ULM lost, but the real losers were in the Kentucky press box

Tabby Soignier, Monroe News-Star

Tabby Soignier, Monroe News-Star

Editor’s note: The Fifth Down will occasionally showcase a story written by a media member about the media under “A View from the Press Box.”

Tabby Soignier of the the Monroe News-Star wrote that it appeared the “no cheering in the press box rule” must have went out the window along with manners and just common human decency during Louisiana-Monroe’s lost to Kentucky last Saturday.

Read her entire story here.



Mock CFP Final Four proves revealing

By Kirk Bohls

Austin American-Statesman

GRAPEVINE — Got your back, Mack.

And got your Longhorns in the playoffs. Better late than never, right?

Sure, it’s six years too late, and it’s only fictional like all those mythical national championships the last hundred years. At least, until the real College Football Playoff committee convenes.

FWAA President Kirk Bohls at the mock selection meeting for a College Football Playoff Final Four based on the 2008 season.

FWAA President Kirk Bohls at the mock selection meeting for a College Football Playoff Final Four based on the 2008 season.

On Thursday, some of us pushed revisionist history on college football and voted Texas into the first four-team playoff. If a playoff existed then, Mack Brown’s Longhorns would have joined Oklahoma, according to a mock exercise by a 17-member media selection committee that was asked to evaluate the 2008 season and pick the best four teams in America.

The most spirited debate of the day revolved around the Longhorns’ worthiness in the Final Four. ESPN’s Rod Gilmore and Holly Rowe strongly criticized Texas’s non-conference schedule that included Rice, UTEP and Florida Atlantic but also Arkansas and omitted the Longhorns from their final four. Rowe asked, “Is Florida Atlantic a worthy opponent?” Responded Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated, “Oklahoma was, and Texas beat them on a neutral field.”

In our mythical playoff, No. 3 Texas would face No. 2 Oklahoma in a Rose Bowl semifinal, a rematch of that Cotton Bowl Classic in which the Longhorns came back from an 11-point deficit to win 45-35. Florida, our No. 1 team and the national champion that year, would play Southern Cal in the Sugar Bowl in the other semifinal.

I joined such media luminaries as Tony Barnhart, Jerry Palm and Staples, who was chosen as our bow-tied chairman and ran our six-hour panel discussion. We began by compiling a collective Top 25 and 34 teams received votes. We voted our top four three times, and it never varied. Jeff Long, the chairman of the real CFP panel, said his committee spit out a different four teams from 2008 but declined to reveal them. Then, we added to the field in small pods in complicated comparisons until we finalized our top 25 and then placed our teams in the Orange, Cotton, Fiesta and Peach bowls.


Winners of 2014 FWAA Best Writing Contest announced

Longtime FWAA members Ivan Maisel and Dennis Dodd were joined by two relatively new members, Andrew Greif of The Oregonian and Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News, in the winner’s circle of  the 22nd annual Best Writing Contest results that were released Wednesday.

Maisel from ESPN.com won the Game Story category for the second straight year, this time for his description of the Auburn-Alabama football game. Dodd from CBSSports.com claimed the Column category for his decision to renounce his Heisman Trophy vote in the aftermath of new voting regulations.

Greif won in Features for a moving story on the death of Oregon assistant coach Gary Campbell’s son after a lifelong battle with illnesses.  Armstrong’s account of one of the nation’s top quarterback gurus was tops in Enterprise. Both were first-time winners.

Maisel also claimed a third place in Features for a story on how the state of Alabama still reveres Bear Bryant 30 years after his death.  Dodd picked up an Honorable Mention in Enterprise.

Harry Minium of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot took a second place in Features for a story on how the sick brother of former Old Dominion offensive tackle D.J. Morrell finally got to see his brother play in person. Minium also collected a third place in Enterprise with his detailed account of how Old Dominion jumped to the FBS and Conference USA.  Blair Kerkhoff of The Kansas City Star picked up Honorable Mentions in Game and Column.

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. 13, 2015,  in Dallas.

The following is the complete list of winners.


