebody’s always spoiling the fun.”

Murray added, “I have seen guys who were ungracious losers. But Woody was the most ungracious winner I have ever seen. He always broke me up. A loud, loveable character who went through life the way his fullbacks go through a line – knocking people down who get in his way. Once it was a couple of sportswriters.”

The Rose Bowl selection suspense ended on Dec. 2 with news topping the Sunday, Dec. 3 Times sports section.

The headline: “Minnesota to play UCLA in Rose Bowl”

In the story, UCLA captain Ron Hull said, “Most of the boys, after Ohio State and Alabama were ruled out, wanted to meet Minnesota. I’m sure we’ll give them a game.”

There remained no reference to a role played by UCLA’s Black students and Black players. Murray deserved a victory lap, but he didn’t write about the subject again. If the Alabama story wasn’t properly covered in Los Angeles, the deeper story also certainly was brushed aside in the Minneapolis media.

Minnesota All-American pick Bobby Bell, who played in the 1961 and 1962 Rose Bowl games, said in my recent interview with him he was unaware of the Alabama backstory.

“We never heard anything about the Alabama and a UCLA protest,” said Bell, a College and Pro Football Hall of Famer. “We only knew about Ohio State turning down the bid.”

The focus on the Ohio State narrative continued in a Dec. 4 Times column written by Braven Dyer. He noted comedian Bob Hope, with his Ohio ties, considered inviting Ohio State’s team to attend the Rose Bowl as his guests. Dyer’s column included a few jokes from Hope mocking Ohio State’s professors.

On New Year’s Day, 1962, No. 6-ranked Minnesota dominated the Bruins, 21-3. In the Sugar Bowl, No. 1 Alabama defeated No. 9 Arkansas, 10-3.

Arkansas’ players told reporters Alabama wasn’t worthy of its No. 1 ranking. At the time the Razorbacks were a Southwest Conference member, but their opinion didn’t matter. Alabama already had been named national champion in the final poll votes released on Dec. 4 at the end of the regular season, although it was a split title.

Among the four organizations the NCAA sanctions as designating a national champion in the poll era, Alabama (11-0-0) was voted No. 1 by the AP (writers), United Press International (coaches, now USA Today) and National Football Foundation. However, Ohio State (8-0-1) was named national champion by the Football Writers Association of America.

The Bear finally came clean 13 years later he had sought a 1962 Rose Bowl bid. He said so the release of his 1974 biography, “Bear,” written by John Underwood, an acclaimed Sports Illustrated writer.

Bryant not only admitted he both coveted the Rose Bowl berth and blamed Murray for costing him the invitation he went one step further. He claimed Murray’s two biting columns were motivated by revenge dating to 1955.

Bryant referenced his 1955 Texas A&M team losing to UCLA 21-0 at the L.A. Coliseum.

On Page 174, Underwood wrote Bryant stating: “… I snapped at a writer on the Los Angeles paper after the game. He asked if I had thought we could win, and I said, ‘You silly so-and-so, what do you think we came out here for?’

“Those things turn on you. Jim Murray came over and saw us play and made a fuss over our being considered for the Rose Bowl when we won the national championship in 1961. He wrote about segregation and the Alabama Ku Klux Klan and every unrelated scandalous thing he could think of, and we didn’t get the invitation.”

Murray didn’t work for the L.A. Times or any L.A. newspaper in 1955. In the early 1950s, he was with Time magazine and then began working for Sports Illustrated in 1953 as it prepared to launch in 1954. Murray’s 1961 motives were to offer a civics lesson to Bryant and a Jim Crow state.

Yet, Bryant wanted his readers to believe Murray’s motive was petty revenge. Bryant’s 1974 criticism of Murray also revealed how detached he was from the real world in 1974, not to mention 1961.

Alabama’s campus town of Tuscaloosa was the Alabama KKK headquarters. Joe Namath, Alabama’s legendary quarterback (1962-64), spoken in the 2013 Showtime film of his shock at spotting KKK billboards on his initial bus ride to campus from his home in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

“The first bus ride I took going back into Tuscaloosa, Alabama, scared me a bit,” Namath said, “Against the Tide. “You know how they have the signs at the side of he road, Lions Club Kiwanis Club. Uh, huh. … Ku Klux Klan, home of the Grand Imperial wizard. What? Because all I ever saw of guys in white capes and burning crosses was in the movies.”

By 1974, Bryant had plenty of time to reflect on dragging out his resistance to integration, but he never apologized. He never explained why he was apparently oblivious to President Lyndon B. Johnson having signed the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965.

From 1962 through 1967, Alabama played only all-white southern teams. The exception was facing integrated Nebraska in the 1966 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The 1966 team played eight of its 10 regular-season games at one of three Alabama stadiums, Denny Stadium (now Bryant-Denny) on campus, Legion Field in Birmingham and Ladd-Pebbles Stadium in Mobile. The only road trips were to neighboring states, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Alabama’s first integrated regular-season opponent was SEC-rival Tennessee in 1968 in Knoxville. In 1969, Tennessee routed Alabama 41-14 at Legion Field. Kentucky led the SEC in desegregation a year ahead of Tennessee, but the Wildcats weren’t on Alabama’s schedule.

History showed Bryant was a follower, not a leader, in his own conference. Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and in-state rival Auburn all recruited Black athletes by 1969, prior to Bryant. That was 60 percent of what was then a 10-team league.

Hall-of-Fame sportswriter Frank Deford noted Bryant’s reluctance to take a stance in a 1981 Sports Illustrated story:

“Given the Bear’s surpassing popularity, he had it within his power to assume a burden of leadership. Yet he held back on race and let other–and less entrenched–Southern coaches stick their necks out first. ”

The world passed by Bryant while he remained in the cocoon of the segregated South. Alabama’s 1970 schedule, which was planned years in advance, turned out to have seven integrated opponents by the turn of the decade. Oklahoma made it eight for the season in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl.

SEC schools also were ahead of Bryant scheduling teams outside the Mason-Dixon Line. Kentucky played at Indiana in 1967; Tennessee traveled to UCLA in 1967; and Vanderbilt played at Army West Point in 1968 and Michigan in 1969.

Florida didn’t travel above the Mason-Dixon Line prior to Alabama in 1971, but the Gators faced integrated opponents in three home games in the 1960s: Northwestern, 1966; Illinois, 1967; and Air Force, 1968. Tennessee played host to two integrated teams in 1965, Houston and UCLA, and one in 1966, Army.

Hyperbole, myths and fiction surrounding the 1970 USC-Alabama game at Legion Field in Birmingham led to another bewildering revisionist history twist gaining a hold in college football lore.

A false narrative crediting Bryant as a crusader and aggrandizing USC’s role portrayed the game as an integration tipping point. Bryant as a crusader is like crediting Robert E. Lee for ending slavery. Murray as the bad guy is like blaming the Antifa for the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Historical memory also has overlooked 30 of 33 southern major programs had recruited their first Black player by 1970. The 30 included Alabama. Integration in the South was fait accompli. The last three holdouts were Georgia, LSU and Mississippi. However, books and films, most of them in the 21st century, regurgitated a rote storyline.

In “Rising Tide: Bear Bryant, Joe Namath and Dixie’s Last Quarter,” a 2013 book written by Randy Roberts and Ed Krzemienski, Murray is taken to task for his Alabama columns.

On Page 135, Murray is described as “a reporter with thick bookish glasses …”

Of the trip to Birmingham, the book states on pages 136 and 137: “Murray’s claims for going to Birmingham were undoubtedly disingenuous. He was a confirmed and accomplished big league pot stirrer, and a minor league social crusader.”

What’s “disingenuous” about pointing out to a segregationist coach it’s 1961, not 1861. What’s “minor league” about confronting Bryant face-to-face on social justice on Bryant’s own turf?

UCLA’s forgotten 1961 role also led decades later to another great irony. The wrong Los Angeles school, USC, was cast as a college football integration leader in the sport’s lore. UCLA, long before USC, truly played a pioneering role in the 1960s. USC, like Alabama in the SEC, led from behind. USC shunned Black athletes in the 1930s. In the 1960s, the program followed an unwritten quota limiting the roster to a half-dozen or so Black athletes through the 1960s.

The oversights from the sports media avoiding race created a 1960s blank canvas. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the blank canvas was painted with a false narrative Bryant secretly scheduled integrated USC in 1970 with the aid of McKay, his old friend, as a game to lose. His grand scheme was to convince his bigoted fans with a loss it was time to let him recruit Black athletes.

However, neither coach mentioned such a grand plan in their books published in 1974. In a 1980 Time cover story fawningly reflecting on Bryant’s career, there was not a single word about the 1970 USC-Alabama game changing history. Bryant apologists consider the 1970 USC-Alabama myth Bryant’s crowning moment and proof he wasn’t a segregationist.

It’s true USC routed all-white Alabama 42-21, but it’s also true a year earlier integrated Tennessee routed Alabama at Legion Field, 41-14.

The linchpin to the 1970 USC-Alabama myths easily spreading was a fictional scene portraying Bryant inviting USC’s Sam Cunningham, a Black fullback, into the Alabama locker room to show his players “what a football player looked like.”

Cunningham admitted in 2003 it didn’t happen. He explained he got caught up in the story. The fictional scene was created by John Papadakis, a 1970 USC linebacker, for a screen play. The movie was never made, but retelling the scene, with its perceived humor, spread the myth into lore.

