Wally Hall will receive 2020 Bert McGrane Award Reply

By Bob Holt
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Wally Hall is in his 40th consecutive year writing about sports as a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat and Democrat-Gazette.

“Whenever anything big happens in sports in Arkansas, everybody waits to see what Wally says. I can’t say that for any other state in the nation,” said Ron Higgins, who has covered the SEC for several newspapers and is now editor of Tiger Rag, a magazine and website that focuses on LSU sports. “In Arkansas, when you say, ‘Wally,’ people don’t ask, ‘Wally who?’ They know it’s Wally Hall.”

Hall, who was born in Searcy and grew up in Little Rock, has covered all sports since becoming a columnist in 1979, but college football has been a focal point.

Wally Hall, winner of the 2020 Bert McGrane Award, the FWAA’s highest honor. (Photo by Melissa Macatee.)

A member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) for 33 years, including serving as president in 2003, Hall is being recognized by the organization with its highest honor.

Hall will receive the Bert McGrane Award at the FWAA Awards Breakfast on Jan. 13, 2020, in New Orleans before the College Football Playoff Championship Game is played in the Superdome.

“This is our lifetime achievement award,” said Steve Richardson, the FWAA Executive Director. “It’s the Football Writers’ Hall of Fame.”

The McGrane Award is presented in recognition of contributions to the FWAA and college football with the recipients being displayed in the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

McGrane was a sports writer and editor at the Des Moines Register for 45 years and served as the FWAA’s Executive Director from the early 1940s until 1973.

“Wally is an iconic figure in college football writers’ circles for his longevity and the fact he’s been so passionate about all college sports for so many years,” said Richardson, also a McGrane recipient. “Recognizing him with the McGrane Award is really a no-brainer. He has been very supportive of the FWAA. He’s fought for his newspaper and for writers everywhere as far as coverage and access.”

The McGrane Award has been presented annually since 1974 and is a Who’s Who of sports writers, with past winners including Paul Zimmerman, Furman Bisher, Blackie Sherrod, Edwin Pope, Tony Barnhart and Ivan Maisel.

“Looking at the list of past winners of this award puts me in awe,” Hall said. “I do share one thing in common with everyone who has won this award — a passion for college football.”

Hall is the third Arkansan to win the McGrane Award along with Orville Henry and Charlie Fiss.

Henry, who wrote for the Arkansas Gazette and later the Democrat and Democrat-Gazette and Donrey Media Group, won in 2002.

Fiss, a Springdale native and longtime vice president of communications for the Cotton Bowl, was the award’s recipient in 2017.

“Wally has done it all in his career as a reporter, columnist and editor,” Fiss said. “He has developed an extraordinary following in Arkansas by earning the trust and loyalty of his readers.

“People want to know what Wally is thinking when it comes to the world of sports, and particularly the news of the day about the Razorbacks. I’m one of those readers. His column is like a magnet for me because it’s the first thing I turn to when picking up the newspaper or going online.

“The impact he has made as a journalist and his contributions to the profession are immense The Bert McGrane Award is one of the highest honors a journalist could ever receive and it’s gratifying to see the FWAA recognize Wally in such a special and meaningful way.”

Herb Vincent, the SEC’s associate commissioner of communications, is a North Little Rock native and graduate of Little Rock Catholic High School.

“I grew up reading Wally,” Vincent said. “Even after I left Little Rock, my dad knew that I liked to read him so much that he’d clip out his columns and send them to me in the days before the Internet.

“Then even after the Internet, he kept mailing them to me. It became a tradition where I’d get a package in the mail every week with Wally’s columns.

“My dad would write comments with the columns — and sometimes he didn’t agree with Wally. But he always read Wally, just like I have and so many other people have all these years. Reading Wally always helped me keep up with what was going on back home.”

Along with being a columnist, Hall added the sports editor’s duties in 1981.

“Wally’s a throwback to the old days when the sports editor was the columnist as well as running the department,” Richardson said. “He’s maintained a unique standing in the industry.

“Think of all the coaches Wally has covered at Arkansas. In this day and age someone who has the history and knowledge of the Arkansas program and sports in his state in general like Wally does is very hard to find.

