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

ESPN.com

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.

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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

CBSSports.com

Dennis Dodd

Dennis Dodd

To: William Dockery

President, Heisman Trust

17 Battery Place, Suite 1226

New York, NY 10004

Bill:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

FWAA accepting weekly nominations for Courage Award

The FWAA is now accepting nominations for the 2014  FWAA/Orange Bowl Courage Award, which is annually given to a player, coach or support person in college football such as a trainer, cheerleader or a member of an athletic department’s staff.

The requirements for nomination for the weekly award include displaying some sort of courageous act (on or off the field). These would include overcoming an injury, sickness or physical handicap, preventing a disaster, or living through a lifetime of hardships.

At the end of 2014 season, a select group of FWAA members will choose the winner of the award who will be honored during the Orange Bowl Week.

Please email all nominations with supporting information to FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson at tigerfwaa@gmail.com

Nominations sought for Volney Meece scholarship

The FWAA is now accepting applications for the 18th annual Volney Meece Scholarship.

For an application please contact Dave Sittler, 8314 S. Jamestown Ave, Tulsa, OK 74137. His email is davesitt@aol.com and his cell phone is 918-629-3851 (text). Deadline for applying is Dec. 15, 2014.

The scholarship is awarded annually by the FWAA and named for the late Volney Meece, who served 22 years as the FWAA’s Executive Director and was the organization’s President in 1971.

The $1,000 annual grant for four years is awarded to a deserving son or daughter of an FWAA member. Since the program started in 1997, the FWAA has distributed more than $60,000 in scholarship money to deserving children of FWAA members.

The winner will be unveiled at the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast on Jan. 13, 2015 in Dallas.

Past winners of the Volney Meece Scholarship
1997  Brett Goering  Topeka, Kan.
1998  Kelly Brooks  Denver, Colo.
1999  James Butz  Schaumberg, Ill.
2000  Sara Barnhart  Atlanta, Ga.
2001  Patrick Davis  Coventry, Conn.
2002  Jacqueline O’Toole  Gaithersburg, Md.
2003  Garrett Holtz  Denver, Colo.
2004  Katie Hersom  Oklahoma City, Okla.
2005  Katie Wieberg  Lawson, Mo.
2006  Kaylynn Monroe  Winter Park, Fla.
2007  Nate Kerkhoff  Overland Park, Kan.
2008  Jack Caywood  Lawrence, Kan.
2009  Haley Dodd  Overland Park, Kan.
2010  Donald Hunt  Philadelphia, Pa.
2011  Alaina Martens  Papillion, Neb.
2012  Emily Alford  Tupelo, Miss.
2013  Sarah Helsley  Edmond, Okla.

UGA fortunate to have collegiate sports’ premier publicist, Claude Felton

By Tim Gardner

UGA Athletics Historian

Webster defines pre-eminent as: excelling above all others.

Pre-eminent aptly describes the University of Georgia’s Claude Felton.

Serving the UGA Athletics Association for more than 30 years, the legendary Felton is generally regarded by knowledgeable observers as the standard by which collegiate sports information directors are measured.

Claude Felton received the FWAA's Bert McGrane Award in 2008.

Claude Felton received the FWAA’s Bert McGrane Award in 2008.

Aptly aided by a staff of full-time, part-time and student assistants, Felton’s primary responsibility is to chronicle and disseminate information about the UGA intercollegiate sports teams and student-athletes to media on local, state, regional, and national levels as well as Bulldogs fans and all others who request it.   He is the consummate professional — well-organized, thorough at handling details and performing his job with an objective approach.  Felton is quick to deflect any credit for his efforts while devoting his attention to getting out information about the Bulldogs’ newsworthy deeds.

Felton’s career has spanned the glory days of UGA Athletics.  He has directed the overall publicity operation for thirty-plus national championship teams, including the school’s fifth national football championship, as well as numerous individual national champions. During his tenure, UGA Athletics highlights have also included the greatest play in Bulldogs Football history (the Buck Belue-to-Lindsay Scott 93-yard miracle touchdown pass that helped push UGA past hated Florida, 26-21 in 1980 and propelled the Bulldogs to the national title), running back Herschel Walker winning the 1982 Heisman Trophy and the men’s basketball team making its only appearance in the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four (1982-83 season).

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