In the Trenches: Outland Trophy Matchups Week 3 Reply

Our weekly installment of In The Trenches takes a look at the much-anticipated matchup of college football bluebloods, USC vs. Texas in Austin. Staying in Big 12 country, Iowa State and Oklahoma open up conference play, as the Sooners and their three watch listers look to avenge an upset loss a year ago in Ames.

http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/outland/inthetrenches180915.pdf

While you’re at it, we ask that you follow all of the FWAA’s endeavors online:

@TheFWAA

@OutlandTrophy

We have partnered with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and their #FightFlu campaign this season, so we ask that you join spokesman Joe Thomas, a 2006 FWAA All-American and the Outland Trophy winner, in supporting the cause.

Steve Richardson

Executive Director

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Charlotte Touchdown Club announces new partnership for Bronko Nagurski Legends Award

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Touchdown Club is excited to announce a new partnership with Rolle Oral & Facial Surgery to present the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award.  In conjunction with the Football Writers Association of America, the Charlotte Touchdown Club presents the award each December at the annual Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet to an outstanding collegiate defensive football player from the past 40 years.

“On behalf of the Football Writers Association of America, the Charlotte Touchdown Club is delighted to announce Rolle Oral & Facial Surgery as the new Presenting Sponsor of the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award,” said John Rocco Executive Director of the Charlotte Touchdown Club.  “Dr. Richard Rolle Jr.’s enthusiasm and passion for the great game of college football will prove to be the perfect partnership honoring legends of the game.”

This year’s legends award recipient is Ohio State linebacker Tom Cousineau from the class of 1977.  Past legends award winners include:  2007-Alan Page & Bubba Smith, 2008-Ted Hendricks, 2009-Roger Wehrli, 2010-Mike McCoy, 2011-Jack Youngblood, 2012-Larry Jacobson, 2013-Randy Rhino, 2014-Randy White, 2015-Randy Gradishar, 2016-Chet Moeller, and 2017-Ross Browner.

“Having the privilege to play at the University of Notre Dame under legendary coach Lou Holtz, I’m honored, elated and count this as a true blessing to be the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award Presenting Sponsor,” said Dr. Richard R. Rolle Jr.  “I take great pride in this tremendous opportunity now and for years to come.”

This year’s Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet will be held Monday, December 3rd at the Charlotte Convention Center.  University of Michigan head coach, Jim Harbaugh, is slated as the keynote speaker.

About Rolle Oral & Facial Surgery
Dr. Richard R. Rolle Jr. is a leading oral & maxillofacial surgeon, with strong ties to athletics and delivering excellence www.rolleoralfacialsurgery.com.  Rolle Oral & Facial Surgery offers expertise in: dental implants, wisdom tooth extraction, youth-capturing, cosmetic injectables, oral surgery and cleft lip reconstruction in his Lake Norman, North Carolina practice.  Dr. Rolle holds a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame where he played varsity football under legendary Coach Lou Holtz.  He completed his oral surgery internship at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital and holds a Doctor of Dental Surgery from Meharry Medical College.  Rolle Oral & Facial Surgery is the official surgeon for the Charlotte Hornets, Charlotte Checkers and Charlotte 49ers.

The Charlotte Touchdown Club is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1990 for the purpose of promoting high school, collegiate, and professional football in the Charlotte, North Carolina region.  Since its inception, the club has grown as well as diversified boasting a sponsor team of more than (80) companies.  The Club’s activities and services focus community attention on the outstanding Citizenship, Scholarship, Sportsmanship, and Leadership of area athletes and coaches.  Through individual and corporate support, more than $2,000,000 has been raised to benefit the Touchdown Club’s scholarship efforts.  For more information, contact John Rocco (704-347-2918 or jrocco@touchdownclub.com). The official website of the Charlotte Touchdown Club is www.touchdownclub.com.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of the men and women across North America who cover college football for a living.  The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game day operations, major awards and an All-America team.  Through its website, the FWAA works to improve communication among all those who work within the game. The FWAA also sponsors scholarships for aspiring writers and an annual writing contest.  Behind the leadership of President Stefanie Loh and Executive Director Steve Richardson and a board of veteran journalists, the FWAA continues grow and work to help college football prosper at all levels. There are now over 1,000 members.

 

2018 Best Game Story: John Bohnenkamp, The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa)

Comment by the judge: Writer did an excellent job in pointing out not only was it an upset, but the surprising number of points Iowa scored on Ohio State. Good historical facts on most points Iowa scored in the series and how long it had been since Hawkeyes scored so many points. Also Iowa’s recent history of upsets at Kinnick Stadium. Very good quotes to back up the facts.”

By John Bohnenkamp

The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa)

IOWA CITY — It was over in eight seconds.

The first offensive play of the game, Iowa safety Amani Hooker roared in front of a pass from Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett for a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown, the first points in the Hawkeyes’ 55-24 win over the third-ranked Buckeyes…

Wait, wait, wait.

Fifty-five points?

Against Ohio State?

Really?

“We were having fun out there,” running back Akrum Wadley said. “You’re doing the right thing when you’re having fun.”

But 55 points, from an team that had scored just 27 in its last two games — 10 in a loss at Northwestern, 17 in a home win over Minnesota?

Really?

Wadley remembered when he was interviewed about the game earlier in the week, when he was confident that something big was coming..

“You guys were looking at me like I was (crazy),” he said. “We believe in this.”

