President’s column: Twitter storm at Texas resolved; let us know if 20-hour rule causes media access problems

By Dave Jones

I don’t know about where you live. But in the woods of Pennsylvania, it’s always the cicadas and crickets that let you know.

David Jones, 2017 FWAA President

I still can’t smell that certain scent of sweet freshly mown grass in August without thinking of the end of practice. Of taking off my helmet in the dewy dusk after being drill-sergeanted by coaches for two hours in 90 degrees.

The sensual connect is the same: You know it won’t be long now until the first kick.

When I was a kid this time of year, I couldn’t wait for the Street & Smith’s Official College Football Yearbook. I’m not suggesting you feel exactly the same about the 2017-18 FWAA Directory, but I can assure you it’s at the printers and headed for your mailbox within days. As always, thanks to Ted Gangi, it’s the most useful little book you will carry with you all season.

We’ve had some news on the access front that I feel compelled to address. In particular, we’ve had some good vibes lately at Texas — the positive resolution of a two-day dust-up at UT revolving around something that looked like a mandate about when reporters could tweet.

New coach Tom Herman, just arrived from Houston, caused something of a mini-furor when he requested that anyone covering the 30 to 45 minutes of practice and subsequent interviews not tweet until after those interviews had been completed. The purpose ostensibly was to allow everyone to digest and accurately relate info. Beat reporters understandably felt it was micromanagement and complained in print and to longtime sports information director John Bianco.

Well, they got the rule or guideline or whatever it was rolled back. It’s a good example of a coach who wants to have a good relationship with media deciding when and where to pick his battles after getting some push-back. Herman ended up saying his idea was only a preference, not a dictum.

A more global issue has been the new NCAA rule that media obligations count as part of the players’ 20-hour max. I want to know how your program is treating this, if they attempt to reduce access by using this as a lever and especially if you encounter unworkable constraints. For instance, if Monday becomes a blanket off-day but player interviews are not offered until Tuesday evening, does this become a burdensome jam against print deadline, if you have one, or push your post into an online readership dead zone beyond 8 or 9 p.m.? If it is, let me know and we’ll see if we can help finesse a solution.

I think we’ve turned the FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll into the best in the business and a particularly interesting one to fill in the two months before the CFP committee’s first rankings.

This will be our fourth go-round with it. After the first two polls (announced on Tuesdays), the results of the 48 pollsters are released at 11:30 every Sunday morning, allowing a quick post for you by noon before the NFL games crank up. Please continue to stress the transparency of the poll to your readers and link the individual ballots. It’s a hook that often sets ours apart from other polls and sets up weekly debate the others don’t have.

I also want to make special mention of Gina Lehe being honored by SportsBusiness Journal on Monday. Good reporters don’t depend on media relations folks, but we sure as hell appreciate the ones who know their jobs. And Gina is one. Not only is she the consummate pro, she hires people who do great work, as anyone who’s been to one of the bowls she’s managed can attest.

Now, as communications director and brand manager for the College Football Playoff, she’s been named as one of SBJ’s “Game Changers: Women in Sports Business.”

I can personally attest that if any sports info staffer ever acted with something bordering on heroism, Gina did at the post-2008 Rose Bowl. She was one of roughly half of those in the press box that day — media members and publicity staffers alike — who’d been stricken with a withering food poisoning plague the night before. A lot of people “played hurt” that day but none more so than Gina.

So, on that note, the season is upon us. In the words of one of my old coaches: “Are you ready?! I can’t have you people coming out flat!”

 

Advertisements

FWAA president calls on members to pitch our organization, benefits to non-member colleagues

By David Jones, 2017 FWAA President

I have met many FWAA members who’ve made great use of our organization. But maybe none struck me so much as a reporter I met last month while covering the Penn State spring scrimmage in State College.

David Jones, 2017 FWAA President

I would say it doesn’t take a nuclear engineer to figure out the benefits of FWAA membership. But then, such a guy would certainly be bright enough to recognize them, too.