Those guffaws overlooked the racial overtones of a slave market – white players studying Cunningham’s body as he stood on a bench.

The regurgitated and unvetted stories also overlook USC was among the schools following an unwritten quota of a half-dozen or so Black players. The Trojans’ 1962 national title team had only five Black players and the 1967 national championship roster only seven.

UCLA’s eight Black players in 1961 grew into double figures later in the decade. The Associated Press reported in 1962 Michigan State’s 17 Black players was the most in major college football history. In the 1966 Game of the Century, Michigan State lined up 20 Black players and 11 Black starters against Notre Dame’s one Black athlete, Alan Page.

Schools like USC and Notre Dame were behind the times.

The 1970 Trojans were stilling shedding the residue of the quota years. USC had only five Black starters that night in Birmingham. Most of the 18 Black players on the roster had been recruited in the previous couple of years, including Cunningham, a sophomore playing his first varsity game.

Another fact omitted from the myth was Bryant didn’t need to lose to USC to convince his fans it was time to recruit Black athletes. He had already signed Wilbur Jackson the previous winter. Jackson watched the 1970 USC-Alabama game from the stands with the freshmen team.

Oddly enough, Alabama authors shaped narratives that also blamed Murray’s 1961 stories for costing Bryant a national title five years later when the Crimson Tide finished No. 3 to No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Michigan State.

The Irish and Spartans, after a season-long buildup, played to a 10-10 tie in the Game of the Century on Nov. 19, 1966 at Spartan Stadium. Notre Dame and Michigan State retained their 1-2 rankings in the final poll at the end of the regular season.

One of the Alabama authors claiming reverse racism was Keith Dunnavant, who wrote “The Missing Ring: How Bear Bryant and the 1966 Crimson Tide Were Denied College Football’s Most Elusive Prize.”

Bryant author Allen Barra (“The Last Coach,” 2005) reviewed Dunnavant’s book on Sept. 2, 2006 in the L.A. Times. Barra wrote Dunnavant’s bias claim “is based far more on emotion than logic and some of that emotion is borderline irrational.”

Nevertheless, Dunnavant’s stance gained platforms in HBO’s 2008 “Breaking the Huddle,” Showtime’s 2013 “Against the Tide” and ESPN 2019 and 2020 films portraying Bryant as a crusader.

A segment in “Against the Tide” juxtaposes a quote from Murray’s 1961 column as if it was written in the 1966 season. As narrator Tom Selleck read his lines suggesting the 1966 vote was biased, Selleck describes Murray as “the lead voice.” The screen then flashes a quote from Murray’s 1961 story – “An all-white team has no business being No. 1.”

Selleck needed to send the sloppily researched film back to rewrite.

When Murray was awarded the 1990 Pulitzer Prize, he humbly deflected praise with a quip.

He said winning for commentary, “should have to bring down a government or expose major graft or give advice to prime ministers. Correctly quoting Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda shouldn’t merit a Pulitzer Prize.”

Murray didn’t bring down a government with his 1961 Alabama stories, but he set back a segregationist coach. He exposed Bryant’s ’s plot and credited the courage of UCLA students and players to challenge Bryant.

If not for Murray’s stories, Hamilton doesn’t meet resistance and likely extends Bryant’s wish for an Alabama invitation. Another way to put it, though, what if Burt Hooten had not spoken of Ohio State and Minnesota possibly declining a Rose Bowl bid? The prospect spurred the reaction at UCLA and then Murray’s attention. That’s another reason to think Bryant would have gained his desired bid.

And finally, the unanswered question that no doubt would have generated the most humorous response: What would have been Murray’s reaction to Bryant and his apologists years later casting Murray as the bad guy?

We can only imagine his humble quip. There was only one Jim Murray.

He might even have had something to say about the 2022 Rose Bowl broadcast Ohio State won 48-45 over Utah. The ESPN crew failed to mention the 1962 Rose Bowl and its 60th anniversary during the game or pre-game shows.

Chris Fowler, the play-by-play broadcaster, made a historical reference about the 1922 Rose Bowl, although the broadcasters are limited by the topics and research editors and producers present to be aired. Fowler noted in the first half of the game Washington and Jefferson’s Charles Fremont West was the first Black quarterback to play in the Rose Bowl in a 0-0 tie against Cal.

That may be technically correct, but it overlooks Brown’s Fritz Pollard, a quarterback and halfback in his career, played for Brown in the 1916 Rose Bowl.

American sports can provide a stage for social change but telling the stories about race in American sports after often complicated. Major media platforms avoid tangled race stories, especially if one implicates a legend such as Bear Bryant.

The 1962 Rose Bowl remained forgotten on its 60th anniversary.

Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan

TomShanahan.Report

Age: 67

College: Michigan State

Background: I grew up in Big Rapids, a small Michigan town, captivated by Michigan State’s 1965 and 66 football teams. I knew they were different with the number of Black players on the roster and Jimmy Raye as a Black quarterback long before I understood why. Eventually, my curious, young mind and career came full circle following four fun decades writing for the Oceanside Blade-Tribune, San Diego Tribune and San Diego Union-Tribune.  I researched and wrote, “RAYE OF LIGHT, Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans and integration of college football.” I also will have two more books out on the subject. As for my winning FWAA entry, it befits a David Maraniss quote I list in my email signature: “History writes people out of the story. Our job is to write them back in.” Hopefully, I wrote UCLA’s eight Black players back into history. With the support of Jim Murray, they stared down a segregationist coach before the 1962 Rose Bowl. My previous awards include the National Football Foundation San Diego Chapter’s Distinguished American Award; James S. Copley Ring of Truth newspapers first-place award; multiple wins in the San Diego Press Club; the San Diego-Imperial USATF’s President’s Award; and the Southern California Football Coaches Association’s Brevin “Bud” Dyer Award.

FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll: Week 2

Week 2: Games Played Through September 10, 2022

TEAMPOINTSFIRST-PLACE VOTESLAST WEEK’S RANK
1.Georgia (2-0)816392
2.Alabama (2-0)773101
3.Ohio State (2-0)74333
4.Michigan (2-0)650 4
5.Clemson (2-0)600 5
6.Oklahoma (2-0)523 6
7.USC (2-0)505 10
8.Oklahoma State (2-0)381 11
9.Arkansas (2-0)344 13
10.Kentucky (2-0)317 N/A
11.Michigan State (2-0)313 14
12.BYU (2-0)221 N/A
13.Miami (FL) (2-0)202 15
14.Tennessee (2-0)137 N/A
15.Utah (1-1)124 16
16.NC State (2-0)93 N/A

OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES: Baylor (59), Ole Miss (40), Texas (40), Penn State (36), Texas A&M (32), Florida (22), Mississippi State (22), Florida State (16), Appalachian State (14), Wake Forest (12), Washington State (10), Kansas State (8), Marshall (8), Oregon (2), Texas Tech (2), Minnesota (2), Pittsburgh (2), North Carolina (1), UCLA (1), TCU (1).

To see how individual voters cast their ballots, CLICK HERE.

NOTES:
Georgia picked up 39-of-52 first-place votes, advancing from No. 2 to No. 1 after defeating Samford, 33-0, at home. Alabama dropped to No. 2 after a 20-19 victory on the road against Texas. Ohio State and Michigan both posted wins, holding on to the No. 3 and No. 4 spots for a second consecutive week. No. 5 Clemson appeared in the poll for the 83rd time since 2014, which moves the Tigers to fifth for most all-time appearances.

No. 7 USC rose to its highest ranking since the Trojans took the No. 5 spot on September 24, 2017. Arkansas’ No. 9 ranking marked the Razorback’s highest position ever in the history of the poll.

Notre Dame dropped out of the poll completely after losing to Marshall, marking the first time the Fighting Irish failed to appear in the poll since October 1, 2017. Texas A&M, Baylor and Florida also dropped out of the poll after suffering defeats

NC State returned to the poll at No. 16 while Kentucky, BYU and Tennessee joined the poll for the first time this season, claiming Nos. 10, 12 and 14, respectively. Tennessee’s appearance in the poll marks the Volunteers’ first appearance since October 16, 2016.

The SEC leads all conferences with five teams, followed by the Big Ten and ACC, which had three each. The Big 12 and Pac-12 each had two and Independents with one.

SCHEDULE (SEPT. 17):
No. 1 Georgia at South Carolina
ULM at No. 2 Alabama
Toledo at No. 3 Ohio State
UConn at No. 4 Michigan
Louisiana Tech at No. 5 Clemson
No. 6 Oklahoma at Nebraska
Fresno State at No. 7 USC
Arkansas-Pine Bluff at No. 8 Oklahoma State
Missouri State at No. 9 Arkansas
Youngstown State at  No. 10 Kentucky
No. 11 Michigan State at Washington
No. 12 BYU at Oregon
No. 13 Miami (FL) at Texas A&M
Akron at No. 14 Tennessee
San Diego State at No. 15 Utah
Texas Tech at No. 16  North Carolina State

ABOUT THE FWAA-NFF SUPER 16 POLL: The FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll was established at the conclusion of the 2013 season by long-time partners, the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the National Football Foundation (NFF). Voters rank the top 16 teams in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, and the results will be released every Sunday of the 2022 season; the individual votes of all members will also be made public. The first regular season poll will be released on Tuesday, Sept. 6 (to account for Labor Day games), and the final poll will be released Sunday, Dec. 4. The pollsters consist of FWAA writers and College Football Hall of Famers who were selected to create a balanced-geographical perspective. The poll utilizes a computer program designed by Sports Systems, a TicketManager company, to compile the rankings.

