President’s column: 2015 directory an invaluable resource

ffaw_redesignOMAHA  Members of the Football Writers Association of America are in the process of receiving a piece of pure gold.

That’s how strongly I feel about the value of our annual directory: 250 pages of precious information to help all of us work smarter and faster. This book will pay dividends on your membership fee over and over and over again.

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

Don’t just toss this gem aside when it arrives. Place it in your workbag immediately. The contact information from fellow members is invaluable. The names, addresses and cell numbers of sports information directors are there in an easy-to-read-and-find format. Need to contact a beat writer or a play-by-play announcer for a bit of background? That’s there, too. Also, calendars detailing the dates of various games, awards and meetings are included. And it’s in this one spot. You don’t waste time sifting through multiple websites looking for what you need. Practice schedules, times and contact information for weekly teleconferences and lists of all-time award winners are all there, too. A special addition this year is our 75th Anniversary All-America Team.

As a member, you have online access to the guide, too.

If you get a chance, offer a big thank you to Executive Director Steve Richardson and Editor Ted Gangi and our friends at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic for their toil on this important project. One more thing: show the directory to someone who isn’t a member. Hopefully, he or she will see what they are missing and want to join.

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2015 Best Game Story, by Ivan Maisel

ffaw_redesignComment by the judge, Alan Cox: Good look at one of the bigger games of the season as Oregon beat seemingly unbeatable Florida State, hitting home the key plays from the game. The article gave you a feel for what happened without simply being just a complete play-by-play recap, and had a great variety of quotes from both sides. It had a great lead and was easy and enjoyable to read.

By Ivan Maisel

ESPN.com

PASADENA, Calif. – Give a game ball to the data geeks, the emotionless analysts who crunched the numbers and determined that No. 2 Oregon would beat No. 3 Florida State and advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T.

Ivan Maisel

Ivan Maisel

Those of us governed by the pit of our stomachs, the ones who had seen the defending national champion Seminoles find a way to win no matter how scruffy their play, had trouble buying into the staging of Duck Dynasty at the Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual.

Yes, Oregon had a plus-20 edge in turnover margin, but Florida State had come from behind in nine of its last 11 games.

Yes, the Ducks dominated the Pac-12, winning their last eight games by an average of 25 points, but the Seminoles had won seven games by six points or fewer. They had the indomitable quarterback, Jameis Winston, who had not lost since a high school game in 2011.

When the sun no longer lit the San Gabriel Mountains and the fourth quarter of the inaugural semifinal began, Florida State would seize control.

It didn’t quite work out that way on a typically spectacular New Year’s Day in the Arroyo Seco. By the time the fourth quarter began, all Florida State had seized was up. The Seminoles’ 29-game winning streak vaporized, their composure lost somewhere amid five turnovers in six possessions in the second half, Jimbo Fisher’s squad got steamrolled by the Ducks 59-20.

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2015 Best Feature, by Pete Thamel

ffaw_redesignComment by the judge, Steve Richardson: Thoughtful, well-researched piece on UT’s Charlie Strong. This story got way below the surface and explained why Strong is the way he is. It explains his life every step of the way from his childhood to becoming the CEO of one of college football’s traditional powers.

By Pete Thamel

Sports Illustrated

Pete Thamel, Sports Illustrated

Pete Thamel, Sports Illustrated

Charlie Strong opens his eyes. It’s 4 a.m. He rises, dresses and, without caffeine, drives 20 minutes to the Texas football facility. On Mondays he runs south to downtown via Red River Street and returns on Guadalupe Street. On Tuesdays he heads through neighborhoods to the north. The routes vary each day, but the goal remains the same — shave a few seconds off his time from the week before.

He does not always succeed, but Strong still bangs out five miles at a nine-minute clip, straining to outrace some previous version of himself. He has done this for his entire career, through 14 coaching jobs at eight universities — three decades spent pushing himself forward while running in loops. And yet even when he has reached his destination, Strong cannot help but do what he has always done, so he runs just as hard.