First place — Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com

Second place — Jesse Temple, FOX Sports Wisconsin

Third place — Max Olson, ESPN.com

Honorable mention — Andrea Adelson, ESPN.com; Ryan McGee, ESPN.com; Joe Rexrode, Detroit Free Press; Blair Kerkhoff, Kansas City Star


First place — Andrew Greif, The Oregonian

Second place — Harry Minium, The Virginian-Pilot

Third place — Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com

Honorable mention —  Lindsay Schnell, The Oregonian; Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com; George Schroeder,USA Today; Jeremy Fowler, CBSSports.com


First place — Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com

Second place — Matt Hayes, Sporting News

Third place — J.P. Scott,  KnowItAllFootball.com

Honorable mention — Blair Kerkhoff. Kansas City Star; Matt Brown, SportsonEarth.com; Mike Griffith, MLive.com; Glenn Guilbeau, Gannett Louisiana Newspapers


First place — Kevin Armstrong, New York Daily News

Second place — Pete Thamel, Sports Illustrated

Third place — Harry Minium, The Virginian-Pilot

Honorable mention — Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com; Michael Cohen, Syracuse.com/The Post-Standard; Jon Solomon, AL.com

2014 Best Game Story, by Ivan Maisel

Comment by the judge: Great look at the most compelling game and play of the entire 2013 college football season that helps readers picture it perfectly in their heads. The story featured a great sampling of quotes from all those involved, including great snippets from Chris Davis. However, I especially enjoyed the quotes from Alabama tight end Brian Vogler, who was covering on the play, which provided a unique perspective I had not seen in any other articles about this game.

By Ivan Maisel


Ivan Maisel

Ivan Maisel

AUBURN, Ala. — Someday, someday, there will be a greater Iron Bowl finish than this one. Babe Ruth died, and the Yankees continue to play. Sinatra has come and gone, and people still sing. Forty-one years after “Punt Bama Punt,” Chris Davis caught a field goal attempt nine yards deep in the end zone, and started running.

So it’s possible that the way that No. 4 Auburn dethroned No. 1 Alabama 34-28, will be eclipsed. But at this moment Saturday night, with the cheers at Jordan-Hare Stadium still reverberating from here to Columbus, Ohio, it doesn’t seem possible at all. With the clock showing all zeroes, Davis returned Adam Griffith’s Hail Mary of a 57-yard field goal attempt 109 yards for a touchdown.

“We saw they had a guy back there,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Everybody knew they had to cover him. We just didn’t, we didn’t cover it right.”

In the 15 seconds or so that it took Davis to sprint from end line to end line, Alabama lost its chance at a third consecutive BCS championship; Auburn won the SEC West and planted itself in the BCS title debate, No. 3 Ohio State saw its BCS hopes come to life, and the spectrum of emotions that college football can elicit stretched a little beyond its limit.

“I knew when I caught the ball I would have room to run,” Davis said, “and I knew we had bigger guys on the field to protect and that was all after that.”

The game unfolded as Alabama’s toughest games have unfolded all season long. The Tide started slow, fell behind, warmed up and took the lead in the fourth quarter thanks to a 99½-yard touchdown pass from AJ McCarron to Amari Cooper. In any other Iron Bowl, that would’ve been the stuff of legend. But then Alabama’s karma got run over by Auburn’s karma, in which the Tigers keep believing until they pull off a miracle finish. That’s what happened against Georgia, when Ricardo Louis caught a deflected pass for a 73-yard touchdown in the final minute.


2014 Best Column, by Dennis Dodd

Comment by the judge: Well researched, compelling look at the problems with the Heisman system. Did due diligence in trying to get comments from all of the Heisman trustees and provided great reasoning for giving up his Heisman vote. Especially liked the reference to how media members writing freely about their Heisman votes has only helped publicize the award.

By Dennis Dodd


Dennis Dodd

Dennis Dodd

To: William Dockery

President, Heisman Trust

17 Battery Place, Suite 1226

New York, NY 10004


I respectfully resign my Heisman vote effective immediately.

This is my way of getting out on my own terms before the Heisman Trustees can throw me out. Monday is the deadline in your organization’s ham-handed attempt (in my opinion) to make secret a process that has been a joyful, celebrated American sports tradition for decades.

As you know, in August voters were notified if they didn’t agree to hide their Heisman ballots, voting privileges would be up for review. A heretofore unenforced “non-disclosure requirement” was mentioned.