Saturday’s win was another one of those November shockers by the Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium, who have knocked off four top-five teams here in their last five tries.

Magic in autumn’s gloom is in the eyes of the ones pulling off the upset.

“What stands out,” said Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley, who threw for 226 yards and five touchdowns, “is how well we played as a team.”

“When we execute in every phase of the game, we’re going to play a game like this,” linebacker Josey Jewell said.

“It’s got the Kinnick curse, or whatever you want to call it,” Ohio State center Billy Price said.

It was only the fourth win for the Hawkeyes (6-3 overall, 3-3 Big Ten) over the Buckeyes (7-2, 5-1) in the last 30 years — they don’t play each other much, though, this was the first matchup since 2013.

It’s the most points scored by an Iowa team ever in the series, the most points scored by the Hawkeyes against a ranked team since a 55-17 win over Texas in the 1984 Freedom Bowl.

Ohio State was favored by double digits — the line had pushed to 20 in the hours before the game.

“We came into this game heavy underdogs, and for good reason,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Ohio State is a tremendous football team. But the big thing is our guys really believed in themselves all week long. They had a good week of preparation, and then most importantly came out and really played with great energy, great effort, a lot of grit, and played opportunistic football, and that’s important in a game like this.”

“We didn’t care who they were,” said Wadley, who rushed for 118 yards. “From my point of view, if you keep thinking about stuff like that, if you overrespect somebody, you get nervous. I try to think everybody is the same.”

It’s a defeat that will prove fatal to the Buckeyes’ national championship hopes.

It was only the second road loss for coach Urban Meyer since he came to Ohio State.

Someone asked him if there were any signs that a defeat like this was coming.

“No,” he said.

The sign came eight seconds in. The Hooker interception was the first of four for Barrett — he had only one all season coming in — with the other three going to cornerback Josh Jackson.

“I definitely think it set the tone,” Jewell said. “Sometimes you start off slow and you don’t want to do that. But in this game, it started off right.”

“All eyes are on J.T. Barrett,” Wadley said. “He’s the QB, first play, they think it’s supposed to be easy money for Ohio State. Then, boom, Amani Hooker.”

The Hawkeyes and Buckeyes traded scoring drives — it was 17-17 before Iowa finally took control with 31 unanswered points.

Barrett, a Heisman Trophy candidate coming in, was rattled at times, thanks mostly to an ever-changing Iowa defense.

“It was a little bit of everything,” Jackson said.

“They just played very well against us,” Meyer said.

Someone asked Meyer if he was stunned.

“Yeah,” he said.

He wasn’t the only one.

Stanley, a sophomore making his ninth start, was as poised as ever. He threw two touchdown passes each to tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, and added another to fullback Drake Kulick. Eight different Hawkeyes caught at least one pass.

“A lot of big throws for him,” Ferentz said.

On the last touchdown pass to Hockenson, Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard had grabbed Stanley’s foot, but he still made the play.

“I think probably my favorite play is the one where he’s got the guy bringing him down and he finds a way to get the ball in the end zone there for a touchdown,” Ferentz said.

It was a game that, really, was over in eight seconds, but the party lasted for 3 hours, 33 minutes, ending with a field storming by most of the 67,669 in attendance.

The Hawkeyes are bowl-eligible again, the 16th time in the last 17 seasons, with another November victory notched.

Hooker was asked about that first play.

“I couldn’t draw it up any better than that,” he said.

There was no question about it. The same could be said for the whole day.

John Bohnenkamp

John Bohnenkamp

Age: 52

College: Iowa

Background: John Bohnenkamp is sports editor/colleges writer at The Hawk Eye newspaper in Burlington, Iowa. He is a 1988 graduate of the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He worked at the Daily Gate City (Keokuk, Iowa) from 1988 to 1991 before moving to The Hawk Eye, where he was a preps reporter for two years before becoming assistant sports editor from 1993 to 1999. He has covered University of Iowa basketball, along with Western Illinois University football and basketball, since 1993. He added the Iowa football beat in 2014 after the death of long-time beat writer Susan Denk. He added the minor-league baseball beat this season, covering the Burlington Bees, the Class A Midwest League affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels. He has won 16 APSE top-10 writing awards, along with seven United States Basketball Writers Association top-5 awards. This is his second FWAA honor.

2018 Best Feature, Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com

Comment by the judge: “The sweat and blood – and pain – dripped off this story. It could have been written in a weight room. Great development of a profile on legendary strength coach Dave Redding.”

By Dennis Dodd

CBSSports.com

BUSH ISLAND, Neb. — Sitting before you is the end of political correctness.

On more than one occasion, Dave Redding asks if you want a drink. Never mind that it is early afternoon. Behind the 64-year-old lounging in his favorite chair is a cardboard cut-out of John Wayne.

The Duke almost seems to be looking over the shoulder of a man who reflects his American hero ethic. Everything here on the wide open Great Plains seems to be bigger, broader, more profane.

“If I don’t take any of these pills,” Redding says. “I wouldn’t be able to do any of this shit.”

In other words, to simply live as normally as possible.

Redding is still well enough to play in a front yard populated by a 150-pound French Mastif named Dug and loyal black lab named Jak.

An in-progress wood carving of Lakota warrior Crazy Horse graces his land. Before the day is out, Redding will pull out a Super Bowl ring, a Big Eight conference championship ring, a gold-plated Winchester rifle.

Colorful stories from a career in strength and conditioning are sprinkled with F-bombs. In a quiet moment, the ultimate man’s man curses his fortune.