ABOUT THE FWAA: Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com. 

ABOUT THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL FOUNDATION & COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME: Founded in 1947 with early leadership from General Douglas MacArthur, legendary Army coach Earl “Red” Blaik and immortal journalist Grantland Rice, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame is a non-profit educational organization that runs programs designed to use the power of amateur football in developing scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in young people. Learn more at www.footballfoundation.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @NFFNetwork.

Alabama tops 2022 FWAA/NFF Super 16 Pre-Season Poll

PRE-SEASON POLL, AUGUST 16, 2022

RANKTEAMPOINTSFIRST-PLACE VOTESLAST WEEK’S RANK
1.Alabama82242N/A
2.Ohio State7666N/A
3.Georgia7284N/A
4.Clemson622 N/A
5.Michigan530 N/A
6.Notre Dame513 N/A
7.Utah482 N/A
8.Texas A&M457 N/A
9.Oklahoma408 N/A
10.Baylor319 N/A
11.Oklahoma State228 N/A
12.Oregon219 N/A
13.USC 204N/A
14.NC State202 N/A
15.Michigan State127 N/A
16.Miami (FL)109 N/A

OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES: Pittsburgh (55), Arkansas (48), Ole Miss (36), Wisconsin (34), BYU (31), Texas (26), Cincinnati (20), Penn State (17), Florida (14), Houston (12), LSU (9), Kentucky (7), Tennessee (4), Wake Forest (4), South Carolina (4), UCF (3), Mississippi State (3), Nebraska (2), Kansas State (2), Air Force (2), West Virginia (1), Iowa (1), North Carolina (1).

To see how individual voters cast their ballots, CLICK HERE.

NOTES:
National runner-up and defending SEC Champion Alabama dominated the preseason poll with 42 of 52 first place votes. This is Alabama’s 59th appearance as the No. 1 team in this poll since 2014. The Crimson Tide leads all schools for appearances at No. 1 and is the only team to appear in each of the 105 weekly rankings since 2014.

Ohio State was second in the poll voting with six first place votes and 56 points behind Alabama with defending national champion Georgia at No. 3 with four first place votes, respectively.

No. 4 Clemson is in the poll for the first time since September 19, 2021, followed by Michigan, Notre Dame, Utah, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Baylor. Seven of the top 10 teams appeared in New Year’s Six bowl games last season. NC State is No. 14 and in the poll for the first time since October 15, 2018.

In the 2022 preseason poll, the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC had three teams each, Independents-one.  All Power-Five conferences had equal representation for the first time in the history of the poll which started in 2014.

The eventual national champion has been ranked in the top six of the preseason poll six times since 2015. Alabama in 2017 is the only national champion to start the season ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll.

SCHEDULE:

ZERO WEEK
No Super 16 Teams in Action

WEEK 1  (Sept. 1-5)

Thursday, Sept. 1
Central Michigan at  No. 11 Oklahoma State

Friday, Sept. 2
Western Michigan at No. 15 Michigan State

Saturday, Sept. 3
Utah State at No. 1 Alabama
No. 6 Notre Dame at No. 2 Ohio State
No. 12 Oregon at No. 3 Georgia (Atlanta)
Colorado State at No. 5 Michigan
No. 7 Utah at Florida
Sam Houston at  No. 8 Texas A&M
UTEP at No. 9 Oklahoma
Albany at No. 10 Baylor
Rice at No. 13 USC
No. 14 NC State at East Carolina
Bethune-Cookman at No. 16 Miami (Fla.) 

Monday, Sept. 5
No. 4 Clemson at Georgia Tech

ABOUT THE FWAA-NFF SUPER 16 POLL: The FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll was established at the conclusion of the 2013 season by long-time partners, the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the National Football Foundation (NFF). Voters rank the top 16 teams in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, and the results will be released every Sunday of the 2022 season; the individual votes of all members will also be made public. The first regular season poll will be released on Tuesday, Sept. 6 (to account for Labor Day games), and the final poll will be released Sunday, Dec. 4. The pollsters consist of FWAA writers and College Football Hall of Famers who were selected to create a balanced-geographical perspective. The poll utilizes a computer program designed by Sports Systems to compile the rankings.

ABOUT THE FWAA: Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com..

ABOUT THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL FOUNDATION & COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME: Founded in 1947 with early leadership from General Douglas MacArthur, legendary Army coach Earl “Red” Blaik and immortal journalist Grantland Rice, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame is a non-profit educational organization that runs programs designed to use the power of amateur football in developing scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in young people. Learn more at www.footballfoundation.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @NFFNetwork.

Sports Illustrated’s Johnson wins Edward Aschoff Rising Star Award

DALLAS – Richard Johnson of Sports Illustrated is the recipient of the third Edward Aschoff Rising Star Award, which is presented annually by the Football Writers Association of America and named after the beloved ESPN college football reporter who died on Christmas Eve in 2019 on his 34th birthday from previously undetected Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his lungs.

Richard Johnson

“I count all my experiences in this field as continued education and there are too many editors and writers to name who have made me better and helped me along the way. I grew up reading many of them as a lifelong college football fan and it’s been incredible to get to know them as I grow in journalism.” 

Johnson started at Sports Illustrated  in the fall of 2021. He is known for his long-form storytelling, expertise on the coaching industry, and in depth reporting on the intersection of college sports and social justice with a blend of analysis and candor,

In 2021, Grace Raynor, who covers the Clemson Tigers for The Athletic, won the second Rising Star award. David Ubben, also of The Athletic, was the first recipient in 2020 as a beat reporter for the Tennessee Volunteers.

“Richard’s writing in particular is a combination of what makes all the best people in this business, “Ubben said. “It’s informative, well-reported and entertaining. And his television and podcast work has made him a breath of fresh air in a business where some can get stale. His work always includes interesting perspective and anyone who reads something from Richard will finish it having learned something.

“The people who can do that consistently are growing rare. I couldn’t be happier that Richard won this award. He’s everything right about sports writing and makes me so excited about the future.”     

In honor of Aschoff, a bright light in the sports journalism industry, the FWAA in 2020 decided to recognize one promising journalist no older than 34, who has not only the talent and work ethic it takes to succeed in this business, but also the passion to make it better. Aschoff, a 2008 graduate of the University of Florida, loved people, and even as his career at ESPN escalated, he still guided and befriended younger journalists along the way.

Johnson, a University of Florida alum like Aschoff, knew Ed personally. The two actually spent time together, most recently in the spring of 2018 when they were reporting stories at Arizona State at the same time. They went to a Phoenix Suns game together. 

“I remember when the FWAA announced this award a couple years ago,” Johnson said. “I immediately knew that I wanted to win it, and I guess it’s time to move past my jealousy of past winners David and Grace – I kid as they’re both great reporters who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on the road the last few years.

“Ed is a prime example of how representation matters,” Johnson added. “There are unfortunately too few Black people covering this sport, and for as long as I’d known him, seeing Ed on television or his byline on the website was proof positive that he’d made it in this industry and that I could too. You could say I basically followed his blueprint from UF’s journalism school to covering the Gators all the way to ESPN, and it was an honor to shout him out during my first season on the SEC Network.”

Johnson began his professional career at ESPN in 2015 and later joined SB Nation as a national college football writer the following year. He spent four years working for the site before starting at Sports Illustrated in the fall of 2021.  Johnson co-hosts the SEC Network show “Thinking Out Loud” in addition to co-hosting the college football podcast “Split Zone Duo.” He also makes regular appearances across ESPN linear and digital programming.

He is a co-author of “The Sinful Seven: Sci-Fi Western Legends of the NCAA” – an illustrated e-book about the history of college sports.  Johnson, now based in Brooklyn, began his career as a writer for The Independent Florida Alligator student newspaper.

“Outside of the fact that he knew Ed and looked up to him, RJ has been growing as a writer on our staff, in addition to his continuing SEC Network duties,” said Sports Illustrated Executive Editor Joy Russo in nominating Johnson for the award. “…He has been determined to expand his sourcing profile across the sport, but has also been committed to covering race and inequities within football – the latter has been newer territory for him within the sport, but he’s been dedicated to finding more stories to tell there.”

Samples of Richard’s work:

https://www.si.com/nfl/2022/04/22/matt-araiza-nfl-draft-viral-punter

https://www.si.com/college/2022/04/14/florida-football-billy-napier-recruiting-spring

https://www.si.com/college/2021/10/14/texas-am-fake-recruit-locker-room-tiktok-video

“It may sound corny, and I don’t care, this really is more than just a trophy to me. “Johnson said. “This is Ed’s legacy, and I’m honored to be able to play a part in continuing it.”

Remembering Edward Aschoff

Aschoff moved to Los Angeles in 2017 to begin a more expanded national role that included television coverage. Over three seasons, he reported from campuses across the country for ESPN.com, SportsCenter, SEC Network and ESPN Radio, and he worked as a television and radio sideline reporter during college football games.