I submit to you Blaise Collin, nuclear physicist by trade, college football reporter as a side gig, writing for the French-language football site Football Americain. He’s a proud member and his FWAA directory has served him well.

Collin was born and raised in the town of Nancy in east-central France near the German border. As a young boy, he was fascinated by video of American football. A couple of trips to his aunt’s home in Boston whetted his appetite. And after college, a year-long post-doctoral stint with the Penn State physics department in 2003 sent him over the top.

Collin was so taken by the sport that, even after returning to Paris to work, he took vacation time to make trips to the U.S. to see college games in Pac-12 country. And when he took a job in Idaho Falls, Idaho, as a research scientist with the Idaho National Laboratory in 2010, he began writing for FootballAmericain.com on the side. The site serves 20,000 fans of American football in France and French-speaking countries.

That’s when Collin discovered the FWAA. He joined in 2012. And he told me his directory has been indispensible in making contacts, finding sports info personnel to request credentials and feeding his bottomless thirst for college football knowledge:

“The booklet is really useful. It saves a lot of time. All the contacts are in one place.”

And that’s how he ended up in State College last month covering the Penn State “Blue-White” game as a credentialed reporter for FootballAmericain.com and revisiting his old stomping grounds.

I’ve used the directory my entire career since joining the FWAA in the 1990s, but for more than just calling SIDs. To me, tempering and honing what I think I know about a team or program or association with the clarity of someone who really knows it better than anyone — a veteran beat-writer or columnist from the school or an officer from the organization — is its most valuable resource. Cell phones and email addresses for just about everyone are in the directory.

And every time you consult the opinion or insight of such a person and use it, they remember you. There’s no better way to broaden your knowledge and build your contact list. Isn’t that really what reporting is all about?

That’s why I’m urging current members to reach out to those who either don’t know us or maybe have heard of us but aren’t members. Think of someone in your sphere, then look him or her up and see if they’re in the directory. If not, give them a pitch.

Becoming an FWAA member can’t help but be an asset — both to the new recruit and to you. Because we all know how great being in this association is.

Annual dues are $50. And for that, you get the directory — which is worth it by itself — but also more benefits than we’ve ever had. I’ll just touch on my favorite ones:

  • As “Hilton MVPs,” FWAA members get 20 percent off the best available rate at participating Hilton Worldwide properties around the country (includes Hilton, DoubleTree by Hilton, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Home2, Hilton Grand Vacations, Conrad and Waldorf Astoria). Also, MVP members can earn Hilton HHonors® GOLD VIP status with as little as four stays or nine total nights in 90 days, four times faster than normal. I’ve been a Hilton Honors member for years because I love the chain. This makes the deal sweeter.
  • FWAA members have complimentary network-wide access to 247Sports.com. Considering 247’s growth recently, I think that asset goes without saying.
  • There is no single annual publication that covers college football more thoroughly than “the book the experts can’t do without,” the Phil Steele College Football Preview. I have every copy back to the first in 1995. FWAA members who enroll or re-up by June 12 receive a complimentary copy. Once the magazine goes to print, copies are automatically mailed to active members. That’s a $12.99 value alone.
  • New this year: Complimentary admission to College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta and a discounted rate for accompanying guests with your 2017-18 membership card. Plus, half–price membership to the National Football Foundation (which allows you to vote for the College Football Hall of Fame).
  • Also new this year: FWAA members will receive $10 off the annual subscription to ESPN.com’s Insider. ESPN.com does not offer any other discounts on this subscription.

Beyond all of these tangible benefits is the intangible one: The FWAA is a brother-and-sisterhood. I feel we are the most cohesive and impactful such association in any major sport. Our members are and have been giants in the profession. And, with all the youthful talent we now have in the organization, that trend will only continue.

Be a part of us and bring others along. I can tell you, the benefits last a career.

President’s column: Be proud, audacious and answer to our better spirits 1

By Dave Jones
2017 FWAA President

Journalists are cynical. I’m not certain whether it’s more because we are skeptical folks at heart and intrinsically need to see proof or because we see so much duplicity and deviousness in detail.

