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

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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2014 FWAA Pressbox Conference Committees

The FWAA has regionalized its press committees for your convenience. If you encounter difficulties during the season in regards to game coverage, including access during the week, please contact the chairman of your conference by email. He will get back to you in a reasonable time. Please explain the problem in DETAIL, so the conference chairman can better understand the situation.

C—Chairman

Pac-12

C-Chris Dufresne, Los  Angeles Times   (chris.dufresne@latimes.com)

Jon Wilner, San Jose Mercury

Lindsay Schnell, SI.com

Mountain West

C-Mark Anderson Las Vegas   (manderson@reviewjournal.com)

Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman

Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan

Big Ten 

C-Malcolm Moran, National Sports Journalism Center (moranma@iupui.edu)

David Jones,  PA Media Group

Lee Barfknecht, Omaha World-Herald
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President’s column: SEC madness kicks off 2014 season

2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls

2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls

It’s begun.

And it began in SEC Country naturally.

Anytime you see a 47-year-old wedding photographer from Australia spend $8,000 to fly himself and his Alabama graduate wife to the States and salivating over getting a glimpse and maybe an autograph from the Crimson Tide royal family, you know SEC fans are rabid. And maybe something else, too.

Antony Hands was among hundreds who crowded into the hotel lobby getting autographs or just a momentary peek at their favorite Alabama players.

He did get signatures from Landon Collins, Amari Cooper and Christion Jones. And has Hands met Nick Saban yet?

“Oh, God no,” he said, practically swooning.

He carried a colorful, handmade sign he made with seven bucks from Wal-Mart that read: “I Flew All the Way from Australia to Meet Nick Saban.”

I just flew from Austin, but was feeling no less passionate about the experience.

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President’s column: FWAA committees formed in every conference to head off problems

2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls

2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls

Greetings, colleagues.

I trust many of you have thawed out from the harsh winter by now and are planning your vacation retreats to Barbados. My advice: Take plenty of SPF 50 sun screen and every preseason college football magazine you can get your hands on.

We’re still dabbling in the college baseball season and awaiting the NBA and NHL Finals to end before the Fourth of July, but we all have one thing on our mind. No, besides the Kim and Kanye wedding. It’s college football, the reason we were put on this planet.

Yes, spring football is over, and the official countdown to the 2014 season, the historic first playoff and the Lane Kiffin soap opera in Alabama has begun. And I think we all admit the marriage of Kiffin and Nick Saban is even more intriguing than the latest Kardashian nuptials and would make for a much more riveting reality show.

As I write this, it’s less than 90 days until Abilene Christian travels to Georgia State to kick off the season on Aug. 27. Fourteen more games, headlined by Texas A&M at South Carolina in the debut game on the SEC Network, follow the next day.

Before you start overhauling your golf game, please make sure you get your Football Writers Association of America membership current and pay your FWAA dues. As president, I even remembered to pay mine before spring drills began. Our membership last season grew to a record 1,350 and we’d like to push that even further. Also don’t forget to mail in your entries for the annual FWAA Best Writing Contest. Dennis Dodd and Ivan Maisel can’t win all of them every year.

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