Edward Aschoff

Aschoff inspired us through his storytelling, brightened our lives with his gregarious personality, and uplifted our spirits with his energy. The FWAA hopes to honor his memory and his commitment to aspiring journalists with this award.

“Edward epitomized everything you want in a sports journalist: He knew how to build relationships, to gain trust, to break stories but also to tell stories,” said ESPN.com’s Andrea Adelson. “And he did it all with a flair that made you want to watch his television pieces or read his written stories right away. His dogged determination and relentless work ethic allowed him to rise to the top at ESPN, and all his exemplary qualities serve as a model for young journalists everywhere about what truly can be achieved if you go after what you want.” The University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications has established the Edward Aschoff Memorial Fund, which will provide support for students involved in sports journalism.

“Edward was one of our stars – not just because he was so talented as a journalist and storyteller, but also because of everything he did to help people around him. He always had a good word of advice for young journalists, he was always willing to give back, and he always made people smile,” said Ted Spiker, chair of the department of journalism at the University of Florida who taught Edward in several classes at UF.

Jordan McPherson, a student reporter at Florida from 2013-17 who is now covering the Miami Marlins for the Miami Herald, said Aschoff helped him on several occasions. “He was a pro’s pro and touched my life with just a few brief interactions that he didn’t have to make,” McPherson said. “His positivity was infectious, his ability to mentor through simple conversation was second to none. He will be missed, but always be remembered.”

FWAA selects ‘Super 11’ for 2021 season

DALLAS – Three first-time winners and eight previous ones comprise the 13th Annual Super 11 Awards, which the Football Writers Association of America rewards annually to the best performing sports information departments in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The awards announced this week are for the 2021 season.

In addition, the FWAA presented a Super 11 Coach of the Year Award to Boston College Coach Jeff Hafley who granted outstanding access to his program during the 2021 season. He is the fourth head coach to win this award, which began with the 2018 season.

As for the 2021 departmental awards, Clemson and Colorado each collected a ninth award and Nebraska an eighth. Navy won for a fifth time, Kansas State a fourth time, and Iowa, Miami (Fla.) and Ole Miss each a second time.

The first-time recipients in the award series, which dates back to the 2009 season, are Louisville, New Mexico and South Carolina. Seven of the 10 FBS Conferences are represented among the 11 winners.

Sports information offices in some cases were still doing zoom calls for interviews, but there were also many in-person interviews with players, head coaches and assistant coaches observing social distancing and health safety protocols when interacting with the media.

“The 2020 and 2021 football seasons featured unprecedented challenges for all of us, but some sports information departments worked with coaches and players to go above and beyond and to make sure media could do their jobs and provide fans with the information they crave,” said David Ubben, 2022 FWAA President. “That allows all of us to have jobs, and we’re appreciative of these departments for providing that access while also making sure both media and members of football programs remain safe. College football is better and grows when sports information departments are able to provide as much access as possible.”

This year’s winners were deemed to have had excellent accessibility during the week of the game and after the game – with a program’s players, coaches and assistant coaches – along with the other listed criteria on page 22 of the 2021-22 FWAA Directory.

“What is always encouraging is that we had first-time winners,” said FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson. “Our membership wants access to players and coaches after games, of course, but also for human interest and analytical stories during the week. Assistant coaches are also part of the mix that give stories depth. Over the years, for a variety of reasons this access has been restricted.

“We believe there are many good stories out there that can be told if they are allowed to be told if our members are allowed good access.”

FWAA members provided input during the season and made comments in an FWAA Awards survey after the 2021 season. In addition, SID press boxes were judged on how well they were run and maintained in terms of neutrality, pool reporters and noise level that could affect a media person’s ability to do his or her job. In recent years, the availability of nearby press parking has become a plus.

In January 2009, the FWAA formed the first Super 11 Committee. The concept is supported by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). The FWAA has awarded Super 11 to 77 different programs over the years.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and game-day operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual FWAA All-America Team. For more information about the FWAA and its program and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

The 2021 Super 11
Clemson (9)
Colorado (9)
Iowa (2)
Kansas State (4)
Louisville (1)
Miami (2)
Ole Miss (2)
Navy (5)
Nebraska (8)
New Mexico (1)
South Carolina (1)

2021 Super 11 Coach of the Year
Jeff Hafley, Boston College

Related link:
Super 11 Awards (including complete selection criteria)

First-year coach, freshman awards announced

BEAMER, HEUPEL SHARE 2021 STEVE SPURRIER AWARD
DALLAS – South Carolina coach Shane Beamer and Tennessee coach Josh Heupel are the co-winners of the Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach of the Year Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America and Chris Doering Mortgage. It’s the second time the 43-year-old Heupel has won the award, which began in 2001 but is in its first year being sponsored by Doering and named after Spurrier. Heupel, like Spurrier a former All-America quarterback in his day, was the FWAA First-year Coach of the Year at UCF in 2018. Beamer, son of celebrated Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, is the second South Carolina coach to win the award. Spurrier actually won the award in 2005 in his first season leading the Gamecocks.

GEORGIA’S BOWERS IS 2021 FRESHMAN PLAYER OF THE YEAR
DALLAS (FWAA) – Record-breaking Georgia All-America tight end Brock Bowers has been named the recipient of the fourth annual FWAA Freshman of the Year presented by Chris Doering Mortgage. The unquestioned most valuable player on the Georgia offense, Bowers led the Bulldogs with 56 catches for 882 yards and a program-record 13 receiving touchdowns. Bowers, who scored touchdowns in each of the last five games of the season, is the first player from Georgia and first tight end to win the award.

OHIO STATE’S STROUD CAPTURES FRESHMAN BREAKOUT PERFORMANCE AWARD
DALLAS (FWAA) – Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud was named the fourth annual recipient of the FWAA Freshman Breakout Performance Award presented by Chris Doering Mortgage for his performances against Michigan State and Utah. The FWAA Freshman Breakout Performance Award is awarded annually to the college football freshman with the best single-game performance of the season. Stroud, a Heisman Trophy and Davey O’Brien Award finalist and the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year, was a unanimous selection with two performances worthy of the breakout award.

OKLAHOMA STATE’S OLIVER IS MOST INSPIRATIONAL FRESHMAN
DALLAS (FWAA) – Oklahoma State defensive end Collin Oliver was named the third annual Most Inspirational Freshman for 2021 by the Football Writers Association of America and Chris Doering Mortgage on Monday night. Oliver, a 6-foot-2, 225-pounder from Oklahoma City, played considerably bigger than his frame and made giant contributions for a defense that led the nation with 4.0 sacks per game. Oliver’s 11.5 sacks led FBS Power 5 conference freshmen, and only Coastal Carolina freshman Josaiah Stewart (12.5) had more. The unanimous Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year was somewhat under the radar when he signed with the Cowboys in 2020, rated a three-star linebacker by the 247 Composite. Oliver quickly changed the narrative upon his arrival in Stillwater.

Chris Doering Mortgage, based in Gainesville, Fla., was established in April 2007 as a residential lending company providing mortgage products including conventional, FHA, USDA and VA loans. The branch is a division of MortgageAdvisors.com – 3940 NW 16th Blvd., Suite A, Gainesville, FL 32605 – NMLS 70168/1937321. FHA Lender ID 2631500094. Chris Doering Mortgage is committed to skillfully and ethically delivering the highest quality customer service throughout the mortgage process, with a team of professionals that strive to exceed the expectations of clients and business partners while continually educating and adapting to the changing needs of the industry. For more information, visit ChrisDoeringMortgage.com.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

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2021 FWAA Freshman All-America Team unveiled

DALLAS – The 2021 Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-America Team features one of the dynamic playmakers from national champion Georgia, a key linebacker from national runner-up Alabama, the country’s third-leading passer and a combined 13 players from the Big Ten and Southeastern Conferences.

This is the 21st season the FWAA has honored freshman All-Americans.

The recipients of the fifth annual FWAA Freshman of the Year, the 2021 Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach of the Year Award, the Most Inspirational Freshman Player and the Top Freshman Performance awards, all presented by Chris Doering Mortgage, will be announced tonight at 7:45 p.m. ET on a virtual press conference that will also be streamed on SEC Country.

Three schools had teammates on the Freshman All-America team, led by Ohio State with three, followed by Iowa and Texas A&M with two each. The list includes players who were either redshirt freshmen, true freshmen, or freshmen playing in their second season via the NCAA’s updated COVID eligibility rules as designated by their respective schools.

Paced by a combined five selections from Iowa and Ohio State, the Big Ten led all conferences with eight members followed by the SEC’s seven and the Big 12 and Pac-12 had three each. The American Athletic, Atlantic Coast, Conference USA and Independents had two apiece with the Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt placing one as all 10 conferences were represented. Of the 32 honored players, 24 are true freshmen.

“This was among the most competitive FWAA Freshman All-America Team selections to date, on account of COVID-19 eligibility allowances adding to the pool of players eligible to make the team,” said Mike Griffith of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s DawgNation and the chair of the 2021 Freshman All-America Committee. “The talented group of young men who made this team are also to be applauded for their perseverance, as well as their performances, amid the unprecedented circumstances of these times in collegiate athletics.”

