Charlie Fiss, winner of the FWAA’s 2017 Bert McGrane Award. (Photo by Melissa Macatee)
TAMPA —The Cotton Bowl Athletic Association’s Charlie Fiss is in the unique position to accept a second Bert McGrane Award today at the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast.
Only this Bert McGrane Award he gets to keep.
About 17 years ago, Fiss accepted the Bert McGrane Award on behalf of the late Field Scovell and then turned the plaque over to the family after he returned to Dallas from the presentation at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind.
Fiss, in his 33rd year working for the Cotton Bowl, becomes the fourth person from the CBAA to receive the Bert McGrane Award, which is presented annually to a member of the FWAA for distinguished service to the organization and college football. Wilbur Evans (1978), Jim Brock (1989) and Scovell (1999) are the other CBAA recipients.
“Charlie Fiss perhaps more than anyone has been part of the fabric of the FWAA for the last 30 years,” said FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson, who made the introduction of Fiss in Tampa. “He nearly predates modern computers when it comes to putting together the FWAA Print Directory and mailing list.”
The Award was established in 1974 as a memorial to McGrane, long-time Des Moines Register-Tribune sports writer who was one of the founding members of the FWAA. He was the FWAA’s Executive Director from the early 1940’s until 1973.
“The FWAA and the Cotton Bowl share a special relationship,” Rick Baker, CBAA President/CEO, said. “Charlie has been a leader with his steadfast approach to our partnership with the FWAA. Through his extraordinary efforts over three decades, he’s made a lasting impact on the Cotton Bowl, the FWAA and college football. No one is more deserving. I’m proud that Charlie joins an illustrious group of Cotton Bowl representatives to win the Bert McGrane Award.”
Richardson added: “He is meticulous. Period. End of story. He stews over the mailing list and all parts of the directory he is responsible for and some that he is not. He has been a champion of the FWAA in terms of what is provided during his bowl week — access to players and coaches and maintaining strict standards of decorum in the press box itself.
“Charlie runs a model press operation at the Cotton Bowl. For years the Cotton Bowl has been an example of how it should be done. He puts together a bowl operations staff that is second to none. I think most people in the profession, whether it be writers, sports information directions or other bowl executives, know that, but it also needs to be said.”
His first Cotton Bowl was in 1984, during which time he was serving as the Assistant Director of Media Relations for the Southwest Conference from 1984-1993. In 1994, Charlie was hired by the CBAA to serve as the Vice President of Communications and became a fulltime member of the staff.
Through his 30-plus years with the Cotton Bowl, he has worked with six Heisman Trophy winners, including Boston College’s Doug Flutie in his very first Cotton Bowl game.
Charlie is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, where he served as the Men’s Media Assistant from 1976-1980, and then as the Women’s Athletic Director of Media Relations from 1980-1984. As an avid racehorse fan, Charlie still volunteers for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, where he has done so for more than 25 years.
In between trips to Great Britain to feed his Beatles’ craze, annual pilgrimages to Disneyland to pay homage to Walt and strumming the guitar, Charlie still runs the Cotton Bowl Media operations by commuting from Phoenix, where he resides.
“Whoever would have dreamed I would have even seen one Heisman Trophy winner much less work around six,” Fiss said. “I got to know Darrell Royal and Frank Broyles, all these people you read about in the sports pages, you know when you are growing up. … It really has been an interesting life. I have been blessed and pretty lucky to be involved in this business.
“We like to say in the Cotton Bowl we are in the business of making memories,” Fiss added. “If it wasn’t for the student athlete none of us would have jobs. I try to think of that every day. And I think when they are coming to the Cotton Bowl, they are just not thinking about playing in the Cotton Bowl, they are going to make memories which they are going to have forever.”