Last month about 50 of the 928 voters from 2012 were admonished for revealing their ballots. I was one of them. Your letter arrived with the names “Johnny Manziel,” “Manti Teo” and “Collin Klein” highlighted from my column with a yellow marker like I had cheated in class.

We had until April 8 to atone for our sins — aka promise “in writing” we would hide our ballots from public consumption after the voting deadline (early December). Even then, you stated regional and state representatives “will take your explanation into consideration when determining the 2013 electorate.”

So this is what Heisman double-secret probation feels like. It’s not worth it.


Texas honors long-time SID Bill Little

The University of Texas held a reception for long-time Longhorn Sports Information Director Bill Little on Aug. 28 to celebate the naming of the football and baseball pressboxes after him. Among those in attendance were former UT football coach Mack Brown, current UT basketball coach Rick Barnes, former Texas women’s basketball coach and women’s athletic director Jody Conradt, current UT athletic director Steve Patterson, former UT athletic director Deloss Dodds, current UT women’s athletic director Chris Plonsky, Edith Royal (widow of former UT football coach Darrell Royal), National Football Foundation President and CEO Steve Hatchell, College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock and  Luci Baines Johnson, daughter of the late President Lyndon Johnson.

FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson (left) congratulates Bill Little at the reception.

FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson (left) congratulates Bill Little at the reception.

Steve Hatchell, NFF President and CEO (left); Brian Davis, UT football beat writer for the Austin American-Statesman (center); and Kirk Bohls, Austin American-Statesman columnist and 2014 FWAA President (right), share a moment during the reception.

Steve Hatchell, NFF President and CEO (left); Brian Davis, UT football beat writer for the Austin American-Statesman (center); and Kirk Bohls, Austin American-Statesman columnist and 2014 FWAA President (right), share a moment during the reception. Photo by Ken Capps.


Several of Bill Little's awards were displayed at the reception on Aug. 28.

Several of Bill Little’s awards were displayed at the reception on Aug. 28. Photo by Ken Capps.

2014 Best Feature, by Andrew Greif 1

Comment by the judge: Touching piece of the incredible support that Oregon assistant Gary Campbell and his wife gave to their chronically ill son. Excellent description of the boy’s room and how it was the center of the house. Gently weaves in how football was the only escape for Campbell.

By Andrew Greif

The Oregonian

EUGENE — Among the unshakeable habits that instantly transport Gary Campbell to the memory of his only son, there is one that pulls him from his bed, leads him downstairs and into the room he dreaded entering for months.

Andrew Greif

Andrew Greif

Campbell estimates he hasn’t slept soundly through a night since 1984, the year Bryan was born with a neuromuscular disease that required a ventilator to breathe air into his lungs and demanded 24-hour vigilance from Gary and wife, Alola. It was his second year as Oregon’s running backs coach, a title he still holds as dean of the Ducks’ staff.

Four months have passed since Bryan died at 29 on Aug. 15 from complications from Werdnig-Hoffman syndrome and only now is Alola able to block out most of the noises of the night.

Gary still cannot.

“I don’t sleep,” he says. “I guarantee I wake up three, four times at least.”

He is torn between half-rest, half high alert, instinctually awakening to ensure his son is safe only to realize he is listening for cues that are no longer there.

The whoosh-whir of Bryan’s ventilator; and its beep-beep-beep that signaled a problem; the buzz from the intercom connecting Bryan’s customized first-floor room to Gary and Alola’s upstairs; a mother’s frantic feet when the round-the-clock nursing staff needed help.


2014 Best Enterprise, by Kevin Armstrong

Comment by the judge: Well-crafted story about one of the top quarterback gurus in the country. Writer presents a lot of detail about a topic that is one of the new trends in college football as well as provides insight into the behind-the-scenes dealings and relationships.

By Kevin Armstrong

New York Daily News

MOBILE, Ala. — Half-hour to kickoff at St. Paul’s Episcopal School on a Friday in October, and there’s a caller on WNSP 105.5 FM claiming Mother Nature’s keeping Hurricane Karen at bay in order for a varsity football game to be played. The top-ranked Toros from Spanish Fort are in The Port City to march against the No. 8 Saints, and David Morris, the one-time Alabama state record holder for yards and touchdowns in a season, pulls his gray Yukon — the one with the smile-shaped crack across the windshield — into the packed lot, pays $4 to park and walks on past tailgaters. St. Paul’s Headmaster Marty Lester greets Morris, a tutor to St. Paul’s sophomore starting quarterback Miller Mosley.

kevin armstrong

Kevin Armstrong

“David, don’t you have the other quarterback tonight, too?” Lester asks.