Following is the complete, 32-man 2021 FWAA Freshman All-America Team:

OFFENSE

QB• Seth Henigan, Memphis6-3200Denton, Texas
QBCJ Stroud, Ohio State6-3218Inland Empire, Calif.
RB• Braelon Allen, Wisconsin6-2238Fond du Lac, Wis.
RB• TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State5-10215Hopewell, Va.
WRCorey Rucker, Arkansas State6-0203Bentonia, Miss.
WR• Xavier Worthy, Texas6-1160Fresno, Calif.
TE• Brock Bowers, Georgia6-4230Napa, Calif.
OL• Joe Alt, Notre Dame6-7305North Oaks, Minn.
OL• Campbell Barrington, BYU6-6285Spokane, Wash.
OL• Connor Colby, Iowa6-6298Cedar Rapids, Iowa
OL• Reuben Fatheree II, Texas A&M6-8320Richmond, Texas
OL• Bryce Foster, Texas A&M6-5325Katy, Texas
OL• Wyatt Milum, West Virginia6-6291Kenova, W. Va.

DEFENSE

DL• Collin Oliver, Oklahoma State6-2225Oklahoma City, Okla.
DL• Maason Smith, LSU6-6292Houma, La.
DL• Josaiah Stewart, Coastal Carolina6-2245Everett, Mass.
DLLukas Van Ness, Iowa6-5264Barrington, Ill.
LB• Junior Colson, Michigan6-2225Brentwood, Tenn.
LB• Eric Gentry, Arizona State6-6200Philadelphia, Pa.
LBCal Haladay, Michigan State6-1235Elysburg, Pa.
LB• Dallas Turner, Alabama6-4245Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
DB• Calen Bullock, USC6-3180Pasadena, Calif.
DB• Denzel Burke, Ohio State6-1192Scottsdale, Ariz.
DB• Duce Chestnut, Syracuse6-0195Camden, N.J.
DB• Jack Howell, Colorado State5-11195Chandler, Ariz.
DBDonte Kent, Central Michigan5-11185Harrisburg, Pa.
DB• Andrew Mukuba, Clemson6-0185Austin, Texas

SPECIALISTS

K• Cam Little, Arkansas6-2185Moore, Okla.
P• Nick Haberer, Washington State6-5224Queensland, Australia
KRBrian Battie, USF5-8165Sarasota, Fla.
PRJaylin Lane, Middle Tennessee5-8174Clover, S.C.
APRasheen Ali, Marshall6-0201Cleveland, Ohio

* Denotes true freshman

Brock Bowers, the true freshman tight end at Georgia who burst upon the national scene quickly with a highlight 89-yard catch-and-score against UAB on Sept. 11, stands out on the team as one of two selections to also earn FWAA All-America status as its second-team tight end. Bowers’ 56 receptions for 882 yards and 13 touchdowns led all Bulldogs receivers and the SEC Newcomer of the Year also broke school records for receptions and touchdown receptions by a tight end in a single season. Bowers is Georgia’s 10th FWAA Freshman All-America selection of the past six seasons and its 12th of the past 10 seasons.

Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud powers the team as one of two quarterbacks, along with Memphis’ Seth Henigan. Stroud, a true freshman, was a Heisman Trophy and Davey O’Brien Award finalist and had four games of 400-or-more passing yards. He swept the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Quarterback of the Year awards, the first time for one player to win all three in the same season. He led the nation’s top offense (561.4 ypg) and a scoring offense (45.7 ppg) that was fifth in passing yards (380.9 ypg).

Bowers and Stroud, along with Oklahoma State defensive end Collin Oliver, are the finalists for the 2021 FWAA Freshman of the Year.

Also selected from Ohio State was Denzel Burke at defensive back and running back TreVeyon Henderson. Burke started all 13 games at cornerback – a first for a freshman at Ohio State – and led the team with 12 pass break-ups to go with one interception. Henderson, the top-ranked running back in the 2021 recruiting class, didn’t disappoint as the Buckeyes’ rushing leader with 1,272 yards and 15 touchdowns, setting multiple OSU records along the way. Along with Stroud, the trio are Ohio State’s first Freshman All-America players in five seasons.

Henigan’s deep balls were one of Memphis’ top weapons this season and his 3,322 yards passing were the most among FBS true freshmen. Henigan earns the school a third consecutive season with a member of the team, joining all-purpose player Kenneth Gainwell (2019) and receiver Tahj Washington (2020), and is one of two players from the American Athletic Conference to make the team. Kick returner Brian Battie of USF, a first-team FWAA All-American, had three kick return touchdowns as a constant special teams threat to earn his spot on the team.

Joining Henderson in the backfield was Big Ten mate Braelon Allen, who averaged 6.8 yards per rush as Wisconsin’s top rusher with 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns. Allen is the first Wisconsin player selected to the team since center Tyler Biadasz and running back Jonathan Taylor, both now in the NFL, in 2017.

Xavier Worthy led Texas in receptions (62), receiving yards (981) and touchdowns (12, most among all FBS freshmen). He is Texas’ first Freshman All-American in three seasons and its first at a skill position since Colt McCoy in 2006. The other receiver spot went to Arkansas State’s Corey Rucker, who led Sun Belt Conference wide receivers with nine touchdown catches. Rucker is A-State’s first Freshman All-American since 2014 and its first on offense in nine seasons.

The committee awarded six offensive line spots, buoyed by the Texas A&M pair of Reuben Fatheree II and Bryce Foster. They are the Aggies’ first Freshman All-Americans since 2015 and A&M’s first on the offensive front since Luke Joeckel in 2010. Foster started every game. Iowa, always a staple for offensive linemen, has Connor Colby on the team along with teammate Lukas Van Ness at linebacker. Colby is just the sixth true freshman to start on the offensive line under Kirk Ferentz. He gave up one sack all season to become the Hawkeyes’ first Freshman All-American on the offensive line since Alaric Jackson in 2017. With Van Ness, it’s the first time for Iowa to have two players on the team.

Joining them on the line are the Notre Dame’s Joe Alt and BYU’s Campbell Barrington, who make up the representation from the FBS Independents. Alt helped reform the Irish up front, moving into the starting left tackle spot after six games. The Irish line surged in the second half of the season and helped Kyren Williams, a member of last year’s Freshman All-America team, to become just the fifth Notre Dame running back to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. The Irish have had a Freshman All-American in three consecutive seasons. Barrington is BYU’s first player on the team in three seasons. West Virginia’s Wyatt Milum, who rounds out the offensive line, made seven starts at right tackle to earn the school’s fifth Freshman All-America honor and first since 2019.

A standout season by two linemen put them at the head of the defense. Oklahoma State’s Oliver took full advantage of his first start, posting five solo tackles, two sacks and three hurries in an Oct. 2 win over Baylor. He tied for 15th in the FBS with 11.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. Oliver, who had the game-sealing sack against Oklahoma that sent the Cowboys to the Big 12 Championship Game, is the fourth Freshman All-American in school history and the first on defense in 11 seasons. Josaiah Stewart, a true freshman at Coastal Carolina, was one of the country’s top pass rushers, tallying 12.5 sacks to lead all FBS freshmen and tied for fifth in the nation. He had four sacks and forced two fumbles against Georgia Southern. Stewart is Coastal Carolina’s third all-time Freshman All-American, each of them from the past two seasons.

Maason Smith of LSU was the nation’s top prep defensive lineman in the fall of 2020 and became a coaches’ pick as an All-SEC Freshman in 2021. He earned three starts toward the end of the season and was third on the team with four sacks. Smith gives LSU a defensive member of the team in five of the last six seasons. Iowa’s Van Ness tied for the team lead with 7.0 sacks and was second with 8.5 tackles for loss among his 33 total tackles. Van Ness, along with Colby, are the fifth- and sixth all-time Freshman All-America selections from Iowa and Van Ness is the first on defense since 2010.

Depth in the secondary led the committee to expand to six selections. Joining Ohio State’s Burke, Syracuse’s Duce Chestnut became one of the top cover cornerbacks in the country. He tallied three interceptions and had eight passes defended to anchor an Orange secondary that allowed just 202 yards passing per game. He is Syracuse’s third defensive Freshman All-America nod in the past four seasons. Chestnut and Clemson’s Andrew Mukuba are the ACC’s two selections on the team. Mukuba was the Tigers’ first freshman to start at safety since 1973 and had eight tackles and a pass breakup in the opener against Georgia. He had 54 tackles and a sack this season as Clemson’s seventh All-Freshman pick of the past eight seasons.

Calen Bullock, USC’s first true freshman to start an opener at safety since 2013, had two interceptions on the season, three PBU’s and 40 tackles. He is USC’s first All-Freshman player on defense since 2014. Jack Howell of Colorado State made six starts at safety for the Rams and finished fifth on the team with 64 tackles, including 3.5 TFL’s. He is CSU’s third all-time Freshman All-American and the second in three seasons, and is the lone choice from the Mountain West. Central Michigan cornerback Donte Kent started all 13 games and led the MAC with 14 PBU’s. He was third on the team with 55 total tackles and second with 45 solo stops. Kent is CMU’s second Freshman All-American, joining Antonio Brown from 2007.

Two true freshmen started for two of the College Football Playoff teams, both of them linebackers. Michigan won the Big Ten title with its defense and true freshman Junior Colson was fourth on the team in tackles with 61 to go with two PBU’s and three quarterback hurries. Colson is Michigan’s first Freshman All-American since 2017 and its first on defense since 2015. Dallas Turner of Alabama is the Crimson Tide’s seventh Freshman All-American of the past four seasons and the fifth on defense during that span. He earned a starting role in mid-season and finished third on the team with 8.5 sacks for the national runner-up.