Or maybe it’s just because we are prone to see the effects of the world, including our actions or mistakes, on our subjects, up close.

Dave Jones

Dave Jones

I’ll always remember the scene in a favorite old movie called Absence of Malice where a young reporter played by Sally Field is so reckless in attempting to nail a story that it leads to a woman, a principal in the story, taking her own life. An editor mentor tries to console the crushed Fields by offering her a desk position at the paper, suggesting maybe it’s time to come in from the daily storm:

Too many people out there. A lot of news is bad news for somebody. You stay out there too long, the somebodies start adding up.”

Well, I never wanted to be an editor. I always wanted to be on the street, in the arena, seeing in person events as they happened. That involvement can come with a cost.

When I was 30, about the age of the young reporter in Absence of Malice, I was told by my editor to go cover a story about a college student who had been too terrified to admit to her parents that she had become pregnant. She wore blousy clothes, tried not to eat too much and desperately hid her secret from everyone. Finally, she gave birth by herself in a dormitory bathroom and then left the baby in a dumpster to die.

It was a gruesome story that I told in as much detail as I could muster, relating police documents, collecting anecdotes about the young woman’s background, talking to friends, other students, even quoting a Bible-thumping preacher yelling to passersby on the quad: “Are you the murderess? Are you? You’re all responsible!”

My editors were very pleased with the story when I finished it that evening. It got play on A1. I did not feel especially proud, only that I’d done my job.

A few months later, we ran another small wire story on that young woman, tucked in the back of the state news section. It said she had taken her own life.

That’s been nearly three decades ago. It still pops into my head now and then. Not because I made any mistakes with the facts in that story: I didn’t. Not because I knew for sure that it had any effect at all on the young woman; I never knew.

Only because it suggested to me that what we do can have an effect on our subjects maybe more than we realize. It gave me my first lesson in empathy, one I’ve learned and re-learned throughout a 36-year career.

I’d like to think we can make a difference in a positive way. I love this business because of that. I love the people in it. And I see the great work they do. Many times they are journalists from small outlets that might be judged inconsequential. But their stories are anything but.

I cite, for example, The Daily Collegian of Penn State’s exposé of a pair of women’s gymnastics coaches of whom athletes alleged emotional abuse; and the nmfishbowl.com blog that exposed unflattering exit interviews with departing athletes who repeatedly alleged they were not allowed to take the classes they wanted to obtain a meaningful degree.

This is the type of work that FWAA writers have done, can do and, I’m confident, will. I’m inspired by them and believe we can help college football players protect themselves from administrators who do not always have their best interests in mind when presented with the overriding factors of profit.

Whether it is pressure to perform when not physically able, abusive coaches, encouragement to enroll in tailored curriculum not worthy of a genuine degree, improper concussion protocol, the over-issuance of addictive opioid pain medications or any other action that imperils or creates a disadvantage to the athlete, that’s where we should be —reporting, uncovering, afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted.

As the 74th president of the FWAA, walking in the large footprints of predecessors such as Paul Zimmerman, Blackie Sherrod, Jack Murphy, Ivan Maisel, Tony Barnhart and Dick Weiss, that is my goal: Be cynical and skeptical in a productive way. Let’s get out on the fields — and into the back hallways and public records — and make a difference.

A few reminders and notes:

  • I’d like to remind everyone that we’ll soon be taking entries for the FWAA Best Writing Contest. And if you have any ideas for our Beat Writer of the Year award, please email them to Malcolm Moran (malcolmmoran1@gmail.com).
  • If you want to serve on FWAA committees, we welcome you. Contact me (djones8681@verizon.net) or executive director Steve Richardson (tiger@fwaa.com) to be installed on the All-American, Bert McGrane Award, Volney Meece Scholarship, Merit Award or other committees.
  • We have some ongoing issues we’ll be addressing. First vice president Stefanie Loh of The Seattle Times will be heading up an effort to make shorter and safer the journeys to and from stadiums from media lots, especially at night and for those alone. Second vice president Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com has a particular interest in athletic departments who issue gag orders to the family members of players. These are worthy goals and I welcome your ideas on how to best handle them.
  • Tim Griffin is chair of our Super 11 awards for the top sports information directors in nation, the good guys and gals who understand helping us to do our jobs helps the athletes.