“I’d do anything,” Redding says quietly, “to have my health.”

But he doesn’t and that sucks. What Dave Redding does have is Parkinson’s Disease. It’s obvious now. The chronic, degenerative neurological disorder is characterized by muscle tremors.

Doctors will say you don’t necessarily die from Parkinson’s. But as symptoms worsen, it can cause choking and falls that lead to death.

Redding has chosen to live with his affliction in quiet dignity out here on the banks of the Platte River.

You need to know Dave Redding and his plight at this moment. For more than three decades, he was a college and NFL strength coach. More than that, he helped invent and refine the profession that is a staple of the modern game.

If you follow or play football, you probably either know him or know of him; if not, shame on you, because you should.

Now retired, the former Nebraska defensive end was the first strength coach at Washington State (1977), Missouri (1978) and for the Cleveland Browns (1982).

For nine teams, the man both sculpted All-Pros and counseled college kids about their deepest fears. The NFL’s strength coach of the year in 2006 is a USA Strength and Conditioning hall of famer.

“You’re the only one on the staff that handles every player every day,” Redding explained. “Even trainers don’t do that. You have to be mother, father, best friend, worst enemy and the fine line between kicking them in the ass and patting them on the back.”

All in the name of bigger, stronger, faster, better.

“He was a wild one,” said Boyd Epley, Nebraska’s assistant athletic director in charge of strength and conditioning. “He wasn’t a choir boy, but he was a lot of fun to be around. Very loyal, very good guy.”

The cabin Redding and his dad built could be a man cave showroom. It’s also so isolated Epley and a couple of buddies got lost trying to find it.

Redding dug the well himself. He and 19 other neighbors own 2,000 acres on what is an actual island in the middle of the Platte.

There are deer, coyotes, bald eagles, turkey, ducks and pheasant. If the reason for his retirement wasn’t so sad, the beauty would make you swear Robert Redford and Brad Pitt were around somewhere in a scene for “A River Runs Through It.”

Redding gets around with the help of crutches — converted Louisville Slugger baseball bats. He even drives. His speech is quiet, sometimes slow, but always convicted.

“It’s hard to be seen like this [going] from cock of the walk,” Redding laments, “from Silverback [gorilla] to cripple.”

Two nephews drop by on a regular basis to check on the  legend nicknamed “Red Man.” Not many other folks call these days.

Around 10 on a regular basis, Redding said. Green Bay Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers is one of them.

Redding says he’s probably had the affliction for 20 years. He was diagnosed in 2004. In 2009, he joined the Packers. Three years later, in 2011, Redding had enough service time to get NFL bridge insurance and was lucky enough to get that Super Bowl ring.

It’s clear there is still more resolve than pity sitting in that comfy chair under John Wayne’s gaze.

“Aaron Rodgers, the first time I saw him, I said, ‘When are you going to drop another nut and lead this team? It’s your team. You gotta start manning up,'” Redding said.

That 2011 season remains Rodgers’ career year — 45 touchdowns, six picks, more than 4,600 passing yards.

Current Packers strength coach Mark Lovat a member of Redding’s inner circle. He visits Bush Island twice a year.

“Dave is my best friend in the world …,” Lovat said. “Dave is real. He would probably be more proud at his building of men than his building of muscles. That sums it up, I would say. Someone paid him that compliment at one time. That’s one of the things he was most proud of.”

Lovat isn’t cavalier calling his friend “a pioneer.”

“He was the man,” USC strength coach Ivan Lewis said, “mystical almost.”

Lewis was a raw intern in 2004 when he saw Redding take over a Chargers’ team that included Drew Brees. The season before, Redding and wide receiver David Boston were involved in what ESPN called “a run-in.”

“Him and I got in a fight,” Redding said flatly. “He wanted to sue me and all that shit.”

Boston was suspended.

Redding’s dad is said to have brought weight training techniques back from Europe during World War II.

George “Crump” Redding coached North Platte (Nebraska) High to the 1962 state championship. Crump and Nebraska legend Bob Devaney were friends.

“This was our dinner table,” Redding said from the kitchen of the cabin. “My dad built this table. Devaney used to be sitting here with all the Nebraska coaches. I was just a kid.

“My mom used to call the state patrol on my dad when Devaney came to town. Devaney used to run the streets with my old man.”

Those emerging strength techniques were refined at Nebraska where Redding was a one-eyed defensive end who played under Devaney, Tom Osborne and Epley, who became the nation’s first paid strength coach in 1969.

“Born without sight in my right eye,” Redding said. “I was a sucker for left hook.”

There apparently have been a few of those. Redding admitted to training punches with pro players he has trained.

But he was always been one to live up to that guy code. One former player sprinted across the field after a game to kiss him. Redding had adhered to the code, refusing to tell the head coach the player had clocked him.

“He never would have had a job in the NFL again had I told,” Redding said. Never mind that “I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t shit, I couldn’t laugh,” because of the pain.

It’s worth asking how Redding would fit into the modern NFL, since he helped shape it.

“I don’t like it,” Redding said. “They keep bitching. They make all these goddamn rules about head shots. You put a weapon on my head. A sophisticated f—– like that, it’s only natural.

“Take your helmet off and see who wants to play football. Take their facemask off.”

Redding points to the top of a stairwell. Hanging there is the leather helmet he played in at North Platte High.

