2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls
INDIANAPOLIS — It’s the dawning of a new day for college football. I hope I don’t oversleep.
I wouldn’t want to miss it. By this time next year when we’ve celebrated our first champion from a real, live playoff culminating in Arlington, Texas, we might not even recognize the game. Change is coming, and, yes, it will be dramatic.
We enter 2014 with an appreciation for the rich past of this wonderful game we follow and an eye toward a future filled with equal parts anticipation of a historic season with the first College Football Playoff after the 2014 regular season. We also have a healthy concern for the direction of the sport. After all, the game is in a state of flux. Who knows when the Southeastern Conference will end its long drought and ever win another championship?
First, it’s a privilege to be your 2014 FWAA President. And I’d like to especially salute our 2013 President, Chris Dufresne, for his terrific service. I’d like to thank him for the great California weather for the final BCS game and the fact the game did not go into overtime
These are tumultuous times as college football wrestles with overwhelming issues: potential federation within the NCAA that could lead to a separate division and more distance between the haves and have-somes; Football Bowl Subdivision anxiety over uneven enforcement of penalties; players’ long-term health and safety; subsidies for players for the full cost of a scholarship; a tangled, complicated rulebook; and the controversial Ed O’Bannon lawsuit over payment for use of players’ likenesses for video games. And that doesn’t even count Lane Kiffin’s fascinating future, especially the week of the Alabama-Tennessee game.
2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls
(Ed. Note: Executive Director Steve Richardson recently asked Kirk Bohls several questions about his life and a couple of topics so we could get to know him better.)
ATHLETIC BACKGROUND: “I am a Taylor Duck (High School is 29 miles northeast of Austin) once and forever. I played every sport they had at Taylor, including football where I played Monster Man (strong safety) and was a 150-pound terror — at least in my mind. I also broke my neck in the first half of our homecoming game against Rockdale (we won) and played the entire second half. You can’t get much more stupid than that.”
WORK HISTORY: “It can be summed up pretty simply. I graduated from the University of Texas in May 1973, went to work for the Austin American-Statesman that same month after coming within an hour of taking a job in Lubbock at the Avalanche Journal. I have been there ever since. My first year on the Texas beat was Darrell Royal’s last year. We broke the OU spying story the week of the 1976 OU game, and that’s still the most memorable Texas-OU game ever. My first year on the Texas baseball beat was 1977. Texas won the national championship. I’m thinking these beats are kind of cool. I think I’ll stick around. Some 40 years later…”
By Dennis Dodd/CBSSports.com
INDIANAPOLIS — College football coaches’ answer to the concussion crisis is a former University of Texas cheerleader who believes brains can heal themselves.
Hey, why not? Not much else has seemed to soothe the nation’s fears. The concussion crisis has resulted in a public relations crisis. The numbers of those playing youth football are dwindling. Lawsuits are hitting the NCAA, NFL — even the national high school association — from all sides.
The American Football Coaches Association on Monday morning presented Dr. Sandra Chapman as a rebuttal in an ongoing debate that continues to erode the profession’s credibility.
“If you haven’t sensed it,” AFCA executive director Grant Teaff told an audience of about 500 coaches, “our game’s under attack.”
Chapman, then, was part of the counterattack. The founder and chief director of the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas-Dallas, is a cognitive neuroscientist. Her suggestion to Monday’s group was things aren’t as bad as the national narrative suggests.
“I want to change the conversation that you’re hearing,” she said during a session titled: The Future of Football: A Dose of Reality. “We’re showing a [positive] brain change [after injury], not in months and years but in literally hours.”
FWAA 2013 President Chris Dufresne presented a copy of the “Rose Bowl Vault” to Art Spander in recognition of his attending his 61st consecutive Rose Bowl game on Jan. 1.
To read Chris’ column on Spander’s remarkable streak, CLICK HERE.
Photo courtesy of Malcolm Moran.
USC Sports Information Director Tim Tessalone
USC’s Tim Tessalone is the 41st winner of the Bert McGrane Award, which is annually bestowed on a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
He has served college football for more than three decades as the Trojans’ sports information director, helping writers in their jobs as well as promoting the school’s athletic teams — both in exemplary fashion.
The McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973.
The Bert McGrane Award
Tessalone will receive the award during the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast on Jan. 6 at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa, the media hotel for the VIZIO BCS National Championship game, played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
“I am humbled and honored to receive an award that not only is named after a man who served the FWAA so well, but that has been presented previously to icons who are well above me in stature and ability,” Tessalone said. “It is a privilege to be in their company. Thank you to the FWAA membership, with particular gratitude to Chris Dufresne (2013 FWAA President) and Mark Blaudschun (1999 FWAA President).