Finally, I’d like to express how much I enjoyed your reception in Tampa and assure you that I will dedicate this year to do my best in encouraging diligence, fairness and empathy. Be proud of what we do. And let’s resolve to be audacious and to answer to our better spirits in all our endeavors of 2017.

President’s column: A few things before passing the torch

Mark Anderson (left) sits on the dais at the National Football Foundation Dinner on Dec. 6 in New York. FWAA member Ed Grom of the American Sports Network is seated beside Mark. (Photo Courtesy of the NFF)

Mark Anderson (left) sits on the dais at the National Football Foundation Dinner on Dec. 6 in New York. FWAA member Ed Grom of the American Sports Network is seated beside Mark. (Photo Courtesy of the NFF)

Can’t believe my term as FWAA President is about to end, but I knew it was over when I lost Pennsylvania.

So, I promise a smooth transition to David Jones, who covers Penn State for the Harrisburg Patriot-News and will become the 2017 FWAA President on Jan. 9 in Tampa, Fla.

If I have one piece of advice to pass along to David, it’s to try to change the seating arrangement for the National Football Foundation Dinner in New York. I was in camera view the entire night, which sounds good, but believe me, it’s the worst thing because you’re aware that people are watching. All night. And it didn’t help that my bowtie was a little askew. Not that anyone noticed, except the UNLV football SID, who posted a photo on Facebook.

But that was a fabulous trip and an honor to be there, representing the FWAA in a room full of dignitaries that included two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, who sat just across the aisle from me.

It also was a thrill to present the Bronko Nagurski Trophy the previous night in Charlotte, N.C., to Alabama’s Jonathan Allen. He was truly touched to receive the award, and I enjoyed spending time with those who were honored. I even told Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers that the Wolverines stopped Ohio State on fourth down in overtime. He didn’t argue, of course.

So now it’s time to look ahead, and there are some key events in Tampa before I hand the reins to David.

We will present the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award to Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre, who did a phenomenal job in turning around a program that had nearly reached bottom. He has some experience in that regard, winning 10 games one season at San Jose State, which is even tougher than winning in Boulder.

Then, at our FWAA Awards Breakfast the morning of the national championship game between Alabama and Clemson, we will honor the late Steve Ellis, the former Florida State beat writer for the Tallahassee Democrat, by permanently attaching his name to the FWAA Beat Writer of the Year Award.

I worked with Steve in Tallahassee, where I saw his great work ethic firsthand. It is most fitting the first presentation in Steve’s name is taking place in Florida and Steve’s alma mater, Clemson, is in the title game. Steve’s widow, Karen, will drive down from Tallahassee to present the award to Jason Kersey for his work covering Oklahoma for The Oklahoman during the 2015 season.

So I wish David Jones all the best as he takes over, though I wish I had asked for that recount in Pennsylvania.

President’s column: On alert for media safety

By Mark Anderson

All of us who cover college football know that uneasy feeling of walking out of a stadium late at night, carrying a computer bag and walking just a little faster than usual to find his or her car in a poorly lit lot.

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

It’s a reality in covering the sport these days.

The walks have gotten longer to media parking lots because many athletic directors have felt the need to provide top donors with what were once prime parking spaces for the media. Television also has made college football more of a night game, causing later and later starts and lonelier and lonelier parking lots in the wee hours of the morning for reporters.

The issue isn’t necessarily where a media lot is located, although some are quite a distance from the press box.  It is about safety. The Football Writers Association of America believes schools need to make sure no one has to worry about safely returning to get his or her car.

Thankfully, we’re not alone.

The hierarchy of the College Sports Information Directors of America  (CoSIDA) is working with the FWAA, the  United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) and the College Football Playoff (CFP) to make sure this will no longer be a concern — especially for female reporters who have reported instances when they not only didn’t feel safe, but even threatened.