You’ll never see this on a strength coach resume: In 1967, Crump was involved as a community leader luring a Broncos-Raiders AFL exhibition game to North Platte.

Little Dave was punched in the face by a fan trying to retrieve a ball in the stands. That simple act essentially led him to the big time.

The Broncos receivers coach at the time was Sam Rutigliano. Out of instinct, Redding gravitated to the coach’s side on the sideline for safety’s sake.

Fifteen years later, then-Browns coach Sam Rutigliano interviewed Redding for that strength coach job.

“Do you remember that little boy hanging onto your pant leg that day in North Platte?” Redding asked Rutigliano. “That was me.”

Rutigliano cancelled all his interviews and had his strength coach. During his time with the Browns, Redding became not only a witness to The Fumble and The Drive, he was a participant.

Redding became responsible for signaling in plays from the defensive coaches in the box. He claims to have a tape reflecting the complete confusion on the sidelines and in the defensive booth as John Elway worked the Broncos downfield in the 1987 AFC Championship Game.

“People don’t know it, but I’ve still got it in my safe. I’ll sell it to HBO one of these days,” Redding said.

At Missouri, Redding coached hall of famer Kellen Winslow. The quarterback on those teams, Phil Bradley, played in the MLB.

Back then, he was making $3,500 as a glorified position coach without a strength coach title. The philosophy: “Slap it on a wall, see if it sticks. Go like hell.”

You have to understand the politics and power in a weight room.

“You smell them, in every way, when they come in fresh,” Lovat said. “You smell their burps, their farts, their sweat. You get to know them at a raw level. They’re being stressed at a physical way. They kind of reveal themselves to you.”

Redding said he once threatened to walk if former Kansas City linebacker Derrick Thomas was paid a $250,000 offseason participation bonus. Thomas had missed it by one day.

At that time, Thomas owned the town, the team and hearts of Chiefs fans. He didn’t get his bonus.

“What do you mean you’re going to kick my 52-year-old ass?” he once told one would-be weight room challenger. “I’ve got nothing to lose. You’ve got everything to lose. Let’s go have a beer.”

Bones have literally been broken in those conflicts. But a broken rib Redding is nursing at the moment came from a fall.

That’s what Parkinson’s can do you, too.

Redding sadly reflects on comedian Robin Williams, who committed suicide two years ago after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

“Funniest guy on Earth,” he said quietly. “It f—- you up.”

Redding proudly points to the portraits of his brothers, Bobby and Dan, who he says both died at the age of 37 from AIDS.

Both left the Midwest for Hollywood. Bobby designed album covers and liner notes for the likes of Chicago and Barbara Streisand.

Redding has saved some of their work. It is spectacular.

At the end of this visit, Redding reflects on a life well-lived. Crazy Horse overcame long odds, too. The Indian hero beat Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

This is also the 140th anniversary of Crazy Horse’s surrender and death at the hands of the U.S. military six hours from here in Fort Robinson.

Redding sits at that table his father built and produces that vial of pills he takes to get through the day.

“I’ve got two hours of freedom and two hours of hell to pay,” he says of the medicinal cycle ahead.

At this moment, who cares about political correctness?

Dennis Dodd

Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com

CBSSports.com

Age: 61

College: Missouri

Background: Four decades in the biz have taught me there are no absolutes — except for the Cardinals and Blues. As a native St. Louisan, it is absolutely imperative the Cardinals get to the World Series each year and the Blues win the Stanley Cup — once. I’m going on 50 years and counting as a fan.  Cardinal fan, but a lifer (living in Kanas City).  After stints at the Kansas City Star, St. Louis Sun, The National and Omaha World-Herald, I became an on-line guy in 1998 with CBS SportsLine (now CBSSports.com). This was at a time when some schools questioned whether I/we were supposed to be credentialed. Things got better. In 2018, I celebrated 20 years with the company. I live in a house divided if they ever resurrect the Missouri-Kansas rivalry. My daughter graduated from Missouri and my son is on his way to a journalism degree at Kansas.  On my winning entry: For years, I wanted to write a story on Dave Redding, who is a legendary figure in strength training. When I heard he had Parkinson’s and was living alone, I called to see if I could come see him. About 80 miles west of Lincoln, there he was in a two-story cabin on an island in the Platte River outside Marquette, Nebraska. I have checked on him every few months since I wrote to story. “Red Man” would be pleased his story has resonated.

 

2018 Best Column: Mark Schlabach and Edward Aschoff, ESPN.com

Comment by the judge: “Excellent look in front of the microphone and behind the scenes of the end of the road for Jim McElwain as coach at Florida.”

By Mark Schlabach and Edward Aschoff

ESPN.com

GAINESVILLE, Florida — On Oct. 23, five days before Florida’s annual rivalry game with Georgia, Gators coach Jim McElwain addressed media members during what was supposed to be a routine Monday press conference.

He began by praising the Bulldogs, addressing injuries and offering his continued support for starting quarterback Feleipe Franks. What he said next took Florida officials completely by surprise. In response to a question about his team’s perseverance during a disappointing 3-3 season, he said players had received threats and members of his family had received death threats.

“There’s a lot of hate in this world, and a lot of anger,” McElwain said. “And yet it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is obviously when the threats [are] against your own players, the death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there.”

Florida officials were caught off-guard by the remarks, and after meeting with McElwain following Monday’s practice, the university released a statement that raised eyebrows for how it appeared to distance the university from its coach’s remarks: “The University Athletic Association takes the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and families very seriously. Our administration met with Coach McElwain this afternoon, and he offered no additional details.”