“He’s a wealth of knowledge and has strong opinions. I don’t think anyone has to wonder how Wally feels about a topic he’s writing about. You know how he feels after you read his column.”

Vincent said Hall’s reputation and influence have extended well beyond Arkansas.

“Wally is really a legend in the sports writing industry,” Vincent said. “People across the country know Wally. He’s obviously got a great perspective on the world of sports.

“Wally writes with passion and he writes with an educated point of view. He writes with humor.

“Wally’s always had a great perspective on Arkansas sports through the good and the bad, through the winning and losing. He’s consistently been a sportswriter’s sportswriter.

“Wally knows his audience. He knows who he’s writing for. He’s been around sports for so long now that he knows what people want to know and he addresses that.”

Hall often has had to file his column within minutes — sometimes seconds — of a game ending to make deadline.

“Wally has so much impact with what he writes — and he writes faster than any human being I’ve ever seen,” Higgins said. “He’s given so much not just to the business of journalism in general, but to the Football Writers Association in particular. He’s always been a great advocate for our organization.

“He’s always concerned about how press boxes are run and the media operations part of our business.”

Higgins, then with the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, was covering the Arkansas-Michigan game at the 1998 Citrus Bowl.

“Somebody announced they’d be closing the press box an hour after the game,” Higgins said. “Wally went ballistic, and they said we could stay as long as we needed.

“That’s Wally. He’s never afraid to stand up for what he believes, never afraid to take a stand.

“Wally embodies what a good columnist should be about — ‘I don’t care if you like me or not, but you can respect me.’ That’s probably the essence of Wally right there.”

Hall, who was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2017, has said he has no plans to retire.

“Through all the changes newspapers and journalism have gone through, Wally has stood the test of time,” Richardson said. “I think that’s one of his greatest attributes. He probably has a better feel for what’s going on in Arkansas than anyone else through all these years.”

FWAA-NFF Super 16 Rankings, Week 14 Reply

Top four hold positions; Alabama falls to No. 8

Heading into the conference championship games, LSU remained the No. 1 team followed by Ohio State, Clemson and Georgia in the same order as last week. All four teams easily won their games during Rivalry Week. LSU claimed 29 first-place votes, Ohio State 16 and Clemson one.

Alabama’s close loss at Auburn cost the Crimson Tide three spots, dropping them to No. 8. The other losers among poll members were Minnesota (to Wisconsin) and Michigan (to Ohio State). Minnesota dropped to No. 14 after absorbing its second loss of the season, and Michigan dropped completely out of the poll after getting blitzed by Ohio State. Memphis entered the poll at No. 16.

Utah, Oklahoma and Baylor, in that order, moved into slots 5-7 after all posting impressive victories.

The SEC led all conferences with five teams in the poll, followed by the Big Ten with four. The Big 12 and Pac-12 had two each. The ACC, American and Independents had one each.

  • GAMES THIS WEEK
  • No. 1 LSU vs No. 4 Georgia in Atlanta;
  • No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Wisconsin in Indianapolis;
  • No. 3 Clemson vs. Virginia in Charlotte;
  • No. 5 Utah vs. No. 13 Oregon in Santa Clara (Friday);
  • No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 7 Baylor in Arlington, TX;
  • Cincinnati at No. 16 Memphis.

Week 14: games played through Nov. 30, 2019 

TEAM POINTS FIRST-PLACE VOTES LAST WEEK’S RANK
1. LSU (12-0) 717 29 1
2. Ohio State (12-0) 705 16 2
3. Clemson (12-0) 645 1 3
4. Georgia (11-1) 578 4
5. Utah (11-1) 543 6
6. Oklahoma (11-1) 513 7
7. Baylor (11-1) 399 10
8. Alabama (10-2) 374 5
9. Florida (10-2) 359 9
10. Wisconsin (10-2) 296 14
11. Auburn (9-3) 284 16
12. Penn State (10-2) 252 11
13. Oregon (10-2) 200 13
14. Minnesota (10-2) 142 8
15. Notre Dame (10-2) 127 15
16. Memphis (11-1) 54 N/A

OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES: Michigan (33), Boise State (15), Iowa (13), Cincinnati (4), Texas (3).