The CFP, in its National Championship game on Jan. 9 at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, will have two services available for media exiting the stadium. Security personnel will be available “should media members wish to be escorted to their vehicles.” In addition a text service will be available for media to report any concerns or issues (post-game, specific location and the issue).

Here are the recommendations CoSIDA has sent out in a letter to conferences regarding press parking for college football and basketball games:

  • A golf cart should be made available two to three hours before game time if the distance from the media parking lot(s) to the sporting venue is longer than a quarter of a mile.
  • A golf cart, escort or security should be made available late at night if requested.
  • A texting service should be available for reporters arriving at the sporting venue and later when departing.
  • A precise and detailed description of the parking lots and distances to the sporting venue should be provided in all media information.

On the reporter’s end, I would suggest if there is a concern about the safety of covering an event, be proactive in communicating with the host sports information director. If you know ahead of time that this could be an issue, discuss during the week with the SID the above suggestions. Or, if you get to the stadium and then discover the problem, talk with the SID before kickoff to establish arrangements afterward.

We believe most SIDs are willing to work with reporters to make sure they return safely to their cars after a game. But if problems arise, we would like to be apprised of those.

President’s column: The vanishing depth chart

This is starting to get ridiculous.

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

It was one thing when Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t have a flip card with a Wolverine two-deep roster on it in the press box before the home opener against Hawaii.  Now, he’s making it a habit for every home game.

But this isn’t just about Harbaugh.

It’s about the danger of a trend taking place when other coaches begin to believe it’s a good idea to never release a depth chart. That’s why it’s important to stand up to what’s happening in Ann Arbor and make sure it doesn’t spread nationwide.

And coaches need to release accurate depth charts, unlike the one Kansas distributed for its opener against Rhode Island. Eight players started despite not being listed on the first team, according to a story in the Lawrence Journal-World.

One or two is understandable. Coaches make late changes all the time based on a variety of factors, including injuries and tweaks to the game plan.

Not eight.

If a coach doesn’t want to release a depth chart during the week (hello, Jim Mora), we in the media won’t be happy about it, but that can at least be explained away as not wanting to give information to the opponent. But no credible reason can be given to not have a depth chart available shortly before kickoff on a flip card when there is no competitive advantage to be gained. The players already know their roles for that day.

The potential lack of flip cards in the press box also should be a concern for professional scouts and video crews _ not to mention the media, including the broadcasters for radio and television networks which pay millions in rights fees.

So what can be done?

Harbaugh has so much power that no one on Michigan’s campus is going to force him to have one.

We need outside help to make sure not only depth charts are released before kickoff, but that the information is genuine.

So we need the Division I Football Oversight Committee to not only implement rules to provide such depth charts, but to put real teeth in those rules. And while committee members are at it, establish some rules against coaches changing players’ numbers on a weekly basis. Confusion can reign.

A third area of concern is enforcing a rule already in place about the contrast between numbers and the color backgrounds of uniforms. The numbers in some of these combinations are increasingly difficult to identify.

Colorado visits Michigan this weekend, and the Buffaloes released their own tongue-in-cheek two-deep of celebrities and fictional characters. I do wonder about the decision to go with Bernie Sanders over Vladimir Lenin at free safety.

But even though you have to give Colorado credit for making light of the situation, the Buffs won’t release a two-deep because Michigan won’t do it. It’s a perfectly reasonable stance for Colorado to take.

One, however, the Buffs shouldn’t be forced to take.

President’s column: Membership directory is in the mail

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

Welcome to the beginning of the FWAA’s next 75 years.

We have a lot to live up to given all that’s happened during the organization’s first 75 years. That birthday we celebrated in 2015 is in our rear-view mirror. But with a membership that is strong and talented, there is little reason to think the future can’t be at least as bright.

The information-packed FWAA 2016-17 Membership Directory will be in your hands soon, if not already. Coming to a mailbox near you is one reason your membership is so valuable. You have access — cell numbers, emails and twitter handles — of contacts that your non-FWAA member friends don’t possess.

