President’s column: FWAA pushing into the digital age

By Stefanie Loh/2018 FWAA President

Happy spring, everyone.

With the change in seasons comes the annual barrage of spring football games all across the country.

2018 FWAA President Stefanie Loh of the Seattle Times

As teams get ready to play in scrimmages that might (or might not?) give coaches some indication of how they’ll replenish their depleted depth charts this fall, the FWAA is also gearing up on a couple of new initiatives.

For one, this spring marks our push into the digital age.

You might have noticed that our official social media accounts have been more active of late, and that many off you have been invited to join our members-only Facebook Group. Still looking for more to join the group. Check your email box for the invitation or email me at sloh@seattletimes.com  or Steve Richardson at tigerfwaa@gmail.com and we will include you in the group.

In the coming months, we’re hoping to turn this group into an online gathering space for FWAA members and give everyone a forum to talk to each other, reconnect with old colleagues, and be the nosy journalists that we are and discuss the comings and goings of both our peers and the coaches we cover all across the country.

Looking for a new job? Need to connect with another beat writer to do a Q&A on a team the program you cover will face in the fall? Want to get someone’s take on a new assistant coach who’s been hired by the head coach you cover? Throw out a question in the Facebook Group.

We’d like for the members-only Facebook Group to serve as a resource where our writers can go to meet other members, ask questions of beat writers who cover other teams, and strike up conversations among ourselves about the ins and outs of the college football world.

But we have other irons in the fire as well.

As we redesign the website and ramp up our social media efforts, we’re looking for volunteers who might be willing to help man our social media channels for small chunks of time during the various FBS football media days that will occur over the summer. Have a couple of hours to spare and want to help tweet some color or throw up some short video from media day? We’d love to have you.

We’re also making a push into Reddit and would like to expand our presence with a weekly Q&A segment between beat writers and fans. If you’re willing to help with this, do let us know.

Otherwise, enjoy spring football, and squeeze in some well-deserved vacation time this summer. Fall camp will be here before you know it!

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President’s column: As media industry changes, let us know how the FWAA can help 1

2018 FWAA President Stefanie Loh of the Seattle Times

I’m incredibly honored to be called upon to lead the FWAA into its 77th year.

I fell in love with the game of football while watching the NFL on television half a world away. But it wasn’t till I started college at the University of Oregon that I acquired an appreciation for the college version of the sport.

For a native Singaporean who grew up in a country where “football” means soccer, and virtually no one I knew understood the rules of American football, I never imagined that this sport would become such a big part of my life.

As an industry, college football is perhaps the most unique spectator sport of its kind. The gladiatorial nature of the game, combined with the creativity you see at the college level, with its variety of offenses and defenses, and the built-in dramatic quality that comes from the way the season is structured – every game counts – captivates the country like nothing else.

In my career, I’ve covered college football on both coasts, reporting on schools in several different conferences and at newspapers of varying sizes. I believe that background gives me a solid base from which to understand the trials and challenges that covering this sport poses to media members at organizations of different sizes. And I hope you will all use us as a resource to help you do your jobs.

Next year, I’m excited that college football will take its biggest game – the national championship, out to the coast I’ve come to call home – Levi’s Stadium in the Bay Area. The FWAA hopes to capitalize on that to make a push out west and garner more members and exposure on that side of the country. We also hope to diversify the membership, improve our website, and make a stronger push on social media. I look forward to helping to lead that charge.

This organization has been an invaluable part of the college football media landscape for decades, and it has a proud history.

But as we know, the media industry has changed drastically over the last 15 years or so. As we continue to navigate our place in the digital age I would also like to hear from you – the membership – on how we, the FWAA board, can better serve your needs.

So please, feel free to reach out to me directly (email: sloh@seattletimes.com). I hope to hear from many of you. Enjoy the offseason (we all know that doesn’t really exist anymore).

 

President’s column: Enjoy the parties in Atlanta, but don’t miss the FWAA Awards Breakfast on Monday

By David Jones

What’s ever bad about a long weekend? But, of all the Friday-Monday spans of the calendar, this is right up there with my favorite, because I get to see so many familiar and friendly faces.

David Jones, 2017 FWAA President

The final weekend of the college football season extends through all the usual events. And this year, they happen in what’s certain to be a blitzo-crazy Atlanta, what with two SEC teams and the local favorites playing for the College Football Playoff championship trophy. Take cover, Yankees.

We’ll have the usual fun with the Past Presidents Dinner on Friday night, then handing out the Eddie Robinson Award (to former Central Florida and now Nebraska coach Scott Frost) on Saturday evening.

But, to paraphrase Austin Powers, I want everyone to behave themselves as much as possible at the media party on Sunday night. That way, you’ll be fresh as an April azalea for our Football Writers Association of America awards breakfast on Monday morning. I have selfish interest involved here because some of my favorite people in the business are going to be both honored and handing out the hardware.