Last winter, after going 23-3 during his final two seasons at Louisville, Strong landed what many consider the best coaching gig in the country, signing a five-year, $26 million deal at Texas. If everything is big in Texas, the task of reviving the football team is no exception. The Longhorns went 18-17 in the Big 12 under Mack Brown over the last four seasons; this year they didn’t have a player drafted by the NFL for the first time since 1937. And Strong’s hiring as the program’s first black coach carries with it a social significance that matches the breadth of his improbable journey. “Could you ever believe,” Strong confided to a friend recently, “that I ended up at Texas?”

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2015 FWAA Best Writing Contest winners announced

ffaw_redesignThree previous first-place winners occupied top spots again in the 23rd annual FWAA Best Writing Contest results announced on Sept. 1.

ESPN.com’s Ivan Maisel claimed first place for the third straight year in Best Game Story Category. This year, Maisel’s winning account: Oregon’s victory over Florida State in one of the two College Football Playoff semifinal games. Maisel also added an Honorable Mention in the Columns Category.

The other previous winners were Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated and Ted Miller, also of ESPN.com. Thamel won the Feature Category this year for a well-researched piece on new Texas Longhorns coach Charlie Strong, showing an emotional side of the coach’s trail to one of college football’s top jobs. Miller won the Column Category for an inside look at the rise of Oregon’s program and with it the expectations and the change of attitude in Eugene.

Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star was a first-time winner for his Enterprise Category Story on the rise and fall of the Kansas football program, from a Top 10 team in 2007 to one of the lower echelon teams only a few years later.

Andrea Adelson of ESPN was a second-place finisher in the Enterprise Category and Columns.  One of her stories focused on former head coaches at UAB and New Mexico State re-starting their careers and the other was a column on a perceived in-season snub of Florida State by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.

The winners in each category will receive a personalized football from The Big Game and a cash prize.  Second and third places win cash prizes and certificates. Honorable mentions receive certificates.  All will be recognized at the FWAA’s Annual Award Breakfast on Jan. 11, 2016, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The following is the complete list of honorees in the 2015 FWAA Best Writing Contest.  Click on the write’s name to read the first-place story in each category.

Game

First place — Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com

Second place — Jesse Temple, FOXSportsWisconsin.com

Third place — James Crepea, Montgomery Advertiser

Honorable mention — Mike Griffith, MLive Media Group; Steve Helwagen, Bucknuts.com; Matt Fortuna, ESPN.com

Feature

First place — Pete Thamel, Sports Illustrated

Second place — Andrew Greif, The Oregonian

Third place — Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com

Honorable mention —  Brian Hamilton, SI.com; Tod Palmer, The Kansas City Star; Bill Landis, cleveland.com/The Plain Dealer

Column

First place — Ted Miller, ESPN.com

Second place — Andrea Adelson, ESPN.com

Third place — Ben Jones, StateCollege.com

Honorable mention — Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com; Bill Bender, Sporting News; David Visser, TomahawkNation.com; Glenn Guilbeau, Gannett Louisiana Newspapers

Enterprise

First place — Rustin Dodd, The Kansas City Star

Second place — Andrea Adelson, ESPN.com

Third place — Bobby La Gesse, Ames Tribune

Honorable mention — Alex Scarborough, ESPN.com; Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle; Kevin Armstrong, New York Daily News

2015 Best Column, by Ted Miller

ffaw_redesignComment by the judge, Alan Cox: Great look at the change in attitude and expectations of Oregon’s football program. Solid argument as to why they needed to win the championship to validate the program and to show the Playoff would expand the sport. Even more interesting in hindsight as we will see what happens to Oregon going forward having lost the championship.

By Ted Miller

ESPN.com

Coach Rich Brooks led Oregon to an 8-4 finish in 1989, his 13th season in Eugene. If that elicits a “so what,” understand the Ducks hadn’t won that many games since 1963. Five seasons — and two losing records — later, Oregon played in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1958, losing to Penn State by 18 points, though the Ducks’ media guide celebrated the program’s effort as proving it “belonged in Pasadena.”

Ted Miller, ESPN.com

Ted Miller, ESPN.com

In 2013, Oregon went 11-2, beat Texas 30-7 in the Alamo Bowl and finished ranked No. 9 in the nation. It was considered a down season, and some wondered if first-year coach Mark Helfrich had what it takes to lead the Ducks, post-Chip Kelly.

Times change and so do expectations.