And that’s only part of what the guide offers: informative team pages on all FBS schools; bowl, award, conference and media contacts, as well as individual listings for FCS schools. I-30 East’s Ted Gangi, Executive Director Steve Richardson, the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic’s Charlie Fiss and staff deserve a big thank you for the work they put into the guide, which alone is worth the price of FWAA membership.

Between now and the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on Jan. 9 in Tampa, we have a lot of ground to cover.

On Sept. 6 the first regular-season FWAA-National Football Foundation Super 16 Poll will be released. Please write about it and talk about it every week. The FWAA-NFF already has conducted a pre-season poll by its 40-plus member panel, composed of FWAA members and College Football Hall of Famers.

We are already beginning to send out information for player nominations for the Armed Forces Merit Award, sponsored by the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth. We will have flyers at many of the early-season big games that explain the award. Those nominees should be sent to Tim Simmons at bfishinc@aol.com

In the next two weeks, we will have exciting news, officially announcing a sponsor for our FWAA Freshman All-America Team

Once we get into the season, we will announce a Team of the Week each Monday, our Bronko Nagurski Defensive Player of the Week on Tuesday and our FWAA/Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominee on Wednesdays, starting a little later than  the other two weekly awards.  Please send any nominees for the Courage Award to ESPN’s Matt Fortuna at matt.fortuna@gmail.com.

And later …

FWAA members will receive their offensive line and defensive All-America ballots on Nov. 7 and offensive skill and special team ballots a week later. During our All-America Team selection conference calls, we look carefully at how the membership votes.  The 26-man 2016 FWAA All-America team will be announced in mid-December.

We also will be busy with announcements of the Bronko Nagurski  (Best Defensive Player) and Outland Trophy (Best Interior Lineman) Award winners in early December. A highlight in early January will be the honoring of our 60th Annual Coach of the Year with the Eddie Robinson  bust presentation  on Jan. 7 in Tampa. The legendary Robinson has been the namesake of our award since 1997.

During the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast on Jan. 9 in Tampa, we will hand out, among other in-house awards, the “Steve Ellis Beat Writer of the Year Award.” His widow, Karen, will present it, a year after the FWAA Board decided to name the award after her late husband. Steve was a former colleague of mine at the Tallahassee Democrat and the best reporter I’ve ever been around. He once filed a story on his honeymoon. I don’t recommend that, by the way.

It’s sure to be a memorable year.

President’s column: Beat Writer award to be named for Steve Ellis 1

By Mark Anderson, FWAA President

A friend and I were traveling through the West with Steve Ellis back in the early 1990s. We all woke up in Provo, Utah, one morning ready to hit the road. But first we had to wait for Steve to file a Florida State football notebook.

In July. On his vacation.

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

That was Steve. From him, I learned the value of great reporting. No one could ever outwork Steve. The trips with Steve also gave me a love for this region of the country and an appreciation for the beauty of the West. I eventually made my way from the Tallahassee Democrat to the Reno Gazette-Journal and then to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Having worked with and having known Steve, I think it is truly appropriate that we name our FWAA Beat Writer of the Year Award after him. I have to credit FWAA Board Member Malcolm Moran, a long-time friend of Steve’s, with the idea. We both wish Steve could be here to enjoy the recognition.

Steve, sad to say, died on Nov. 19, 2009 after suffering a heart attack nine days earlier. His widow, Karen, will attend the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast on Jan. 9, 2017 in Tampa and present the award in his name.

Karen shared her thoughts with the FWAA:

When I found out the Football Writers Association of America planned to name its Beat Writer of the Year Award after Steve, I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. I know Steve was an outstanding writer and a special man, but to be recognized by his peers is just amazing. I watched Steve work 24/7 to make sure he didn’t miss a story and to ensure all the facts were correct. The other writers on the Florida State beat always said they had to work harder just to keep up with Steve. He truly loved what he did and knew at an early age he wanted to be a writer.

When we first started dating Steve was working on a story about a freshman football player and was worried about a quote he thought could give people the wrong impression about the young man. He called the player’s position coach and was up until 2 a.m. waiting for a quote from the coach that would help give credibility to the player with fans. More…

President’s column: Mark Anderson invites you to ‘Expand the Brand’

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

As the seemingly unending UNLV basketball coaching search draws to a close (the regents still have to vote on the deal), I can finally come out of my Las Vegas bunker and think about other things.