Linebacker Cal Haladay of Michigan State started 12 of 13 games for the Spartans and was third on the team with 96 tackles to go with two interceptions and two forced fumbles. An honorable mention All-Big Ten selection, he is Michigan State’s first Freshman All-American since 2016 and its first on defense since 2014. Arizona State linebacker Eric Gentry had 45 tackles as ASU’s first Freshman All-American since 2018.

Rasheen Ali, selected as the all-purpose player, made an immediate impact with four touchdowns in Marshall’s opener against Navy. He carried on more than half of the Herd’s rushing plays (250 of 449) and his 23 rushing touchdowns tied for the most in the FBS. He is only the second player from Marshall to earn FWAA Freshman All-America honors and its first since 2012. Ali, who also returned a kickoff for a score, is one of two players from Conference USA on the team, along with punt returner Jaylin Lane of Middle Tennessee, who was fourth in the nation in punt return average at 14.6. Lane is MTSU’s fourth Freshman All-American.

Punter Nick Haberer from Washington State is the sixth Australian to earn a Freshman All-America honor, all of whom are punters. He finished the season with a 42.8-yard average and is the school’s second Freshman All-American. Arkansas kicker Cam Little led the team in scoring with 106 points and connected on 20 field goals, the third-most in school history.

From the Freshman All-America team, California and Texas took honors as the most common home state with four players each, followed by two each from Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

The panel of nationally-prominent college football experts from the FWAA membership represented each of the FBS conferences along with independents in the selecting the team.

Chris Doering Mortgage, based in Gainesville, Fla., was established in April 2007 as a residential lending company providing mortgage products including conventional, FHA, USDA and VA loans. The branch is a division of MortgageAdvisors.com – 3940 NW 16th Blvd., Suite A, Gainesville, FL 32605 – NMLS 70168/1937321. FHA Lender ID 2631500094. Chris Doering Mortgage is committed to skillfully and ethically delivering the highest quality customer service throughout the mortgage process, with a team of professionals that strive to exceed the expectations of clients and business partners while continually educating and adapting to the changing needs of the industry. For more information, visit ChrisDoeringMortgage.com.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

Related link:
• All-Time FWAA Freshman All-America Teams (.pdf)

Auburn’s Shelly Poe named FWAA Lifetime Achievement Award winner 2

Indianapolis — FWAA member Shelly Poe, Auburn’s Assistant AD/Media Relations, has been named the recipient of the association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for the 2021 season, becoming the fourth person in the Sports Information field to receive the honor.

The award goes to a FWAA member or someone close to the organization who has contributed greatly to either college football, the writing profession or the FWAA during his or her career. Poe would be considered a trailblazer as a female football SID. 

Shelly Poe

Poe was the only female head SID at a Division I football school when she was named West Virginia’s (her alma mater) in 1988 after holding an assistant’s post at the same school for three years. She also was the youngest Division I head SID at that time at 23 years of age.

“I was very fortunate to have been one of the first women to make a career in football, and I was able to do that because a number of smart, tough, persistent women paved the way for those my age to choose the career path,” Poe said. “There were often challenges and resistance, but I quickly learned that the winners in athletics judged people based on how their talents can benefit the program.

“I worked hard to gain that trust and advocates stepped up from the most surprising quarters whenever biases made things difficult. Along the way, I’ve built so many lifelong relationships with friends who were first introduced to me as players, coaches, co-workers and media colleagues, and that is the real dividend.”         

“Shelly has been a staple in the college sports information field for more than three decades,” said FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson. “It is one thing to have longevity in the field, but she has been a strong advocate for the media among her peers and those she has worked for at three FBS institutions. She also has been a tireless worker for CoSIDA.”

Besides her tenure at Auburn for the past decade, Poe also was Director of Football Communications at Ohio State from 2007 to 2012 following 20 years at West Virginia. An ex-officio member of the FWAA Board from 2013 to 2018, Poe is a 2006 member of the CoSIDA Hall of Fame, the 2013-14 CoSIDA President, the recipient of the 2012 CoSIDA Trailblazer Award and she was part of a CoSIDA-FWAA task force to determine media services adjustments at the beginning of the Covid pandemic in the summer of 2020.  She has been at Auburn since 2012.  

“I was blessed to work for many years for one of the finest gentlemen ever in this game, Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen, who would do an extra interview or make time for a guest, ‘because I think it’s good for the game,’” Poe recalled. “Those words have been a standard for me, and I hope I’ve made the game better by assisting so many talented people in telling its stories.

“My best friend, the late coach Dave Adolph, was known for asking, ‘Do you love football?’ I do love it, and I love the positive impact it’s had on so many lives, especially mine.”

The FWAA started naming a Lifetime Achievement Award winner nearly a decade ago. Art Spander of the San Francisco Examiner was the first recipient in 2013, followed by Bill Little (University of Texas) in 2014, Irv Moss (Denver Post) in 2015, OK (Buddy) Davis (Ruston Daily Leader) in 2016, Mike Finn (ACC) in 2017, Dave Plati (University of Colorado) in 2018, Wright Waters (Football Bowl Association) and Paul Hoolahan (Sugar Bowl) in 2019 and Sid Hartman (Minneapolis Star Tribune) posthumously in 2020.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

2021 FWAA All-America team unveiled

DALLAS – The 2021 Football Writers Association of America All-America Team, presented in partnership with the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, is headlined by seven first-teamers from the four teams competing in the College Football Playoff, nine repeat All-Americans, six first-teamers from both the Big Ten and Southeastern Conferences, six explosive wide receivers, a sensational freshman running back and a record-setting punter. There are 23 schools represented from nine Football Bowl Subdivision conferences on the first team and 37 different schools are represented on the complete 54-man team.

“The partnership between the FWAA and the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic is one we take a lot of pride in,” said Bry Patton, Chairman, Cotton Bowl Athletic Association and Cotton Bowl Foundation. “We’re honored to play a small role in celebrating the on-field accolades these student-athletes achieved this season.”

“The FWAA is proud to partner with the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic to highlight these amazing athletes, but it’s never an easy choice to whittle down the field,” said FWAA president Heather Dinich, a senior writer for ESPN.com. “What makes it so difficult is that there’s always – always – more than one deserving player at each position. This year’s combined team, though, reflects dominant seasons by both the Big Ten and the SEC, along with the Group of Five’s historic season, as a record 12 players were included.”

Alabama, the top seed in the College Football Playoff, has first-team selections and leads all schools with four on the combined team. Linebacker Will Anderson Jr., offensive lineman Evan Neal and quarterback Bryce Young made the first team with kick returner Jameson Williams on the second team. Anderson won the FWAA’s Bronko Nagurski Trophy this season, Neal is the latest Crimson Tide standout All-American on its offensive front and Young, the winner of the Maxwell Award and Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award Tuesday night, surged late with a dramatic comeback against Auburn and a record-setting performance in the SEC Championship Game. No one has averaged more yards per touch (22.6) than Williams this season, who is also a standout wide receiver.

The defensive secondary has two returning first-team All-Americans in Ahmad Gardner of Cincinnati and Kyle Hamilton of Notre Dame. Gardner is the first two-time FWAA All-American in Cincinnati history and Hamilton is the Irish’s first two-time FWAA All-American in 16 seasons (wide receiver Jeff Samardzija in 2005-06). Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, another two-time selection, moves to the first team after a second-team nod last year. Also from the secondary are App State defensive back Steven Jones Jr., the Mountaineers’ first All-American at the FBS level, and Jalen Pitre of Baylor, a second defensive first-teamer for the Bears of the last three seasons.

The four defensive linemen, collectively, may be the best group in the history of the team. Jordan Davis of Georgia, the Outland Trophy and Bednarik Award winner on the nation’s top defense, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, a Heisman Trophy finalist, along with Thibodeaux and Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV, the Big 12’s Co-Defensive Lineman of the Year with 11.5 sacks, make up a formidable front. Nakobe Dean, the Butkus Award winner at Georgia, and Devin Lloyd of Utah join Anderson as the first-team linebackers.

Back on offense, Doak Walker Award winner Kenneth Walker III of Michigan State has been the national leader in rushing for most of the season and is on the first team along with Syracuse’s eye-catching freshman, Sean Tucker. Walker is second in the FBS in rushing at 1,636 yards (136.3 ypg) with 18 touchdowns. Tucker, a second-year player with freshman eligibility, set the Orange’s single-season rushing mark at 1,496 yards, fourth nationally, with nine 100-yard games and 14 total touchdowns. Tucker becomes the first freshman running back on the first team since Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma in 2004 and the first freshman at any skill position on the first team since Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston in 2013.

The standout wide receivers gave a menagerie of options to the FWAA voters. Ohio State gained two of the six spots. For the first time, the FWAA selected three receivers on each of its two teams and thus 12-man offensive teams. Garrett Wilson becomes a two-time All-American here after a second-team spot last year and Chris Olave is on the second unit. Pitt’s Jordan Addison, the Biletnikoff Award winner, caught more touchdowns (17) than any other player, keying the Panthers’ offensive resurgence this season. He’s on the first team and his quarterback, Kenny Pickett, leads off the second team. Purdue’s David Bell produced highlight plays that prompted two of the biggest upsets this season and earned first-team honors. Along with Olave, second-team receivers Jerreth Sterns of WKU caught 39 more passes than any other player and was the national leader in receiving yards, and Drake London of USC averaged 135.5 yards per game with seven touchdowns despite playing in only eight games due to injury.