“We do sit back every now and then and kind of laugh at it, us that have been around here a long time,” said first-year Ducks defensive coordinator Don Pellum, who’s accumulated 31 seasons with his alma mater as a player, administrator and assistant coach.

For the vast majority of its 119 seasons of football, a winning record was an ambitious wish for Oregon. Yet now, as the Ducks eyeball defending national champion Florida State, winner of 29 consecutive games, as more than a touchdown favorites in the Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual, the simple reality is Oregon needs to win the national title.

After going 69-10 over the past six seasons, playing for a national title in 2010 and finishing ranked in the top five three times, the Ducks need to finish the deal and be the last team standing. They need to make this their year.

That need is not only about program validation, though that’s a big part of it, as the Ducks have accomplished everything else. It’s not only about opportunity, though the greatest player in program history — Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota — is likely off to the NFL next year.

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2015 Best Enterprise, by Rustin Dodd

ffaw_redesignComment by the judge, Gene Duffey: Good inside look at how fast and why Kansas fell from a Top 10 program to the bottom. Excellent lead. Good quotes, particularly from the players, and everyone involved. Told exactly what started Mangino’s downfall and why Gill never got the program going again. Story turned out to be very prophetic with Weis being fired only four games into the season.

By Rustin Dodd

The Kansas City Star

Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star

Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star

LAWRENCE — On a warm evening in May, Charlie Weis pressed through a set of interior doors at Sporting Park and waited to make his case. Inside the Members Club, in the soccer stadium’s lower level, close to 150 Kansas alums, boosters and fans gathered to hear a springtime state-of-the-program update from their beleaguered football coach.

KU balloons adorned tables. Cheerleaders greeted fans at the door. A hype video played. And finally, Weis took the stage and offered his vision for the program.

Then there was one more thing.

“For the last month or so, I’ve been listening to the Kansas football fans feel like the sky is falling,” Weis said, pausing for a beat.

“Shut the hell up! I’m tired of listening to it. I really am. We’re all in this together.”

After the worst four-year stretch in school history — a 9-39 record and just two Big 12 victories — a head coach coming off a 3-9 season was telling the fans to stop being so negative.

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Pillars of the FWAA: Tom Mickle (1950-2006), Florida Citrus Sports

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:  http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the 17th installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Tom Mickle was the 2010 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA Past President Alan Schmadtke (2005)   for writing and researching this sketch.

By Alan Schmadtke

College football historians link Tom Mickle’s legacy to a cocktail napkin, his vehicle of choice for game-planning a playoff.

For those who knew him best, memories take them to his unending optimism. They remember his small, perpetual grin that made them wonder if they were about to laugh or be amazed. They remember his owl-like glasses, a raspy voice and a wry delivery. They remember him hoisting a glass of wine in the fall and winter, a gin-and-tonic when it turned warm.

Tom Mickle, posthumous winner of the Bert McGrane Award in 2010.

Tom Mickle, posthumous winner of the Bert McGrane Award in 2010.

Mickle had a passion for work and play.

“Once you’d been around him, you didn’t leave and not smile about things or have a better perception about things. He had that effect,” one of Mickle’s best friends, Rick Chryst, told the Orlando Sentinel upon Tom’s death at age 55 in 2006.

Former Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Gene Corrigan called Mickle the best hire he ever made, and no one argues the point. One morning in the early 1990s, Mickle walked into his boss’s office and handed him brackets on small paper. The last remnant from a brainstorm dinner was the framework of a No. 1 vs. No. 2 New Year’s Day football game – the end result of Corrigan’s dream-shot request.

The commissioner wanted to secure the ACC’s football champion an annual New Year’s slot somewhere alongside SEC, Big Eight, Big Ten and Pac-10 champs. A de facto national championship game for college football as part of the solution worked fine, too.

Few remember now how land-locked college football used to be, when a 1 vs. 2 matchup was an anomaly.

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Pillars of the FWAA: Dave Campbell (1925-), Waco Tribune-Herald

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:  http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the 16th installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Dave Campbell was the 1988 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

By Gene Duffey

For a guy who worked 51 years in the newspaper business, Dave Campbell will be remembered longer, at least in his own state, for starting a magazine. Campbell founded Texas Football in 1960 and more than a half a century later the magazine is still going strong.