ABOUT THE FWAA-NFF SUPER 16 POLL: The FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll was established at the conclusion of the 2013 season by long-time partners, the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the National Football Foundation (NFF). Voters rank the top 16 teams in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, and the results will be released every Monday of the 2019 season; the individual votes of all members will also be made public. The first regular season poll will be released on Tuesday, Sept. 3 (to account for Labor Day games), and the final poll will be released Sunday, Dec. 8. The pollsters consist of FWAA writers and College Football Hall of Famers who were selected to create a balanced-geographical perspective. The poll utilizes a program designed by Sports Systems to compile the rankings.

ABOUT THE FWAA: The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,300 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 gameday operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information visit www.footballwriters.com.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL FOUNDATION & COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME: Founded in 1947 with early leadership from General Douglas MacArthur, legendary Army coach Earl “Red” Blaik and immortal journalist Grantland Rice, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame is a non-profit educational organization that runs programs designed to use the power of amateur football in developing scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in young people. Learn more at www.footballfoundation.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @NFFNetwork.

FWAA-NFF Super 16 Rankings, Week 13 Reply

Top five unchanged; Utah moves up to No. 6

The top five spots in the poll remained unchanged from a week ago with LSU, Ohio State, Clemson Georgia and Alabama holding the same order. All of those five teams, except idle Clemson, won home games on Saturday.

Oregon was upset at Arizona State and fell from No. 6 to No. 13. Penn State lost at No. 2 Ohio State, but dropped only two spots to No. 11. Utah won at Arizona, moving up two slots to take over the No. 6 spot from Oregon. The same 16 teams were once again back in the poll.

The Big Ten and SEC led all conferences with five teams each. The Big 12 and Pac-12 had two each. The ACC and Independents had one each.

GAMES THIS WEEK

  • Texas A&M at No. 1 LSU
  • No. 2 Ohio State at No. 12 Michigan
  • No. 3 Clemson at South Carolina
  • No. 4 Georgia at Georgia Tech
  • No. 5 Alabama at No. 16 Auburn
  • Colorado at No. 6 Utah
  • No. 7 Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
  • No. 14 Wisconsin at No. 8 Minnesota
  • Florida State at No. 9 Florida
  • No. 10 Baylor at Kansas
  • Rutgers at No. 11 Penn State
  • Oregon State at No. 13 Oregon
  • No. 15 Notre Dame at Stanford

Week 13: games played through NOVEMBER 23, 2019

TEAM POINTS FIRST-PLACE VOTES LAST WEEK’S RANK
1. LSU (11-0) 727 38 1
2. Ohio State (11-0) 693 7 2
3. Clemson (11-0) 648 1 3
4. Georgia (10-1) 579 4
5. Alabama (10-1) 552 5
6. Utah (10-1) 482 8
7. Oklahoma (10-1) 470 7
8. Minnesota (10-1) 353 11
9. Florida (9-2) 341 10
10. Baylor (10-1) 283 13
11. Penn State (9-2) 253 9
12. Michigan (9-2) 227 12
13. Oregon (9-2) 220 6
14. Wisconsin (9-2) 171 14
15. Notre Dame (9-2) 123 15
16. Auburn (8-3) 72 16

OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES: Memphis (25), Cincinnati (18), Iowa (8), Boise State (5), Texas (5), Oklahoma State (1).

ABOUT THE FWAA-NFF SUPER 16 POLL: The FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll was established at the conclusion of the 2013 season by long-time partners, the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the National Football Foundation (NFF). Voters rank the top 16 teams in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, and the results will be released every Monday of the 2019 season; the individual votes of all members will also be made public. The first regular season poll will be released on Tuesday, Sept. 3 (to account for Labor Day games), and the final poll will be released Sunday, Dec. 8. The pollsters consist of FWAA writers and College Football Hall of Famers who were selected to create a balanced-geographical perspective. The poll utilizes a program designed by Sports Systems to compile the rankings.

ABOUT THE FWAA: The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,300 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 gameday operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information visit www.footballwriters.com.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL FOUNDATION & COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME: Founded in 1947 with early leadership from General Douglas MacArthur, legendary Army coach Earl “Red” Blaik and immortal journalist Grantland Rice, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame is a non-profit educational organization that runs programs designed to use the power of amateur football in developing scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in young people. Learn more at www.footballfoundation.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @NFFNetwork.