Tyler Linderbaum of Iowa, the winner of the Rimington Trophy, returns to become a two-time All-America center, this year on the first team after a second-team nod in 2020. Ohio State lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere was the leader at the front of the nation’s top offensive team. Kentucky tackle Darian Kinnard led one of the four Joe Moore Award finalist units and Ikem Ekwonu is N.C. State’s second first-team lineman of the past four seasons.

Iowa was one of three schools (along with Georgia and Ohio State) to have three All-Americans. The Hawkeyes have linebacker Jack Campbell and defensive back Riley Moss on the second team and Georgia added offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer to the second team. Texas A&M and Iowa State have repeat members on the second team after first-team spots last year. The Aggies have players on both the second-team offensive (Kenyon Green) and defensive (DeMarvin Leal) lines, and running back Breece Hall gives Iowa State a pair of All-Americans for a second consecutive season.

Also from the second team, defensive lineman Arnold Ebiketie and defensive back Jaquan Brisker give Penn State a pair of FWAA All-Americans in the same season for the first time since 2008. Rounding out the eight schools that had a pair of honorees is punt return phenom Britain Covey at Utah, Oregon with defensive back Verone McKinley III and Baylor with offensive lineman Jacob Gall. Oklahoma State has its first defensive All-American since 2013 with linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez alongside Leo Chenal of Wisconsin on the second team. Offensive linemen Zach Tom of Wake Forest and Olusegun Oluwatimi of Virginia, along with defensive lineman Jermaine Johnson II of Florida State, were three of the ACC’s seven selections, third-best among the conferences.

Rutgers has its first FWAA All-America selection since 2006 with punter Adam Korsak on the second team as well as Missouri kicker Harrison Mevis, the Tigers’ first All-American on special teams since Jeremy Maclin in 2007.

The so-called Group of Five schools put a record 12 players on the combined team – 22 percent of the total picks – and seven on the first team including all four special teams spots and both tight ends. Houston’s Marcus Jones, the Paul Hornung Award winner, repeats as the first-team punt returner and Sincere McCormick of UTSA repeats as a second-team All-America running back. Matt Araiza of San Diego State, currently the all-time leader in FBS history with a 51.4-yard season average, is the easy choice at punter following his selection as the Ray Guy Award winner. Colorado State tight end Trey McBride is the 20th-leading receiver nationally with 1,121 yards as the first-team selection and Coastal Carolina’s Isaiah Likely on the second. McBride is the John Mackey Award winner.

Bowling Green’s field goal ace Nate Needham, 19 for 20 on field goal attempts, is the first-team kicker and USF’s Brian Battie, who had three kick return touchdowns, is the first-team kick returner and the only other freshman besides Tucker. One of the country’s interception leaders with five, second-team defensive back Ja’Quan McMillian is East Carolina’s first defensive All-American since 1991.

The Big Ten leads all conferences with 13 players on the combined teams from a spread of eight different schools, which also led all conferences. The SEC has 11 members from five different schools and the ACC had seven from six different schools. The Big 12 and Pac-12 had five members each, followed by the American Athletic (4), Mountain West (3), Conference USA and Sun Belt (2 each) and the Independents and Mid-American (1).

Many of the 2021 All-Americans had immediate impacts on their teams. Nearly one-fifth of the team – 10 of 54 players – were FWAA Freshman All-America selections earlier in their careers. Tops on that list is Anderson Jr., the 2021 Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner and the 2020 FWAA Freshman Player of the Year, and Davis, who was on the 2018 FWAA Freshman All-America team. Six of the 10 – Bell, Ekwonu, Neal, Thibodeaux, Gardner and Hamilton – are first-teamers on the 2021 list. McCormick and McKinley are second-teamers.

Of the first-team members’ home states, California led the way with four followed by Florida and North Carolina with three each. On the complete 1st-2nd teams, California and Texas tied with seven each followed by Maryland and North Carolina with four and Florida, Georgia, Indiana and Iowa with three each.

The FWAA’s All-America Committee selected this 78th annual team based on nominations from the entire membership. This is the ninth season in the modern era (post-1950) that the FWAA has named a second team. For a fifth consecutive year, the FWAA has selected a 54-man full team, but the additional wide receivers were selected in lieu of recognizing all-purpose players this season.

2021 FWAA ALL-AMERICA FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

QBBryce Young, Alabama6-0194So.Pasadena, Cailf.
RBSean Tucker, Syracuse5-10210Fr.Owings Mills, Md.
RBKenneth Walker III, Michigan State5-10210Jr.Arlington, Tenn.
WRJordan Addison, Pitt6-0175So.Frederick, Md.
WRDavid Bell, Purdue6-2205Jr.Indianapolis, Ind.
WRGarrett Wilson, Ohio State6-0192Jr.Austin, Texas
TETrey McBride, Colorado State6-4260Sr.Fort Morgan, Colo.
OLIkem Ekwonu, N.C. State6-4320So.Charlotte, N.C.
OLDarian Kinnard, Kentucky6-5338Sr.Knoxville, Tenn.
OLEvan Neal, Alabama6-7350Jr.Okeechobee, Fla.
OLNicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State6-5315Jr.Tampa, Fla.
CTyler Linderbaum, Iowa6-3290Jr.Solon, Iowa

DEFENSE

DLJordan Davis, Georgia6-6340Sr.Charlotte, N.C.
DLAidan Hutchinson, Michigan6-6265Sr.Plymouth, Mich.
DLWill McDonald IV, Iowa State6-4245Jr.Pewaukee, Wis.
DLKayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon6-5258So.Los Angeles, Calif.
LBWill Anderson Jr., Alabama6-4243So.Hampton, Ga.
LBNakobe Dean, Georgia6-0225Jr.Horn Lake, Miss.
LBDevin Lloyd, Utah6-3235Jr.Chula Vista, Calif.
DBAhmad Gardner, Cincinnati6-3200Jr.Detroit, Mich.
DBKyle Hamilton, Notre Dame6-4220Jr.Atlanta, Ga.
DBSteven Jones Jr., App State5-10180Sr.Rockingham, N.C.
DBJalen Pitre, Baylor6-0197Sr.Stafford, Texas

SPECIALISTS

KNate Needham, Bowling Green6-1195Sr.Chesterton, Ind.
PMatt Araiza, San Diego State6-2200Jr.San Diego, Calif.
KRBrian Battie, USF5-8165Fr.Sarasota, Fla.
PRMarcus Jones, Houston5-8185Sr.Enterprise, Ala

FIRST TEAM ONLY BREAKDOWN

By School (23): Alabama 3; Georgia 2, Ohio State 2; App State, Baylor, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Houston, Iowa, Iowa State, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Oregon, Pitt, Purdue, San Diego State, Syracuse, USF, Utah 1.

By Conference (9): Big Ten 6, SEC 6, ACC 3, American Athletic 3, Big 12 2, Mountain West 2, Pac-12 2, Independents 1, Mid-American 1, Sun Belt 1.

By Class: Juniors 12, Seniors 8, Sophomores 5, Freshmen 2.

By Home State (14): California 4, Florida 3, North Carolina 3, Georgia 2, Indiana 2, Maryland 2, Michigan 2, Tennessee 2, Texas 2, Alabama 1, Colorado 1, Iowa 1, Mississippi 1, Wisconsin 1.

2021 FWAA ALL-AMERICA SECOND TEAM

Offense: QB Kenny Pickett, Pitt; RB Breece Hall, Iowa State; RB Sincere McCormick, UTSA; WR Drake London, USC; WR Chris Olave, Ohio State; WR Jerreth Sterns, WKU; TE Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina; OL Jacob Gall, Baylor; OL Kenyon Green, Texas A&M; OL Jamaree Salyer, Georgia; OL Zach Tom, Wake Forest; C Olusegun Oluwatimi, Virginia.

Defense: DL Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State; DL Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State; DL DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M; DL Cameron Thomas, San Diego State; LB Jack Campbell, Iowa; LB Leo Chenal, Wisconsin; LB Malcolm Rodriguez, Oklahoma State; DB Jaquan Brisker, Penn State; DB Verone McKinley III, Oregon; DB Ja’Quan McMillian, East Carolina; DB Riley Moss, Iowa.

Specialists: K Harrison Mevis, Missouri; P Adam Korsak, Rutgers; KR Jameson Williams, Alabama; PR Britain Covey, Utah.

COMBINED FIRST AND SECOND TEAM BREAKDOWN

By School: Alabama 4; Georgia 3, Iowa 3, Ohio State 3; Baylor 2, Iowa State 2, Oregon 2, Penn State 2, Pitt 2, San Diego State 2, Texas A&M 2, Utah 2; App State, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Coastal Carolina, Colorado State, East Carolina, Florida State, Houston, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Rutgers, Syracuse, USC, USF, UTSA, Virginia, Wake Forest, WKU, Wisconsin 1.

By Conference (10): Big Ten 13, SEC 11, ACC 7, Big 12 5, Pac-12 5, American Athletic 4, Mountain West 3, Conference USA 2, Sun Belt 2, Independents 1, Mid-American 1.