Dave Campbell, 1988 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Dave Campbell, 1988 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

In the summer of 1959 Campbell, who was already sports editor of Waco Tribune-Herald, picked up several college football annuals at a local newsstand.

“I was struck by how many errors there were,” Campbell said of the magazines. “I was covering the Southwest Conference and it was pretty abbreviated coverage. One magazine left Baylor out entirely, and that was my alma mater.”

Football was extremely popular in Texas, particularly high school football. Campbell figured he could certainly do a better job covering the college teams in his state than the other magazines.

With the help of Tribune-Herald staffers Al Ward, Jim Montgomery and Hollis Biddle, Campbell got down to business. They started by mailing out questionnaires to the high school coaches in the state. They visited all the coaches in the Southwest Conference after spring practice.

“I never worked harder in my life,” said Campbell. “(The magazine) had a great reception. It was an artistic success, but not a financial one.”

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FWAA unveils 75th anniversary All-America team

ffaw_redesignDALLAS — The Football Writers Association of America proudly announces its 75th Anniversary All-America Team, celebrating the association’s All-America teams from near the end of World War II through the 2014 season. The FWAA, which was founded in 1941, has picked an annual All-America team since the 1944 season, making it the second longest continuously selected team in major college football.

The FWAA’s first All-America team in 1944 included Army’s famous running back tandem of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis and Georgia Tech’s Frank Broyles, who later became Arkansas’ legendary head football coach. Seven decades later, the 2014 team featured Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota of Oregon, Outland Trophy winner, offensive tackle Brandon Scherff of Iowa, and Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner, linebacker Scooby Wright III of Arizona.

“This was one of the most fun, yet most difficult exercises I’ve had in life – next to parallel parking, that is,” said FWAA 75th All-America Committee chairman Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman. “Truly, it was an exciting – if not impossible – task to find the best 75 college football players ever. Please save your hate mail, but feel free to weigh in and tell us how we messed up. And I’m sure we did, but no one should argue that it wasn’t a great idea to honor the best who have ever played the game. Let the debating begin.”

A nomination ballot with selected players from all FWAA All-America teams was sent to the entire membership this spring. The popular vote was then taken into consideration by a Blue Ribbon Committee of FWAA past presidents, current board members and officers. That committee put the finishing touches on selecting the 75-man team. In order for a player to be considered for the FWAA’s 75th team, he had to be on a previous FWAA All-America team.

The FWAA’s 25-man first team included Navy quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach, the only member from a military academy; the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner running back Archie Griffin of Ohio State; three-time FWAA All-America end Leon Hart of Notre Dame; and the only two-time Outland Trophy winner, center Dave Rimington of Nebraska. On the three 25-man teams, the Cornhuskers led all schools with six selections – including four on the first team – and four of their overall honorees are Outland Trophy winners. Ohio State and Pittsburgh each had five selections and Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas had four. Schools with three selections were Florida State, Georgia, Michigan and USC.

75th ANNIVERSARY FWAA ALL-AMERICA TEAM

FIRST TEAM OFFENSE

QB Roger Staubach Navy
RB Archie Griffin Ohio State
RB Herschel Walker Georgia
WR Larry Fitzgerald Pittsburgh
WR Jerry Rice Mississippi Valley State
TE Keith Jackson Oklahoma
OL John Hannah Alabama
OL Orlando Pace Ohio State
OL Will Shields Nebraska
OL Ron Yary USC
C Dave Rimington Nebraska

FIRST TEAM DEFENSE

DT Lee Roy Selmon Oklahoma
DT Ndamukong Suh Nebraska
DE Leon Hart Notre Dame
DE Ted Hendricks Miami (Fla.)
LB Tommy Nobis Texas
LB Mike Singletary Baylor
LB Derrick Thomas Alabama
DB Ronnie Lott USC
DB Deion Sanders Florida State
DB Jack Tatum Ohio State
DB Charles Woodson Michigan

FIRST TEAM SPECIALISTS

P Ray Guy Southern Miss
K Kevin Butler Georgia
RS Johnny Rodgers Nebraska

SECOND TEAM OFFENSE

QB Tim Tebow Florida
RB Tony Dorsett Pittsburgh
RB Barry Sanders Oklahoma State
WR Fred Biletnikoff Florida State
WR Randy Moss Marshall
TE Mike Ditka Pittsburgh
OL Bill Fralic Pittsburgh
OL John Hicks Ohio State
OL Calvin Jones Iowa
OL Jonathan Ogden UCLA
C Chuck Bednarik Penn