Digital Postcard No. 12: The FWAA’s 1987 All-America Team Reply

Ed. Note: This is the 12th in the series of digital postcards commemorating 75 years of the FWAA All-America Team.  The first FWAA All-America Team was published in 1944 during World War II and is the second longest continuously published team in major-college football.) 

In 1990, “The Simpsons” made its television debut … 42-year-old George Foreman knocked out Gerry Cooney in two rounds … Larry Bird’s streak of 71 made free throws ends … Pete Rose spent five months in federal prison for cheating on his taxes … George Steinbrenner steps down as Yankees owner … Jerry Lewis’ 25th Muscular Dystrophy telethon raised over $44 million … “LA Law” won an Emmy Award … “Goodfellas” starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta is released.

A national title shared by Colorado (writers’ poll) and Georgia Tech (coaches’ poll) gave the impetus to the formation of the Bowl Coalition … The Buffaloes (11-1-1) won the controversial “Fifth Down Game” over Missouri when they were mistakenly given an extra play which enabled them to beat the Tigers … FWAA  All-America, BYU quarterback Ty Detmer, won the Heisman Trophy and the Outland Trophy went to Miami’s Russell Maryland … Colorado’s star was running back Eric Bieniemy … Georgia Tech’s only All-American was defensive back Ken Swilling … Notre Dame was represented on the FWAA All-America Team by defensive lineman Chris Zorich, linebacker Michael Stonebreaker and kick returner Raghib Ismail.

Missouri-Colorado: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQJT8q0MMwQ

COTTON BOWL NUGGET

Nobody dreamed there would be that much distance between No. 3 Texas and No. 4 Miami. A Hurricane defense anchored by Outland Trophy recipient Russell Maryland and linebacker Maurice Crum allowed “The U” to blow the Longhorns out of their own backyard, 46-3. Quarterback Craig Erickson threw for 272 yards (17 of 26) and four touchdowns to lead the assault. Texas fumbled twice and quarterback Peter Gardere was intercepted three times – one of which was returned for a touchdown.

1990 FWAA Selectors

  • Lenn Robbins, The National
  • Dan Foster, Greenville News
  • Gary Long, Miami Herald
  • Paul Borden, Arkansas Gazette
  • John Hadley, Freelance
  • Bob Hammel, Bloomington Herald-Times
  • Dick Rosetta, Salt Lake Tribune
  • Gene Wojciechowski, Los Angeles Times
  • Bill McGrotha, Tallahassee Democrat

The best defense wins championships and helps fight the flu

By Bob Herzog

Even in this age of offense-driven football at all levels, many coaches still embrace the adage that “defense wins championships.” That saying could easily apply to influenza (better known as flu) prevention.

“The first line of defense against the flu is for everyone age 6 months and older to get vaccinated annually,” said Marla Dalton, CAE executive director and CEO of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID). NFID wants everyone to know that flu can be serious—even for healthy people, flu-related complications can result in hospitalization and even death. Unfortunately, flu vaccination rates in the United States continue to fall short of public health goals, both for football players and the public at large.

To promote the importance of flu prevention, NFID is in the second year of a sponsorship of the Outland Trophy, awarded each season to the nation’s best college football interior lineman. The NFID and the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) have joined forces in a national campaign (#FightFlu) to remind football fans and players to get vaccinated every year. They have even recruited former Outland Trophy winners Joe Thomas (Wisconsin, 2006), Barrett Jones (Alabama, 2011) and Mark May (Pittsburgh, 1980) for a public service campaign to remind football fans of the importance of annual flu shots.

“We provide free flu shots for the varsity football team and coaching staff. But it’s hard to get 90 men to come in to get a shot,” said University of Rhode Island (URI) head athletic trainer Andy Llaguno. “Why? Because they are scared of the needle! They’ll say, ‘No, I don’t want any part of it.’ We highly encourage them to do it, but participation has not been as good as we’d like it.”

Llaguno attributed college football players’ reluctance to get flu shots, despite medical evidence that it most definitely helps, to common myths about the flu shot. According to Llaguno, “Some of them think they will get the flu from the shot. The other thing is that they’re just scared of needles.”