Actually, I don’t know the first honoree, only her dad, former FWAA president George Schroeder. But if his daughter Elizabeth can write anything like the old man at whichever university she picks (I’m told Oklahoma and Arkansas are in the running), she’ll honor the name of Okie legend Volney Meece, whose scholarship she’s won.

Then, Malcolm Moran, who’s only been everywhere and covered every event with his distinctive prose, will present the Best Writing Contest awards. I don’t wanna overemphasize any over others, but two of the biggest winners are two of my oldest friends in this biz, Glenn Guilbeau and Dennis Dodd.

Same goes for a very deserving winner of the Steve Ellis Beat Writer of the Year winner. Mike Griffith has been a giant on his beat everywhere he’s gone, now in an extremely newsy venue covering the Tennessee Volunteers. Tough beat, tough competitor. No surprise Mike won.

Ivan Maisel will then hand Steve Wieberg the Bert McGrane Award, our version of the FWAA ring of honor. Steve is more knowledgeable than any of us about exactly how the College Football Playoff works, for good reason. He’s the only one of us who’s ever served on the CFP selection committee.

And finally, it will be my distinct pleasure to introduce your new 2018 FWAA president, Stefanie Loh of The Seattle Times. You probably know Stef from her shining work on the Washington State and San Diego State beats (at the San Diego Union-Tribune). I’ve known her since she was a wonderful feature writer for us at PennLive. I’ll tell you about one story she wrote that blew me away.

But I’m saving that for the breakfast. I’m looking forward to all of you joining us in Atlanta.

President’s column: Coming to grips with award season

I suppose we’re susceptible to award fatigue this time of year. All of the shows and the speech-making and tux-wearing and glad-handing and back-slapping can get a little much, especially when bowl season is already upon us.

David Jones, 2017 FWAA President

It can almost make you turn into one of those cynical iconoclasts, the type who refuse to attend such functions for all their self-congratulation. I have been close to so afflicted at times.

But, then… nahhh. See, I’m a sucker for a gratuitous grip-n-grin shot. I even do them with friends. Which made my duties the past couple of weeks a pleasure.

I have to say, the six young men the FWAA honored earlier this month at the Bronko Nagurski Trophy gala in Charlotte both surprised me and altered my thinking about awards shows. They all not only seemed to enjoy their honor with a sense of humility, but they also appeared to genuinely enjoy the experience.

And I feel like I made some new friends. At one time or another, I was able to have a conversation with all of the Nagurski finalists as well as Virginia Military’s Greg Sanders (the Defender of the Nation Award recipient) during the two days of various functions in Charlotte.

Though it was the end of a long and grueling regular season, I think Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, Georgia’s Roquan Smith, Houston’s Ed Oliver, Iowa’s Josey Jewell and the Nagurski winner, North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb, all got a real kick out of both meeting new people and each other. They even managed to make the best of spending a disproportionate amount of time in formal attire.

When you meet those who have the stuff to excel in any walk of life, it’s always fun to see what makes them tick. That’s how a simple question to Jewell about his major at Iowa resulted in a comprehensive explanation of a business plan he has in the works for a new way to graze cattle. It periodically moves them onto fresh ground with the use of global positioning satellite tracking. You’ll just have to trust me on this, it was actually fascinating.

A couple of nights later, I represented the FWAA at the National Football Foundation dinner in New York and found myself at one point standing in a line between Jerry Jones and Steve Spurrier as dozens of us waited to be introduced to the assembled multitudes at the Midtown Hilton ballroom. Talk about, “Which of these is not like the others?”

Ready or not, the postseason honors are coming fast and furious now. Houston’s Oliver, a mere sophomore, did find himself the winner of the Outland Trophy, which we helped announce last week at the Home Depot College Awards on ESPN. He’ll be formally honored on Jan. 10 in Omaha at the presentation banquet.

Outgoing Central Florida head coach Scott Frost, who’s headed to Nebraska, his alma mater, after the Knights’ Peach Bowl match against Auburn, was just announced as our FWAA Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year. I’ll have the pleasure of presenting him with that trophy in Atlanta on Jan. 6.

You may already have perused the FWAA 2017 All-America Team, released on Monday. And this year’s Orange Bowl Courage Award winner will be announced late this year, on Dec. 29.

Of course, we’re all looking forward to the FWAA Awards Breakfast on Jan. 8 in Atlanta when I’ll help hand out the Bert McGrane Award, the Steve Ellis Beat Writer of the Year Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Volney Meece Scholarship.

And I’m personally very much anticipating the introduction then of your new FWAA president for 2018, Stef Loh from The Seattle Times. She’s not just one of my favorite people in this business, she’s a terrific writer and reporter who’ll represent this office with honor.

More about all that in my final missive in a few weeks. Until then, let’s go bowling! And if I come up to you somewhere these next few weeks and arbitrarily demand a grip-n-grin shot, look, just humor me.

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!”

 

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.