By Class: Juniors 24, Seniors/Graduates 20, Sophomores 8, Freshmen 2.

By Home State (24): California 7, Texas 7, Maryland 4, North Carolina 4, Florida 3, Georgia 3, Indiana 3, Iowa 3, Michigan 2, Tennessee 2, Wisconsin 2, Alabama 1, Colorado 1, Kansas 1, Louisiana 1, Massachusetts 1, Minnesota 1, Mississippi 1, Missouri 1, New Jersey 1, Ohio 1, Oklahoma 1, Pennsylvania 1, Utah 1. (Australia 1).

The FWAA All-America Team was first selected in 1944, three years after the organization was formed. The FWAA’s inaugural team included Army’s Heisman Trophy tandem of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis and Georgia Tech’s Frank Broyles, who later became Arkansas’ head football coach and athletic director.

Since 1945, the FWAA All-America Team has been among the five teams used to formulate the NCAA’s annual consensus All-America team, which will be announced later this week. Since the 2002 season, the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), The Associated Press, The Sporting News and the Walter Camp Football Foundation have joined the FWAA as the five designated selectors by the NCAA.

Over the years, the FWAA team has highlighted all the game’s great players in several media forums. From 1946-70, LOOK magazine published the FWAA team and brought players and selected writers to New York City for a celebration. During that 25-year period, the FWAA team was introduced on national television shows by such noted hosts as Bob Hope, Steve Allen and Perry Como.

After LOOK folded, the FWAA started a long association with NCAA Films (later known as NCAA Productions), which produced a 30-minute television program. The team was part of ABC-TV’s 1981 College Football Series. From 1983-90, the team was introduced on either ABC or ESPN. In 2002 and ‘03, the All-America team was honored with a banquet at the Citrus Bowl.

The same bowl also was a sponsor when the team was featured on ABC and ESPN from different locations on Disney properties from 2004-07. From 2008-10, the team had been the subject of a one-hour ESPN special.

For seven decades the FWAA has selected an All-America team with the help of its members and an All-America Committee, which represents all the regions in the country. From that All-America team, the FWAA also selects the Outland Trophy winner (best interior lineman) and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner (best defensive player).

Some of the true greats of the writing profession have helped to select this team over the years: Grantland Rice, Bert McGrane, Blackie Sherrod, Furman Bisher, Pat Harmon, Fred Russell, Edwin Pope, Murray Olderman, Paul Zimmerman – and the list goes on and on. The FWAA All-America team is steeped in tradition and history and is selected by a writers’ group with those same attributes.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic will play host to a College Football Playoff semifinal when No. 4 Cincinnati takes on No. 1 Alabama at AT&T Stadium on Friday, Dec. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET. The 86th Goodyear Cotton Bowl is the 13th Classic to be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and the third national semifinal.

2021 FWAA All-America Committee: Andrea Adelson, ESPN.com; Evan Barnes, Memphis Commercial Appeal; Kirk Bohls, Austin American-Statesman; Travis L. Brown, Bryan-College Station Eagle; Ken Capps, TexasFootball.com; Brett Ciancia, Pick Six Previews; Angelique Chengelis, Detroit News; Scott Dochterman, The Athletic; Scott Farrell, collegepressbox; Bryan Fischer, Athlon Sports; John Hoover, SI.com; Shehan Jeyarajah, CBS Sports; Nate Mink, Syracuse Post-Standard; Tony Siracusa, Last Word on College Football; Phil Steele, Phil Steele Publications; David Ubben, The Athletic; Chris Vannini, The Athletic; John Wagner, Toledo Blade.

Related links:
• Printable roster (.pdf)
• All-Time FWAA All-America Teams (.pdf)
• Download the FWAA All-America Team logos and social media graphics

The FWAA All-America Team was first selected in 1944, three years after the organization was formed. The FWAA’s inaugural team included Army’s Heisman Trophy tandem of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis and Georgia Tech’s Frank Broyles, who later became Arkansas’ head football coach and athletic director.

Since 1945, the FWAA All-America Team has been among the five teams used to formulate the NCAA’s annual consensus All-America team, which will be announced later this week. Since the 2002 season, the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), The Associated Press, The Sporting News and the Walter Camp Football Foundation have joined the FWAA as the five designated selectors by the NCAA.

Over the years, the FWAA team has highlighted all the game’s great players in several media forums. From 1946-70, LOOK magazine published the FWAA team and brought players and selected writers to New York City for a celebration. During that 25-year period, the FWAA team was introduced on national television shows by such noted hosts as Bob Hope, Steve Allen and Perry Como.

After LOOK folded, the FWAA started a long association with NCAA Films (later known as NCAA Productions), which produced a 30-minute television program. The team was part of ABC-TV’s 1981 College Football Series. From 1983-90, the team was introduced on either ABC or ESPN. In 2002 and ‘03, the All-America team was honored with a banquet at the Citrus Bowl.

The same bowl also was a sponsor when the team was featured on ABC and ESPN from different locations on Disney properties from 2004-07. From 2008-10, the team had been the subject of a one-hour ESPN special.

For seven decades the FWAA has selected an All-America team with the help of its members and an All-America Committee, which represents all the regions in the country. From that All-America team, the FWAA also selects the Outland Trophy winner (best interior lineman) and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner (best defensive player).

Some of the true greats of the writing profession have helped to select this team over the years: Grantland Rice, Bert McGrane, Blackie Sherrod, Furman Bisher, Pat Harmon, Fred Russell, Edwin Pope, Murray Olderman, Paul Zimmerman – and the list goes on and on. The FWAA All-America team is steeped in tradition and history and is selected by a writers’ group with those same attributes.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic will play host to a College Football Playoff semifinal when No. 4 Cincinnati takes on No. 1 Alabama at AT&T Stadium on Friday, Dec. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET. The 86th Goodyear Cotton Bowl is the 13th Classic to be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and the third national semifinal.

2021 FWAA All-America Committee: Andrea Adelson, ESPN.com; Evan Barnes, Memphis Commercial Appeal; Kirk Bohls, Austin American-Statesman; Travis L. Brown, Bryan-College Station Eagle; Ken Capps, TexasFootball.com; Brett Ciancia, Pick Six Previews; Angelique Chengelis, Detroit News; Scott Dochterman, The Athletic; Scott Farrell, collegepressbox; Bryan Fischer, Athlon Sports; John Hoover, SI.com; Shehan Jeyarajah, CBS Sports; Nate Mink, Syracuse Post-Standard; Tony Siracusa, Last Word on College Football; Phil Steele, Phil Steele Publications; David Ubben, The Athletic; Chris Vannini, The Athletic; John Wagner, Toledo Blade.

Georgia’s Davis wins 76th Outland Trophy

DALLAS – Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis was named the recipient of the 76th Outland Trophy on Thursday night during The Home Depot College Football Awards on ESPN. The Outland Trophy is awarded annually to the nation’s best college interior lineman on offense or defense and Davis is the second Georgia lineman to earn the award.

Davis will be honored as the recipient of the 2021 Outland Trophy on Wed., Jan. 12 in Omaha at a dinner hosted by the Greater Omaha Sports Committee and sponsored by Werner Enterprises.

A 6-6, 340-pound senior from Charlotte, N.C., Davis was selected by the All-America Committee of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) from three finalists that also included N.C. State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu and Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum. Davis is the third Outland Trophy winner from the defensive side of the ball in last five seasons, following defensive tackles Ed Oliver of Houston in 2017 and Quinnen Williams of Alabama in 2018.

Each of the Bulldogs’ Outland Trophy prior honorees have been defensive tackles. Georgia’s lone winner was Bill Stanfill in 1968 and defensive tackle Andrew Thomas was a semifinalist in 2019.

Davis is a commanding presence in the middle of the Georgia defensive line, constantly double-teamed while closing interior running lanes between the ends. His presence taking away the defensive middle was a key in the Bulldogs leading the nation in scoring defense giving up only 9.5 points per game as the only program in single-digits and 5.5 points ahead of the next best unit. Georgia was also second in total defense (254.3 yards per game), third in rushing defense (81.7 ypg) and third in passing defense (172.6 ypg).

During Georgia’s 12-0 start and consensus No. 1 ranking for the bulk of the 2021 season, Davis posted 24 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks and even included a short rushing touchdown. He had four tackles in Georgia’s loss to Alabama in last week’s SEC Championship Game, giving him 28 total tackles for the season.

Davis was also a finalist for the FWAA’s Bronko Nagurski Trophy and is a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, both recognizing the national defensive player of the year.

The Bulldogs, seeded third, take on No. 2 Michigan in the College Football Playoff Semifinals on Dec. 31 in the Capital One Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The Outland Trophy is the third-oldest major college football award behind the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award. Created in 1946 when Dr. John Outland presented the FWAA with a financial contribution to initiate the award, the Outland Trophy has been given to the best interior lineman in college football ever since. Dr. Outland, an All-American at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1890s, eventually took up practice in Kansas City, Mo. An avid outdoorsman, Dr. Outland believed linemen did not get the credit they deserved and wanted an award to recognize them.

The Outland Trophy is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 24 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935. Visit ncfaa.org to learn more about our story.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.
Related links:
Preseason Watch List | Semifinalists
All-time Outland Trophy winners, candidates
• Download 75th Anniversary Outland Trophy logo: Primary (.jpg) | Dark background (.jpg) | Illustrator (.ai)