Mark May, the 1980 Outland Trophy recipient from Pitt, shown here getting his annual flu shot, will be the 2019 spokesperson for the Outland Trophy presented by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID).

Flu vaccines are made with flu viruses that are either weakened or killed, and only broken up parts of the killed virus are included in the vaccine. Therefore, the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. And for those who are afraid of needles, flu vaccine is available as a nasal spray. The pain associated with flu is much worse than the pain of a needle.

Llaguno worked with the football programs at Penn State, Boston College and West Virginia before coming to URI and said, “It was absolutely very similar there. The difference is that at a place like Penn State, the coaching staff does have a little more influence to make sure the players get the shots.”

If football players studied the history of the flu as much as they study their playbooks, getting vaccinated would be a no-brainer.

A lengthy 2018 story in The Athletic detailed how a world-wide flu pandemic struck in 1918, during World War I, decades before a flu vaccine became available. Roughly one-third of the world’s population was infected and an estimated 50 million people died from the flu.

So even though the declared co-national champions Michigan and Pittsburgh played only five games because of the war and quarantines related to the flu scare, sports historian S.W. Pope told The Athletic that the 1918 season, “effectively helped transform the game of college football. It became a national sport.”

Joe Thomas, the 2006 Outland Trophy recipient from Wisconsin, shown here getting his annual flu shot, was the 2018 spokesperson for the Outland Trophy presented by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID).

Thanks to flu vaccines that have been publicly available in the United States for more than 50 years, flu vaccination has prevented millions of illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths.

But NFID reminds us that the flu is still a serious illness, and vaccines don’t work if they sit on the shelf. Though the very young and very old are most vulnerable, even healthy football players and coaches are at risk. The acronym, FACTS (Fever, Aches, Chills, Tiredness, and Sudden Onset), helps remind people of the symptoms of flu.

NFID supports the ‘Take 3’ approach to flu prevention recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): 1) Get a flu vaccine each year, 2) practice healthy habits—cover coughs and sneezes, wash your hands, and stay home if you are sick; and 3) take flu antiviral drugs if prescribed.

Limiting contact with others, however, is exactly the opposite of what football players do. So football and the flu continue to converge. In September of 2009, more than 40 University of Wisconsin football players showed flu-like symptoms the week leading up to the Badgers’ game against Fresno State. They all suited up for a double-overtime victory, but one starter played only briefly before leaving the game with an illness. It was later reported that some of the team got infected by a rare swine flu virus. All recovered within a week, according to news reports.

That fall, football teams at Washington State, the University of Mississippi, Tulane and Duke also were hit hard by the flu, further raising awareness of flu and its symptoms and treatment.

The Ravens defeated the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game, staying at a hotel in Providence instead of Boston, which had declared a state of emergency because of the flu outbreak which affected some Patriots’ players that week.

You would think such incidents would make it an easy sell for athletic trainers to convince football players to get vaccinated against flu. But in many instances, that is not the case.

“Even these big, tough guys are still afraid of needles,” Llaguno said of his Rhode Island Rams. “In some ways it’s comical, but it’s not funny that we haven’t gotten the participation that we want. It is getting better though. We started with a dozen players, got it up to a couple of dozen last year, and we’re hoping for more than 60 percent this year.”

After all, the best way offense in combatting the disease is a good defense.

(Bob Herzog retired from Newsday in 2018 after a 46-year career as a sportswriter and editor. He lives in Rhode Island, where he teaches at URI.)

FWAA-NFF Super 16 Rankings, Week 12

LSU, Ohio State, Clemson still top three; Georgia moves up to No. 4

LSU, Ohio State and Clemson remained the top three teams in that order for a second straight week. The same 16 teams were ranked in the poll for a third straight week.

Georgia moved up to No. 4 after beating Auburn, edging past Alabama, which also won on the road at Mississippi State. Oklahoma won a big road game at Baylor and moved up only one slot to No. 7. Minnesota fell four spots to No, 11 after losing at Iowa.

The Big Ten and SEC led all leagues with five teams each. The Big 12 and Pac-12 had two each. The ACC and Independents had one each.