The episode was the latest source of tension between McElwain and the administration that multiple sources told ESPN had been brewing since early in his tenure at Florida. Over the course of the past week, ESPN spoke with multiple sources within the Florida administration, as well as those close to McElwain.

They offered details about the sequence of events that led to the third-year head coach and Florida parting ways on Oct. 29, in what UF athletic director Scott Stricklin described as a “mutually agreed-upon decision.” According to these sources, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, what appeared to be a swift resolution to a bizarre week in Gainesville was the culmination of longstanding disputes and disagreements.

Prior to the start of the Georgia game, ESPN reported that Florida officials had begun discussing whether they could fire McElwain for cause as a result of his remarks. Stricklin released a statement addressing reports concerning McElwain’s job status, saying the school had not had any conversations with McElwain or his representatives regarding a buyout of his contract.

Twenty-four hours later, after a 42-7 loss to the Bulldogs, that changed, as the two sides began discussing a mutual separation. The university and McElwain agreed to part ways after school officials asked him to accept less than his $12.76 million buyout and step down as Gators coach. Final terms of the buyout are still being negotiated.

“It was never the right fit,” a Florida source said of McElwain’s head coaching tenure in Gainesville. “It was an odd fit from the beginning. He never embraced being here and being part of a team.”

When UF officials initiated negotiations that Sunday, they advised McElwain’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, that they intended to fire McElwain with cause and believed they did not owe him any part of his buyout because McElwain failed to alert university officials about the alleged threats against players and coaches.

McElwain’s wife was allegedly the recipient of a threatening message on Facebook, and McElwain himself also allegedly received threatening messages but did not provide evidence of them to Florida officials. At least one player allegedly received vulgar and racist messages that resulted in the player’s mother contacting Florida coaches. When pressed by Florida officials to elaborate or provide additional details, McElwain declined. He has told people close to him that he regrets talking about the threats publicly and that he did not want to drag family members, players or staffers into further controversy.

Several days after first making the comments, McElwain met with University of Florida police, according to sources both at Florida and close to McElwain. He informed them that he was fine and did not wish to take further action.

Following the loss to Georgia, McElwain was asked about his comments and said, “When you look back, I’ve made mistakes in my life. And yet I stand by everything that occurred. It is what it is.”

Stricklin addressed the media the following day to explain the decision to part ways with McElwain.

“I appreciate Coach McElwain,” Stricklin said, “the way he has handled this. We had constructive conversations. I like Coach Mac. I think he is a good man. I want to thank him for his time and his effort serving as our football coach.

“This is more than just wins and losses. I’ll leave it at that.”

McElwain ended his tenure as the Gators coach with a 22-12 record and back-to-back SEC East championships. Defensive coordinator Randy Shannon was named interim coach.

When McElwain arrived at Florida after three seasons at Colorado State, he expressed displeasure with the state of the Gators’ football facilities, which had fallen behind those of other SEC programs such as Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M. Florida did not have an indoor practice facility for football until its $17-million facility opened in 2015.

“One of the biggest problems at Florida is that [former head coach] [Steve] Spurrier never asked for anything,” a source said. “He told [former athletic director] [Jeremy] Foley he’d just go beat everybody with less.”

McElwain had pushed the administration for a standalone football facility, just as former Gators coaches Urban Meyer and Will Muschamp had done before him. While these comments irked Foley, sources close to McElwain say he was trying to modernize the program in the image of Alabama, where he had been an offensive coordinator under Nick Saban. The school finally announced a $100-million master facility plan in February, which would also include upgrades to the baseball and softball stadiums.

The new 130,000-square-foot football building, which would cost an estimated $60 million, would have all the bells and whistles that other SEC programs enjoyed. It was scheduled to open in June 2019. However, Florida ran into issues locating an area in which to build the facility because there isn’t much vacant land around Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and the other athletics facilities. A decision was reached to delay construction of the new football facility by a couple of years.

McElwain had butted heads with Foley in his first season at Florida in 2015, and he hoped to start anew in working with Stricklin, who was hired from Mississippi State in September 2016. After Florida’s 30-3 win over Iowa in last season’s Outback Bowl, McElwain was asked what the bowl win meant for the direction of the program. While he mentioned the consecutive SEC East titles and new facilities, his remarks were not well received by people inside the athletic department.

“We’ll look for the commitment that we get from the administration moving forward, see where that’s at,” McElwain said.

At the time, McElwain had recently agreed to a contract extension and a raise with Stricklin, who had been on the job for only two months. Stricklin felt betrayed by McElwain’s comments.

“He was the kind of guy who would pull you close and then rabbit punch you,” a UF source said. “He never let you in and tried to keep you off balance.”

Stricklin believed McElwain had earned a contract extension because he’d guided the Gators to back-to-back SEC East championships, but the administration still had serious concerns about the direction of Florida’s offense and strength and conditioning program.

UF administrators had urged McElwain to turn over the staff in the Gators’ weight room because they believed workouts were unorganized and players weren’t being adequately developed under Mike Kent, the director of strength and conditioning, who had followed McElwain to Florida from Colorado State.

They also wanted McElwain to consider replacing offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who eventually received a contract extension this summer. Nussmeier is one of his closest friends and succeeded McElwain as Alabama’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2012 and spent two seasons there before leaving for Michigan in 2014.