SECOND TEAM DEFENSE

DT Merlin Olsen Utah State
DT Randy White Maryland
DE Hugh Green Pittsburgh
DE Bruce Smith Virginia Tech
LB Brian Bosworth Oklahoma
LB Dick Butkus Illinois
LB Luke Kuechly Boston College
DB Champ Bailey Georgia
DB Kenny Easley UCLA
DB Jerry Gray Texas
DB Ed Reed Miami (Fla.)

SECOND TEAM SPECIALISTS

P Russell Erxleben Texas
K Mason Crosby Colorado
RS Raghib Ismail Notre Dame

THIRD TEAM OFFENSE

QB Tommie Frazier Nebraska
RB Bo Jackson Auburn
RB Doak Walker SMU
WR Anthony Carter Michigan
WR Calvin Johnson Georgia Tech
TE Gordon Hudson BYU
OL Barrett Jones Alabama
OL Willie Roaf Louisiana Tech
OL Jerry Sisemore Texas
OL Dean Steinkuhler Nebraska
C Jim Ritcher N.C. State

THIRD TEAM DEFENSE

DT Steve Emtman Washington
DT Reggie White Tennessee
DE Bubba Smith Michigan State
DE Jack Youngblood Florida
LB Jack Ham Penn State
LB Lee Roy Jordan Alabama
LB Chris Spielman Ohio State
DB Dré Bly North Carolina
DB Dave Brown Michigan
DB Troy Polamalu USC
DB Roy Williams Oklahoma

THIRD TEAM SPECIALISTS

P Rohn Stark Florida State
K Tony Franklin Texas A&M
RS Derek Abney Kentucky

75th Anniversary All-Americans by school (75 players from 41 schools): Nebraska 6, Ohio State 5, Pittsburgh 5, Alabama 4, Oklahoma 4, Texas 4, Florida State 3, Georgia 3, Michigan 3, USC 3, Florida 2, Miami (Fla.) 2, Notre Dame 2, UCLA 2, Auburn 1, Baylor 1, Boston College 1, BYU 1, Colorado 1, Georgia Tech 1, Illinois 1, Iowa 1, Kentucky 1, Louisiana Tech 1, Marshall 1, Maryland 1, Michigan State 1, Mississippi Valley State 1, Navy 1, North Carolina 1, N.C. State 1, Oklahoma State 1, Penn 1, Penn State 1, SMU 1, Southern Miss 1, Tennessee 1, Texas A&M 1, Utah State 1, Virginia Tech 1, Washington 1.

75th Anniversary All-Americans by current conference: Big Ten Conference 19, Atlantic Coast Conference 15, Southeastern Conference 13, Big 12 Conference 10, Pac-12 Conference 7, Conference USA 3, Independents 3, American Athletic Conference 2, Ivy League 1, Mountain West Conference 1, Southwestern Athletic Conference 1.

“Picking the FWAA’s 75th Anniversary teams was like taking a final exam with no wrong answers,” said 2015 FWAA President Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald. “Even though some answers may be more ‘right’ than others, this will add to the colorful conversation about college football, honor those chosen, and help celebrate the game.”

The quarterbacks of the top two teams are both Heisman Trophy winners: Staubach and Tim Tebow of Florida. Quarterback Tommie Frazier of Nebraska was selected to the third team after leading Nebraska to back-to-back national titles and finishing runner-up in the Heisman Trophy his senior season. All six of the running backs are Heisman Trophy winners: Griffin, Georgia’s Herschel Walker, Pittsburgh’s Tony Dorsett, Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders, Auburn’s Bo Jackson and SMU’s Doak Walker. There are 16 Outland winners (selected since 1946) and five Bronko Nagurski Trophy winners (selected since 1993) on the three teams.

All eight decades in which the FWAA teams have been selected are represented on the 75-man team, starting in the 1940s with SMU’s Walker all the way through Alabama’s two-time All-America Barrett Jones, the 2011 Outland winner. In all, there are 56 members of the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame and 41 schools are represented on the three 25-man teams.