GAMES THIS WEEK

  • Arkansas at No. 1 LSU;
  • No. 9 Penn State at No. 2 Ohio State;
  • No. 3 Clemson is idle;
  • Texas A&M at No. 4 Georgia;
  • Western Carolina at No. 5 Alabama;
  • No. 6 Oregon at Arizona State;
  • TCU at No. 7 Oklahoma;
  • No. 8 Utah at Arizona;
  • No. 10 Florida is idle;
  • No. 11 Minnesota at Northwestern;
  • No. 12 Michigan at Indiana;
  • Texas at No. 13 Baylor;
  • Purdue at No. 14 Wisconsin;
  • Boston College at No. 15 Notre Dame;
  • Samford at No. 16 Auburn.

 Week 12: games played through november 16, 2019

TEAM POINTS FIRST-PLACE VOTES LAST WEEK’S RANK
1. LSU (10-0) 729 40 1
2. Ohio State (10-0) 690 5 2
3. Clemson (11-0) 649 1 3
4. Georgia (9-1) 579 5
5. Alabama (9-1) 534 4
6. Oregon (9-1) 482 6
7. Oklahoma (9-1) 454 8
8. Utah (9-1) 430 9
9. Penn State (9-1) 349 10
10. Florida (9-2) 319 12
11. Minnesota (9-1) 241 7
12. Michigan (8-2) 202 14
13. Baylor (9-1) 199 11
14. Wisconsin (8-2) 147 15
15. Notre Dame (8-2) 117 16
16. Auburn (7-3) 72 13

OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES: Memphis (25), Cincinnati (23), Iowa (9), Texas A&M (3), Boise State (2), Iowa State (1).

ABOUT THE FWAA-NFF SUPER 16 POLL: The FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll was established at the conclusion of the 2013 season by long-time partners, the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the National Football Foundation (NFF). Voters rank the top 16 teams in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, and the results will be released every Monday of the 2019 season; the individual votes of all members will also be made public. The first regular season poll will be released on Tuesday, Sept. 3 (to account for Labor Day games), and the final poll will be released Sunday, Dec. 8. The pollsters consist of FWAA writers and College Football Hall of Famers who were selected to create a balanced-geographical perspective. The poll utilizes a program designed by Sports Systems to compile the rankings.

ABOUT THE FWAA: The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,300 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 gameday operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information visit www.footballwriters.com.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL FOUNDATION & COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME: Founded in 1947 with early leadership from General Douglas MacArthur, legendary Army coach Earl “Red” Blaik and immortal journalist Grantland Rice, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame is a non-profit educational organization that runs programs designed to use the power of amateur football in developing scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in young people. Learn more at www.footballfoundation.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @NFFNetwork.

Steve Ellis Memorial Scholarship Fund

The FWAA’s Beat Writer of the Year Award is named for the late Steve Ellis, the Tallahassee Democrat’s long-time Florida State beat writer who died 10 years ago this month.

Friends of Steve, including Bob Ferrante of theOsceola.com, are trying to raise $5,000 to endow a scholarship in Steve’s memory.

Click on the link below to learn more about the campaign and to make a contribution if you would like.

https://spark.fsu.edu/Project/724/Steve-Ellis-Memorial-Scholarship-Fund?fbclid=IwAR3SuWiTKlmClf4GqXkKWZdmtBQDPBhT5UwlOdbwynPWCbSHF1f87LftLaE

Digital Postcard No. 11: The FWAA’s 1987 All-America Team

(Ed. Note: This is the eleventh in the series of digital postcards commemorating 75 years of the FWAA All-America Team.  The first FWAA All-America Team was published in 1944 during World War II and is the second longest continuously published team in major-college football.) 

In 1987…..Plans for Disneyland Paris were announced…First Starbucks outside Seattle opened in Vancouver and Chicago…The Dow closed over 2,000 for the first time…Pound of bacon sold for $1.80…..The Simpsons cartoon first appeared….Platoon won Best Picture…Aretha Franklin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame….President Ronald Reagan gave his tear down the Berlin Wall speech.