McElwain hired Nussmeier three weeks after he landed the Florida job, and their partnership has been unsuccessful. The Gators ranked 111th in total offense in the FBS in 2015, 116th in ’16 and 112th this season.

The Gators have struggled mightily at quarterback since McElwain’s arrival. Current West Virginia starter Will Grier, who is tied for fourth nationally with 3,068 passing yards and second with 30 touchdowns, was arguably McElwain’s most talented quarterback at Florida, but he transferred after he was hit with a year-long suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. He went 5-0 as Florida’s starter, throwing for 1,204 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.

The inability to develop Franks, a redshirt freshman, has been a major disappointment. ESPN’s No. 65 recruit in the Class of 2016 has struggled all season and has an SEC-low QBR of 48.7, throwing for just 928 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions in eight games.

With the Gators trailing 21-0 at the half in their eventual loss to Georgia, Spurrier walked through the press box and asked a handful of reporters, “What happened to the forward pass?”

Spurrier also lamented Florida’s offensive woes during an interview with The State (South Carolina) newspaper last week.

“The offense has been so bad, everybody knows it,” Spurrier said.

Spurrier, who works as an ambassador and consultant at Florida, offered UF coaches plenty of advice this season. On the morning after Florida’s season-opening 33-17 loss to Michigan, Spurrier walked into a meeting with Nussmeier and the other offensive assistants. He sat down and said, “I have some ideas on how you can throw the ball.”

Spurrier told The State he tried to help as much as he could.

“Oh, yeah, I did that every week or so,” Spurrier said, “just with Nussmeier and his staff, and they look at it. He’s put some of them in. He’s put a few in. I’ll walk through there and give them a play every now [and] then, one or two plays, say, ‘What’d you think about this? This was good for us.’ Sometimes they actually use them, and sometimes it’s foreign to them. Our offense was so much different from what they do here.”

Those close to McElwain insist the coach was not bothered by Spurrier’s presence. But having Foley, his influential and opinionated former boss whom he clashed with at times, still involved as emeritus athletic director was challenging. Multiple sources told ESPN that even though Foley was no longer the AD, it was clear he was still involved in athletic department matters.

Despite the offensive struggles and the internal and external distractions, McElwain still became the first SEC coach to make it to the SEC championship game in each of his first two seasons. He won more games (19) in 2015 and 2016 than any SEC coach not named Nick Saban and tied Spurrier for the second-most victories by a Florida coach in his first two seasons. He was also outscored 58-15 in two games against Florida State and 83-31 in his two SEC title game matchups against Alabama, fueling fan discontent.

McElwain felt underappreciated and bristled at Florida fans’ frustrations about the team’s offense.

“I mean, it’s obviously one of those things that you have to constantly evaluate and get better at,” McElwain said heading into the 2016 SEC title game. “I was also brought in here to get to Atlanta. How many years have I been here? OK.”

Stricklin even came to McElwain’s defense when he sat down with ESPN this spring.

“We’re a Presbyterian game being canceled away from [McElwain] having back-to-back 10-win seasons in his first two years,” Stricklin told ESPN. “I don’t think he gets credit for that. … There’s a lack of appreciation for what he’s done.”

In the end, though, frustration boiled over — a culmination of issues over facilities, on-field performance and, ultimately, McElwain’s recent comments about alleged death threats — and Florida is looking for a new football coach, its fifth since Spurrier retired in 2001.

“There were a lot of issues, and last week was kind of the tipping point of, ‘This was not going to work,'” a UF source said.

Edward Aschoff

Edward Aschoff

Age:  32

College:  University of Florida

Background: Edward grew up in lovely Oxford, Mississippi, with two educators and cooks as parents. His father, the late Peter Aschoff, taught an array of different classes at the University of Mississippi and cooked unbelievable Asian delicacies. His mother, the late Patricia Aschoff, was the director of the Domestic Violence Center in Northeast Mississippi, before becoming a well-respected special education teacher in the Oxford School District. Her fried chicken and mac & cheese were second to none. Edward mostly grew up reading about dinosaurs and stalked around the house imitating his idol — Godzilla. He played soccer and baseball and decided he wanted to become a sports writer after being captivated by the late, great Stuart Scott in middle school. Edward attended the University of Florida from 2004 to 2008. He started covering Florida football, recruiting and UF’s Olympic sports for The Gainesville Sun in 2007. He was hired by ESPN in 2011 to cover SEC football, but has sense been shipped off to Los Angeles to cover college football nationally. You can find some of his work online, but he has taken a new role this season which will plaster his face on TV more, as he joins the immensely talented Marty Smith as a college football reporter for ESPN’s SportsCenter. He chooses to wear suits to every sporting event he covers, even in 95-degree southern heat. Edward lives in the canyon of Echo Park, just north east of downtown LA, and while he doesn’t currently have any children, he thinks his ability to raise an over-stimulated cat for the last nine years has given him all the preparation he needs to eventually welcome a human child into his life. This is the second FWAA writing award he’s received. In 2016, he and Adam Rittenberg won first place for their enterprise story on race in college football, centering on the racist bus incident involving an Oklahoma University fraternity and the powerful, viral response from Sooners linebacker Eric Striker.

Mark Schlabach

Mark Schlabach

AGE: 45

SCHOOL: Georgia

BACKGROUND:  College football columnist and reporter for ESPN.com. He joined ESPN in 2006.  He previously worked nine years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he covered Georgia, the SEC, the NFL and NASCAR and also at the Washington Post for two years where he covered college football and basketball and boxing. Schlabach has authored numerous books, including several New York Times Best Sellers. One of those is “Called to Coach: Reflections on Life, Faith and Football” with former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. He lives in Madison, Ga., with his family.