Morris nods. Truth be told, Morris tinkers with the mechanics of the starters on both teams, as well as the backups. There is a pipeline at St. Paul’s for Morris to tap into and he does so regularly, having helped along the careers of past preps stars such as Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and Florida State backup Jacob Coker.  All the better to the mothers and fathers whose children he instructs. As the private teacher and not a coach, Morris is undefeated on Friday nights and decides no controversies. Saints reserve Drew Wing’s father, Andrew, double checks with Morris on the next appointment.

“Nine thirty tomorrow morning, right?” Wing asks.

“Yessir,” Morris says.

Morris holds a unique position in Mobile’s quarterback boom. Once a three-year reserve behind Eli Manning at Ole Miss, Morris left the game after graduation, burnt out from being one snap away for three seasons behind the immovable Manning. Morris fought depression, took a job at his father’s real estate agency and moonlighted as a throwing instructor with teenagers in town upon request. Now 33, Morris is all in on growing his program — “Quarterback Country” — into a year-round, nationwide business. His experiences range from pushing Manning through the paces in the offseason to working with Tim Tebow to readying now-Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Matt Barkley for the NFL draft. Top prospects — including University of Miami recruit Malik Rosier — tout Morris’ ability to boost their confidence and identify flaws.


President’s column: Season of changes is upon us

2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls

2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls

Let’s kick this thing off.

Actually Sam Houston State and Eastern Washington did the honors Saturday on an all-red field with a no-huddle offensive fury — my eyes are just now adjusting back to normal — but the college football season starts in earnest this Thursday.

If the real season is anywhere near as eventful as the off-season was, this promises to be one of the most exciting, electric years ever.

To recap, we’ve witnessed an all-out assault on the NCAA and the status quo with a move toward greater autonomy for the Power Five conferences, the likelihood of cost of attendance benefits for athletes and the player-friendly outcome of the landscape-altering Ed O’Bannon lawsuit.

We’ve seen football strongholds embrace diversity as Charlie Strong and James Franklin become the first African-American head coaches at tradition-clinging Texas and Penn State. We’ve also seen Chris Petersen leave his comfort zone at Boise State to test the big-school waters at Washington. And we’ll see coaches on the hot seat like Will Muschamp, Dana Holgorsen and Charlie Weis try to stave off the wolves on their doorsteps.

We’ve grimaced when we see stars like Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and Oregon offensive tackle Tyler Johnstone go down with injuries that ended their seasons before the first kickoff.


Bagnato, Pflipsen Take Next Step

Andy Bagnato and Kristen Pflipsen, long-time FWAA members, have formed Bagnato Pflipsen Communications LLC, a full-service communications consulting firm in the Phoenix area.

“After writing the successful bid for Arizona’s 2016 College Football National Championship Game last fall, we both felt a sense of closure,” they wrote in a press release. “We had seen the Fiesta Bowl organization through its crisis and needed a new challenge. As the Fiesta Bowl went through its reorganization, the timing could not have been better.”

The Phoenix Final Four, an attempt to land an NCAA men’s national basketball semifinals, was their first client.

“Working on the Phoenix Final Four bid has given us an opportunity to expand our reach and work within both the sports and tourism industries,” they wrote. “Although there is always uncertainty starting a new business, we have been energized by working on a variety of projects.  Our website, http://www.bagnatopflipsen.com, will launch soon.”

More Comings and Goings

Arnie Sgalio of  ESPN and ERT  has retired after 19 years. … Christopher Walsh is now a beat writer/columnist for Saturdays Down South. … Stewart Mandel has moved from Sports Illustrated to FoxSports.com. … Tony Barnhart has switched from CBS Sports to the SEC Network. … Gina Mizzel has traveled from The Daily Oklahoman all the way to Oregon to cover Oregon State for the Oregonian. … More…