On the 1987 FWAA All-America team, Syracuse quarterback Don McPherson was named first team as the Orangemen grabbed the Lambert Trophy as the best team in the East and claimed a berth in the Sugar Bowl. The FWAA’s Coach of the Year was also from Syracuse, Dick MacPherson. Miami (Florida) won the national championship, edging Oklahoma, 20-14, in the Orange Bowl behind a defense led by FWAA All-America Daniel Stubbs. Air Force’s Chad Hennings claimed the 1987 Outland Trophy. Other stars of the FWAA All-America team were South Carolina’s Sterling Sharpe, Oklahoma’s Keith Jackson, Florida State’s Deion Sanders and Michigan State’s Lorenzo White.

COTTON BOWL NUGGET:

Notre Dame’s Tim Brown, an FWAA All-America as a returner, led the Fighting Irish into the Cotton Bowl where they dropped a 35-10 decision to Texas A&M.  Brown, a Dallas native, was the first Irish Heisman Trophy winner to play in a bowl game and third Heisman Trophy winner to play in the Cotton Bowl in four seasons. He returned the opening kickoff 37 yards and caught a touchdown pass for a 7-0 Irish lead, before the Aggies took over in the second half.

Tim Brown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9T67HDocsEY 

Your 1987 FWAA Selectors

  • Lee L. Richards, Eastern Football Magazine
  • Bill Millsaps, Richmond Times-Dispatch
  • Jack Hairston, Gainesville Sun
  • Melanie Hauser, Houston Post
  • Tom Shatel, Kansas City Star-Times
  • Bob Pille, Chicago Sun-Times
  • Bob Hammond, Laramie Daily Boomerang
  • Bob Hurt, Arizona Republic
  • Gordon White, New York Times

President’s column: Recognizing the value of the press

By Matt Fortuna

Some coaches understand our jobs. Some don’t. But it’s always encouraging to see the two things that I saw on Saturday in Minneapolis.

2019 FWAA President Matt Fortuna

One of the youngest coaches in the country championed our cause, a rarity during this troubled era of public mistrust. And, as importantly, that coach used the biggest game day platform he has ever had to make his pro-media statement.

We bring you P.J. Fleck, whose unconventional methods have Minnesota at 9-0 for the first time in 115 years. This comes three years after he took Western Michigan to the Cotton Bowl.

The 38-year-old was wrapping up his postgame press conference after the Golden Gophers’ monumental win over Penn State when he took a minute to acknowledge the benefits of doing what he does in such a big market.

“Thank you all for being here, thanks for covering us,” Fleck said. “Thank you for all the things you put in the paper, whether it’s criticism or whether it’s positive. You have a job to do, and I respect that whole-heartedly. You’re teaching our young players about life — how to handle the adversity, how to handle the critics, how to handle the success. You’re doing your job at an elite level. You are. Because you’re shaping our young men of how to handle all that.

“Some people don’t get the training like you do here at the University of Minnesota. Some places protect people or they protect the team. You take it for exactly what it’s worth, and our players get to grow up in that. They get to see real world articles and real world opinions. That means a lot to me, so thank you so much for helping our team grow up.”

Kudos to Fleck for understanding how to promote his product, along with recognizing how many programs usually harm their players by not letting them face the music after a good or bad performance. Life is not always easy. College is not always easy, especially when carrying the pressure of trying to deliver for teammates, coaches and fans at a time in your life when you are maturing in front of a public audience.

Most of these guys have pro dreams, though, and they are not going to receive the kid-glove treatment once they make it there. Some of them won’t make it that far as football players, and that’s OK, too, because there are other ways to make positive impressions on prospective employers. (I know of two recently-graduated Notre Dame football players I have covered who are not in the NFL but earned attractive job opportunities as direct results of the way they handled themselves in public speaking settings.)

Fleck expanded on this philosophy a little bit more when I sat with him in his office afterward, saying: “I think we live in a very real media market, which I think is really healthy for our student-athletes, because they get they get pressure and expectations put on them like pro teams. And that’s only going to help them for the real world.”

How refreshing.

 

Viti named 2019 Armed Forces Merit Award recipient

Armed Forces Merit Award

FORT WORTH, Texas — Army West Point coach and military veteran Mike Viti has been selected as the eighth recipient of Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).

Coordinated by the staff at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA was created in June 2012 “to honor an individual and/or a group within the realm of the sport of football.”