 

President’s column: The barrage of media days is over and teams are starting fall camp all over the country, so that means college football is officially back!

By Stefanie Loh/2018 FWAA President

I hope you enjoyed the last few months , which the FWAA  spent working to clinch a couple of new partnerships to kick off the start of the 2018 football season.

2018 FWAA President Stefanie Loh of the Seattle Times

First off, you might have seen the recent news release in which we announced a partnership with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases to present the 2018 Outland Trophy that’s awarded annually to the best interior lineman in college football. The award will officially be known as the 2018 Outland Trophy presented by the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases.

The agreement is part of an initiative to promote public awareness of influenza prevention this fall. …After all, the flu is relevant to both our membership and the people we cover. Traveling while sick sucks – and few sportswriters even use sick days when it’s game day, right?

But, this also marks the first time in 25 years that the Outland Trophy has had a presenting sponsor. And, we also picked up a worthy ambassador for the award in the process: The NFL’s iron man, newly retired former Browns left tackle, Joe Thomas, who played a mind-boggling 10,363 consecutive snaps in 11 seasons with Cleveland.

Thomas, a Wisconsin alum who won the 2006 Outland Trophy, will  announce the winner of the 73rd annual Outland Trophy on Thursday Dec. 6  on the ESPN College Football Awards Show from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, He will present the Outland Trophy to the 2018 winner at the awards banquet in Omaha on Jan. 9, 2019, and he’ll make media appearances to promote the #FightFlu campaign

We’re pumped to have Thomas and the NFID participate in Outland Trophy Awards festivities.

There’s more to look forward too, though.

This fall, we will unveil the inaugural Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award to honor college football’s most deserving newcomer.

Alexander, a three-time Pro Bowl running back with the Seattle Seahawks, was a four-year starter at the University of Alabama. In his redshirt freshman season, he set a new school record with 291 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the Tide’s 29-0 win over LSU at Tiger Stadium. Since his retirement in 2008, he’s settled down in  suburban Washington D.C. with his family, and we’re proud to add his namesake award to our lineup for the year.

The award winner will be selected by the FWAA Freshman All-American committee, whose membership includes Alexander. So keep your eyes on promising freshmen this season, and feel free to shoot any suggestions their way

In the meantime, don’t forget that collegepressbox.com, as always, is a one-stop shop for all your research needs when you’re working on those season previews. Also, look out for Reddit chats that we’re doing. We’ve hosted five so far, and will likely push a few more out the pipeline. So stay tuned and stay busy!

Happy August. Let the preseason hype begin!

President’s column: A toast to one of the few

By David Jones/2017 FWAA President

A dirty little secret only seasoned scribes would know and that most fans probably don’t is that the new wave of brand-building college football coaches, so loquacious in public, are not always very personable in private. I’m not saying they’re necessarily frauds, but I won’t credit them with an overabundance of genuineness, either.

David Jones, 2017 FWAA President

We know this because we have finely tuned BS detectors.

Today’s coaches are products of their age. For a few, selling the program seems to be a more important part of their jobs than teaching the game. The money in the gig is too crazy. The sales job to recruits and parents and alumni and donors and fans bleeds into interaction with us.

I’m old enough to know that wasn’t always true.

Think about how quickly everything has changed in three programs around which I’ve spent my entire life — Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.

It used to be the same guy stuck around a school if he won. He not only became an institution and the face of a school, he became comfortable enough in his own skin and with his employment prospects that he got to know those around him — including reporters — not just as promotional targets or BS dispensers but as people. You didn’t have to particularly like them all the time to be able to access them, receive no-nonsense answers and feel like you were talking to humans rather than promoters.

So it was with Bo Schembechler (21 seasons at Michigan), Woody Hayes (28 at Ohio State) and Joe Paterno (62 at Penn State, 46 as head coach). If you were a major writer on any of these beats, you could get these guys pretty much whenever you really needed them, one-on-one.

And they would pretty much tell you exactly what they thought and how they felt. They didn’t know any other way. Unfiltered as Camel squares.

There were others, even some the last few decades — Joe Tiller at Purdue, Hayden Fry at Iowa, Gerry DiNardo at Indiana, Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin. In basketball, Jud Heathcote and now Tom Izzo at Michigan State, Gene Keady at Purdue, Lou Henson at Illinois. Did they always try to spin the story their way a little? Sure. But they were also unafraid of showing their true selves.

I feel fortunate to recognize a few familiar faces in the current coaching racket who remember that time, too. And one of them did something along these lines a few weeks ago that I feel deserves recognition.

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz  was the FWAA’s Eddie
Robinson Coach of the Year, sponsored by the Allstate Sugar Bowl, in
2015.

When the Penn State media contingent, which rivals the old UConn basketball “Husky Horde” for numbers, was preparing for Iowa week, we were informed that the dean of Big Ten football coaches, Fry’s protégé Kirk Ferentz, would be available to visiting media alone for a special conference call.

What? True fact. It happened. At a Power Five school that’s a traditional power in football.

I believe there were five of us on the call, arranged by Iowa associate athletic director Steve Roe and football SID Matt Weitzel. And each of us individually thanked Ferentz before asking our questions, so rare was such an occurrence anymore.