The FWAA has selected All-America Teams in different forms over the years. All the teams are online at allamericateam.com and footballwriters.com in the All-America section in the FWAA awards area.

“This was truly an enriching experience picking this team,” said FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson. “It put our members in contact with the great players of the past and truly gave them a better snapshot of college football history. All of our All-Americans were great, but picking this team was like choosing between a filet mignon and a Kansas City strip.”

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of 1,400 men and women who cover college football. 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 its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson.

The FWAA welcomes comments on the selection of its 75th Anniversary All-America Team. Please send your comments to allamerica@fwaa.com or Tweet them to @TheFWAA.

Related links:

 

Pillars of the FWAA: Si Burick (1909-1986), Dayton Daily News

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:  http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the 15th installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Si Burick was the 1984 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

By Gene Duffey

Si Burick liked to say that he became sports editor of the Dayton Daily News at 19 and never received a promotion. He never retired, either.

Burick was still working when he died of a stroke at age 77.

Si Burick, 1984 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Si Burick, 1984 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Born in Dayton, Burick began writing for the Daily News at age 16, serving as correspondent for Stivers High School. The pay: $2 a week. He received his first byline Aug. 26, 1925.

Burick, the son of a rabbi, enrolled at the University of Dayton with grander plans. He wanted to become a doctor. Monetary problems forced him to withdraw from school.

In 1928 he was summoned to the office of James M. Cox, the publisher of the Daily News, three-time governor of Ohio and a presidential candidate in 1920. Cox offered him the job as sports editor. His first “Si-ings” column appeared Nov. 16, 1928.

Dayton may never have been home to major league teams, but Burick soon became a major league columnist. He covered his first Kentucky Derby in 1929. Over the next 50 years he missed only two Derbys.

Burick, who served as president of the FWAA in 1972, began covering the World Series in 1930. He became a regular at the Cincinnati Reds’ training camp beginning in 1937. He worked the first 20 Super Bowls.

But Burick’s columns weren’t limited by the borders of the United States. He wrote about Wimbledon and even traveled to Japan with the Reds in 1978.

“He was from another, glamorous generation when he would travel the country, and the world sometimes, covering all the major events,” said Ralph Morrow, who served as Burick’s executive sports editor for years.

Burick was well connected. He developed such a close relationship with heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano that he would meet Marciano for breakfast after many of Marciano’s fights.

Morrow handled the administrative part of the sports department, but Burick was still the boss, the final word on everything.

“When I made a major change or assignment, I always consulted Si,” said Morrow.

Hal McCoy, the Hall of Fame baseball writer for the Dayton Daily News, worked with Burick for years.

“Outside of the office he was one of the nicest, funniest, most humorous persons you’ll ever met,” said McCoy. “Inside the office he was a demon, a real taskmaster. If there was an error in the paper, he went nuts.”

Burick’s influence around Dayton went well beyond the newspaper. He became the first regular radio sportscaster in the state at WHIO in 1935. He began a side career on television in 1949 and worked in radio until 1961.

Dayton may have been 40 miles north of Cincinnati, but Burick made sure his newspaper competed with the Cincinnati papers when covering the Reds and Bengals.

Baseball was probably his favorite sport. He lived at 714 Otterbein Ave., the house number matching Babe Ruth’s career total in home runs. When Hank Aaron passed Ruth’s record, people asked Burick if he planned to move. He was elected to the writers’ section of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.

Although he never graduated from Dayton, he did receive an honorary doctor of humane letters in 1977.

It was an appropriate acknowledgment for a man who took the written word very seriously. Morrow often edited Burick’s columns, but usually found himself as busy as the Maytag repairman.

“He was an immaculate writer, often not even needing a comma,” Morrow said of Burick.

He wanted everything done right.

“Everybody (else) tried to avoid handling his column, because if there was a mistake, you were going to catch hell,” said McCoy, who began covering the Cincinnati Reds in 1972 and was inducted into the writers’ wing at Cooperstown in 2002. “You didn’t make a change in his copy without going to him, showing it to him and convincing him.”

McCoy said when he was young he used to ride to Reds games with Burick just to learn the profession.

“I learned more in one month from him than I did in four years of journalism school,” said McCoy.