And, as the temperatures start approaching 90 degrees, thoughts naturally turn to college football.

And yours should, too. The FWAA has just begun our membership drive, and the slogan is “Expand the Brand,” meaning we want to go from about 1,300 members to 1,500.

If you’re reading this column, chances are you already have a good idea of why the $50 ($25 for students and 2016 graduates) is money well spent on a membership. It is even better spent if your company picks it up. But if not, you can write it off on your taxes because of the FWAA’s non-profit status.

Find those who aren’t members, be it reporters or SIDs, and let them know the benefits. The more members, the louder our collective voices, and there are plenty of reasons to scream about becoming a member.

The directory, which is available in print form and online, is alone worth the cash. Hear about a player transferring from Illinois but you live in the Pacific Northwest? Look up cell numbers to beat writers in the directory and start calling (begin with those in bold because they are members and should be rewarded with information sharing). More…

Mark Anderson is FWAA’s 2016 president

(Ed. Note: Mark Anderson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal became the FWAA’s 2016 President in early January in Scottsdale, Ariz. Below is speech that he gave accepting the position during the FWAA Awards Breakfast at the media hotel. Mark, who covered UNLV football for a number of years, has moved to the basketball beat but will still report football periodically during the fall while serving as the FWAA President.)

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

 “Thank you all for this incredible honor. I am humbled to be so warmly welcomed by you not only the past few days, but the past two years after Tiger put me on the board. I remember how surprised I was at his invitation to eventually rise to president. Not only did I cover a team that wasn’t from a power conference, but I covered arguably the worst program in that league. Kirk Bohls (2014 FWAA President) later enlightened me on the importance of having diverse representation. Little did Tiger know, however, that I’m an SEC grad (from the University of Florida).

“This is a big day in many ways. It’s also my 17th anniversary at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and this has been a time for milestones. My wife and I each turned 50 in the fall, and our son — I mean, our straight-A student son — entered middle school. My paper was sold — twice. You might have heard about the second purchase. My 15th wedding anniversary is later this year.

“One of my colleagues, Ed Graney, takes over as President next year of the United States Basketball Writers Association. Another co-worker, Steve Carp, is a former USBWA President. To say I am proud of where I work would be an understatement.

“I’m honored to become the second Tallahassean to become President of the FWAA. The other one, Bill McGrotha (1990 FWAA President), was the long-time columnist of the Tallahassee Democrat, and I not only worked with Bill, I was his driver for Florida State football games. You knew you were walking with a celebrity when going through the Doak Campbell Stadium parking lot with Bill. He was almost as popular as Bobby Bowden.

“We all are a reflection of our upbringing, and I want to take a moment to talk about two great influences on my life and career.

“My dad is 96, and the past few months have been difficult with him going in and out of hospitals. But he’s the same fighter who survived pneumonia at the age of 12 or 13 after a doctor said he wouldn’t make it through the night. My dad also watched his parents lose all their savings in the Depression, and he never was able to get a college degree he so badly wanted. But my dad went on to become one of the world’s top civil engineers, overseeing the construction of dams all over the globe and giving my family the opportunity to experience so many cultures that most Americans miss out on.

“But the main influence on my career was my mom. She and I had season tickets for years to Florida State games before I later came to my senses and went to Florida. If the Seminoles happened to pull off a big victory, my mom would go downtown and buy the state papers. If she liked a particular passage — Hubert Mizell of the St. Petersburg Times was a particular favorite — she would read it aloud. I sometimes hear her voice when I write.

“We all know how important it is to have an understanding family with our crazy deadlines and constant travel, and I certainly have a wife and son who love and support me. Without them, it would be much more difficult to live out this crazy dream of writing about sports for a living.

“Thank you again for this privilege. I am excited about the challenges over the next year and about the opportunity to represent this great organization. You will get nothing but my best.”