The kicker: Ferentz broke in, as I was the fourth one up thanking him. And then he thanked us, the PSU beat writers, for the show of gratitude.

Maybe I’m imagining it, but I think the fact that only a handful of reporters were on the call and that Ferentz could see our appreciation made his answers better, more insightful. When I wrote that day’s column on him and his team, not only did he come off as something more than a cheap salesman, I reflected that smidge of humanity in what I wrote about him and Iowa football.

Maybe some teenager or some parent somewhere saw it and thought, “That’s the kind of man you’d want to play for, isn’t it?” OK, well, it’s possible.

There used to be a lot of such guys sprinkled around major-college “revenue sports,” flesh-and-blood men who you wouldn’t mind having a beer with after work — and actually just might on occasion. I’m glad there are still a few.

2017 Best Column: Glenn Guilbeau

By Glenn Guilbeau

USA Today Network/Gannett Louisiana

BATON ROUGE – Close your eyes and imagine it is a year ago when then-LSU coach Les Miles was about to be fired, and someone tells you that the next coach is going to be LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron.

Now, open your eyes.

Orgeron – a career journeyman coach, a failed head coach and a somewhat successful short term head coach at USC and LSU – is LSU’s next football coach.

“I’m the search,” LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said two months ago after firing Miles.

“I’m worried,” I said.

Well, I’m still worried.

Alleva first started looking for a new head football coach more than a year ago and started thinking about looking for a new head football coach when he came here in 2008. And this is it?

This is an embarrassment.

More…

Jason Kersey named Steve Ellis/FWAA Beat Writer of the Year

Jason Kersey

Jason Kersey

Former Oklahoman reporter Jason Kersey has been named the Steve Ellis/FWAA Beat Writer of the Year for the 2015 football season, when he was covering the Oklahoma Sooners for the newspaper.

Kersey, almost 30 and now a writer for SEC Country and covering the Arkansas Razorbacks, is the sixth annual winner of this award. He will be honored during the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast on Jan. 9 in Tampa, Fla., at the media hotel for the CFP National Championship Game.

“I am genuinely stunned and overwhelmed,” Kersey said. “I want to thank the committee for this unbelievable honor. It means more to me than I can adequately express. I want to thank Ryan Aber (an FWAA member), who was my cohort on the OU beat. He was as perfect a beat partner as anyone working in this job could ever hope to have.

“Also, thanks to my dad for instilling in me a passionate love for sports. Thanks to my mom for how irrationally proud she is of any accomplishments, be it massive or minuscule. And a special thank you to my wife, Annie. This job can be tough on spouses, and Annie not only puts up with it but also encourages and supports me because she knows how much it means to me.”

For the first time, the FWAA Beat Writer of the Year Award will be known as the Steve Ellis/FWAA Beat Writer of the Year Award.  The late Ellis was a standout beat writer who covered Florida State football for the Tallahassee Democrat for a number of years.

Previous winners of this prestigious FWAA award: Doug Lesmerises (Cleveland Plain Dealer), Mark Blaudschun (Boston Globe), Steve Wieberg (USA Today), Jon Wilner (San Jose Mercury News), Tim May (Columbus Dispatch) and Chris Dufresne (Los Angeles Times).

“Jason was instrumental to The Oklahoman’s Sports section’s success in print and digitally,” said Mike Sherman, sports editor of the Tampa Bay Times and former sports editor of The Oklahoman. “He worked his way through various roles in our department, capitalizing on every opportunity to build skills, relationships and his capacity for great storytelling. His reporting broke news and ground.”

In his nomination folder, one fellow writer said: “Jason’s work during the 2015 season perfectly paralleled the play of the team he covered. Oklahoma was at the top of its game, and so was Jason. His versatility shines through on a daily basis, as he reports the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Kersey gave Sherman an assist for his award-winning coverage.

“Mike Sherman is the best sports editor in the country,” Kersey said. “He hired me as a part-timer when I was just an awkward, 19-year-old college sophomore. Throughout our almost decade-long working relationship, he always believed I could do better. I miss working for Mike Sherman every single day because he flat-out makes writers better.

“When I was little, I thought I would someday be a quarterback. I didn’t have the arm, so I tried wide receiver,” Kersey added. “And when I found my speed and athleticism lacking, I decided writing might be my ticket to a career involving football.”

KERSEY BIO

Jason Kersey joined The Oklahoman’s staff in November 2006 and worked as a part-time results clerk, a page designer/copy editor and a high school sports and recruiting reporter before spending four years on the OU football beat.

His work covering the Sooners twice resulted in national recognition as a top-10 beat writer from the Associated Press Sports Editors, as well as top-10 APSE honors for features, breaking news and multimedia. Jason has also won awards from the Tulsa Press Club and Society of Professional Journalists. During his time covering Oklahoma, Jason chronicled the Sooners’ monumental 2014 Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama, the rise of quarterback Baker Mayfield and OU’s run to the 2015 College Football Playoff.

His work at The Oklahoman also included extensive coverage of the racist fraternity video that shocked the entire country and spurred social change on OU’s campus; exclusive reporting on a Title IX sexual assault investigation involving a football player; and the Joe Mixon saga.

Jason left The Oklahoman in May 2016 to join Cox Media Group’s new venture, SEC Country, as its Arkansas beat writer. He is wrapping up his first season covering Bret Bielema and the Razorbacks.

A Noble, Okla., native, Jason graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2009. He lives in Fayetteville, Ark., with his wife Annie and dog Buster.