Like a Capistrano swallow, Art Spander always finds his way to the Rose Bowl
FWAA President Chris Dufresne
Art Spander failed to attend the first Rose Bowl in 1902 only because, as the story goes, he hit the snooze alarm (a rooster) and missed the 7 a.m. stagecoach to Pasadena.
Or maybe that story is apocryphal.
This one is not: Spander will ring in 2014 by attending his 61st straight Rose Bowl…out of a 100.
Consider that, astonishingly, for a second.
People make a big deal about Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak of 56-straight games. Shoot, that streak only spanned ONE season.
Spander has attended 60% of all Rose Bowl games played. His career attendance percentage is higher than Shaquille O’Neal’s career free-throw percentage (52.7%).
Eddie Robinson Jr.
DALLAS — Eddie Robinson Jr., 70, son of the late and legendary Grambling State University football coach Eddie Robinson, passed away on Wednesday evening at Baylor Hospital in Dallas after complications from a heart transplant.
Eddie Robinson Jr., is a former Grambling State football player and assistant coach and one of two children of Eddie Robinson, the winningest coach in Division I history. Eddie Robinson Jr. was a longtime friend of the Fiesta Bowl, which for 16 years has collaborated with the Football Writers Association of America to choose the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year.
“The Fiesta Bowl mourns the loss of a valued friend and extends its condolences to the Robinson family and Grambling State University,” the Fiesta Bowl said in a statement. “Eddie Jr. worked tirelessly to preserve his father’s legacy through the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, and his remarks were always a highlight of the annual award presentation.”
“With Eddie Jr., it was never if he would do something for his father’s legacy, it was always when and where,” FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson said. “In his own right, Eddie Jr. was an astute football mind and had a keen interest in college football and the coaches who were selected as finalists for the award each year. His input was always welcome and will be sorely missed moving forward. Besides his influence on the award, he was a supporter of what was good in college football.”
San Jose Mercury News
DALLAS — Jon Wilner, a veteran sportswriter for the San Jose Mercury News, has been awarded the 2013 FWAA Beat Writer of the Year Award for his coverage of the Pac-12 Conference and West Coast college sports.
The FWAA’s Beat Reporter of the Year Award is based on a comprehensive look at the way a person covers the beat and encompasses all categories of coverage over a period of time.
Wilner, 46, has worked at the Mercury News since 2000 and has held various reporting roles in the college scene for the newspaper and its website, covering Stanford, Bay Area colleges and Pac-12 beats. Wilner’s highly popular blog, “College Hotline,” receives millions of page views annually.
He has claimed numerous Associated Press Sports Editors awards. Wilner has had a vote in the Associated Press Top 25 football and basketball polls for more than a decade.
FWAA’s Wieberg joins very elite committee
FWAA President Chris Dufresne
We take care of our own.
One of my primary goals as FWAA President this year was to help facilitate the placement of a member on the new College Football Playoff Selection Committee.
I learned this was my goal when former FWAA President Mark Blaudschun pulled me aside last January in Florida and, with the lullaby gentleness of a New Jersey longshoreman, said “Your job is to get member on the playoff selection committee. … Don’t screw it up.”
The FWAA was thrilled in mid October when it was announced the new 13-member panel for the College Football Playoff would include former USA Today college writer Steve Wieberg.
Wieberg joins a prestigious group that includes the likes of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, College Football Hall of Fame coach Tom Osborne and former Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning, now chairman of the National Football Foundation.
It was almost surreal to hear Wieberg on the same conference call hook-up with Rice.
“To be a part of it is beyond humbling to me,” Wieberg said. “I feel a little bit like Ringo, and there are four Johns, four Pauls and four Georges in the band. But Ringo was a contributor, and I plan to be a contributor.”
Wieberg, who was co-winner of the FWAA’s Beat Writer of the Year Award in 2012, knows he will get a little bit a help from his friends.
Higgins, a 28-year veteran of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, also is a frequent analyst on SEC sports for The Tim Brando Show on CBS, has written for the SEC’s official website and is a highly sought after guest on regional and national sports radio. A native of Baton Rouge and a graduate of LSU, Higgins will write commentary and special features about LSU sports for NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune, and will continue to appear on regional and national television and radio talking about the Tigers and SEC sports.