Brant Ringler, executive director of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, and Matt Fortuna, FWAA president, announced Monday during a teleconference that Viti was selected from a list of 38 nominations (33 individuals and five programs) as the 2019 recipient by a seven-person committee made up of FWAA members and Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl officials.

Mike Viti

“Coach Viti has distinguished himself as a collegiate football player, an Army veteran and now as a coach,” said Ringler. “More importantly, Coach Viti has given of himself with his work with Legacies Alive in support of families of our nation’s fallen heroes.”

Fortuna added, “Coach Viti joins a list of remarkable individuals and programs that have been recipients of the Armed Forces Merit Award. He has been successful in each phase of his life as a player and coach at Army West Point, along with his service in the military and his support of Legacies Alive. With so many deserving individuals and programs, it is difficult to honor only one recipient annually.”

Viti, who is in his fourth season as an assistant coach with the Army West Point football, co-founded Legacies Alive (LA), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The mission of the Legacies Alive is to strengthen and support the Gold Star families of our nation’s fallen heroes and brings national awareness to the life and character of all service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Viti oversees the strategic and executive direction of the organization.

“Legacies Alive has allowed me to passionately honor the sacrifice and service of my heroes,” said Viti. “The interactions I have had with their Gold Star Families are some of the most powerful and influential experiences I have had in my life. It has inspired me to continue to connect our mission with more Americans so that our country’s sons and daughters forever connect the freedoms and liberties they are afforded, with the sacrifice and service our fallen and their families.”

As a student-athlete at Army West Point (2004-2007), Viti earned four varsity letters and was a team captain. As a fullback used primarily as a blocker, he carried the ball 91 times during his career for 321 yards and three scores while catching 30 passes for 198 yards. Viti also served as a Regimental Commander during his senior year.

Following graduation from the U.S. Military Academy in 2008, Viti was stationed in Oklahoma and Colorado after being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. He served with the 4th Infantry Division as well as the 214th Fires Brigade. He served in combat in Afghanistan where he was a platoon leader in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Viti has earned a bronze star and a combat action badge.

After retiring from the military as a captain, Viti embarked on Mike’s Hike For Heroes, a cross country trek where he walked one kilometer for every service member killed in action in the global war on terror. He concluded the walk covering 7,100 kilometers or 4,400 miles beginning in Washington and wrapping up at the Army-Navy Game presented by USAA in Baltimore, Md.

Robert Morris University president Dr. Chris Howard was named last November as the seventh recipient. A 1991 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Dr. Howard was a Rhodes Scholar and received the 1990 Campbell Trophy, the highest academic award in the nation presented to a senior college football player. He currently serves on the selection committee for the College Football Playoffs.

Nate Boyer of the University of Texas, Austin was the initial recipient in 2012. Other recipients were Brandon McCoy of the University of North Texas in 2013, Daniel Rodriguez from Clemson University in 2014, Bret Robertson of Westminster College (Fulton, Mo.) in 2015 and Steven Rhodes from Middle Tennessee State University in 2016.

Kansas State and its football team were honored in November 2017 as the sixth recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award for the university’s partnership with the United States Army that created a bond between the school’s athletic department and the Iron Rangers at Fort Riley.

ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, owns and operates a large portfolio of 35 collegiate sporting events worldwide. The roster includes three Labor Day weekend college football games, the FCS opening-weekend game, 16 college bowl games, 11 college basketball events, a college softball event, an esports event and two college award shows, which accounts for approximately 375-plus hours of live programming, reaches almost 64 million viewers and attracts over 800,000 attendees each year. With satellite offices in Albuquerque, Birmingham, Boca Raton, Boise, Dallas-Fort Worth, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Montgomery and Tampa, ESPN Events builds relationships with conferences, schools and local communities, as well as providing unique experiences for teams and fans. For more information, visit the official website, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube pages.

The Football Writers Association of America (FWAA, http://www.sportswriters.net) consists of the men and women across North America who cover college football for a living. Founded in 1941, 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 an All-America team. Through its website, the FWAA works to improve communication among all those who work within the game. The FWAA also sponsors scholarships for aspiring writers and an annual writing contest. Behind the leadership of President Matt Fortuna of The Athletic, Executive Director Steve Richardson and a board of veteran journalists, the FWAA continues grow and work to help college football prosper at all levels. There are now over 1,400 members.

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