FWAA selects ‘Super 11’ for 2021 season

DALLAS – Three first-time winners and eight previous ones comprise the 13th Annual Super 11 Awards, which the Football Writers Association of America rewards annually to the best performing sports information departments in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The awards announced this week are for the 2021 season.

In addition, the FWAA presented a Super 11 Coach of the Year Award to Boston College Coach Jeff Hafley who granted outstanding access to his program during the 2021 season. He is the fourth head coach to win this award, which began with the 2018 season.

As for the 2021 departmental awards, Clemson and Colorado each collected a ninth award and Nebraska an eighth. Navy won for a fifth time, Kansas State a fourth time, and Iowa, Miami (Fla.) and Ole Miss each a second time.

The first-time recipients in the award series, which dates back to the 2009 season, are Louisville, New Mexico and South Carolina. Seven of the 10 FBS Conferences are represented among the 11 winners.

Sports information offices in some cases were still doing zoom calls for interviews, but there were also many in-person interviews with players, head coaches and assistant coaches observing social distancing and health safety protocols when interacting with the media.

“The 2020 and 2021 football seasons featured unprecedented challenges for all of us, but some sports information departments worked with coaches and players to go above and beyond and to make sure media could do their jobs and provide fans with the information they crave,” said David Ubben, 2022 FWAA President. “That allows all of us to have jobs, and we’re appreciative of these departments for providing that access while also making sure both media and members of football programs remain safe. College football is better and grows when sports information departments are able to provide as much access as possible.”

This year’s winners were deemed to have had excellent accessibility during the week of the game and after the game – with a program’s players, coaches and assistant coaches – along with the other listed criteria on page 22 of the 2021-22 FWAA Directory.

“What is always encouraging is that we had first-time winners,” said FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson. “Our membership wants access to players and coaches after games, of course, but also for human interest and analytical stories during the week. Assistant coaches are also part of the mix that give stories depth. Over the years, for a variety of reasons this access has been restricted.

“We believe there are many good stories out there that can be told if they are allowed to be told if our members are allowed good access.”

FWAA members provided input during the season and made comments in an FWAA Awards survey after the 2021 season. In addition, SID press boxes were judged on how well they were run and maintained in terms of neutrality, pool reporters and noise level that could affect a media person’s ability to do his or her job. In recent years, the availability of nearby press parking has become a plus.

In January 2009, the FWAA formed the first Super 11 Committee. The concept is supported by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). The FWAA has awarded Super 11 to 77 different programs over the years.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and game-day operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual FWAA All-America Team. For more information about the FWAA and its program and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

The 2021 Super 11
Clemson (9)
Colorado (9)
Iowa (2)
Kansas State (4)
Louisville (1)
Miami (2)
Ole Miss (2)
Navy (5)
Nebraska (8)
New Mexico (1)
South Carolina (1)

2021 Super 11 Coach of the Year
Jeff Hafley, Boston College

Related link:
Super 11 Awards (including complete selection criteria)

Reminder to FWAA members: Enter the 30th Annual FWAA Best Writing Contest

FWAA members can begin submitting entries in the 30th Annual Best Writing Contest immediately.  The deadline is July 1.

CATEGORIES

  • Game Story (Immediate Deadline)
  • Feature Story/Profile
  • Enterprise/Investigative
  • Column/Analysis/Commentary

In addition, we have the Beat Writer of the Year Award for the top beat writer as judged by a special FWAA committee headed by FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson. See separate nomination/entry procedure below.

BEST WRITING CONTEST RULES

You must be an FWAA member in good standing to enter.

Deadline: July 1, 2022. Entries sent after the deadline WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.

Limit: One (1) article per category, although a series of articles may be submitted in the enterprise category.

Entries must have appeared in print or on line between Feb. 1, 2021, and Jan. 31, 2022.

Entries must be submitted electronically to contest@fwaa.com. Entries not sent to this e-mail address will not be accepted.

Send MS Word or text files only. DO NOT SEND HTML files, Word Perfect files, stories in other word processing software or links to stories on the Internet or electronic libraries.

Make your entry easy to read by taking out unnecessary carriage returns (They can give your entry an odd look when opened by a judge’s word processing program).

Delete any embedded advertising, photos and cutlines from the files (The file should contain only your story and your identifying information).

At the top of each entry, the following information should be included:

  • Writer(s)
  • Publication or online service
  • Category
  • Date of publication
  • E-mail address and telephone number for the writer(s) of the entry.

The entries will be sorted and stripped of identifying information and forwarded to the judge(s).

Files containing your entries should follow this naming convention: yourname-category.doc

The category must be one of these four words: Game, Feature, Enterprise or Column

Example: KenStephens-game.doc.

Questions on the Best Writing Contest? E-mail Ken Stephens at ken.stephens@sbcglobal.net.

FWAA BEAT WRITER OF THE YEAR AWARD

If you have a nomination of a beat writer who covers major college football (either a team or a conference) or you want to nominate yourself, please send an e-mail/letter explaining the qualifications of the person (no more than 250 words) to:

  • Steve Richardson
  • FWAA
  • 18652 Vista Del Sol
  • Dallas, TX 75287
  • tiger@fwaa.com
  • Cell: 214-870-6516

Steve and his committee will then make inquiries into the FWAA members nominated. In order to qualify for this award the person nominated must have been an FWAA member during the 2021 football season.

Nominations sought 2022 Armed Forces Merit Award

Fort Worth, TexasNominations are now being accepted for the 2022 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 with a military background and/or involvement that have an impact within the realm of college football.”

With the 2022 recipient being announced Thursday, November 11, 2022, nominations for the 2022 Armed Forces Merit Award will be accepted through October 1 when a selection committee of seven FWAA members and two representatives from the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl will review the list of candidates for the 11th annual presentation.

“We are pleased to join with the Football Writers Association of America to honor an individual with a military background or group that works with our armed services that has an impact within college football,” said Brant Ringler, the executive director of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.

FWAA executive director Steve Richardson echoed Ringler’s sentiments along with adding that “we have an outstanding list of candidates each year and it is difficult to honor only one recipient when there are several individuals and programs that are very deserving of the honor.”

With 31 nominations (28 individuals and three programs) considered for the 2021 award, University of Nebraska linebacker Damien Jackson was selected as the 10th recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award.  A Cornhusker walk-on in 2007 after serving four years in the military as a member of the Navy SEALs, Jackson was placed on scholarship for the 2020 season and has played in the 20 games for Nebraska.

Jackson Has made the Big 10 All-Academic team that last four seasons.  Before his military service, Jackson played baseball and soccer at Shadow Ridge High in Las Vegas, Nev. A child, youth and family studies major, Jackson earned his degree in December of 2021.  He has volunteered his time with the Nebraska Football Road Race, a Day of Service and local hospital visits.

Past recipients of the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA include Nate Boyer of the University of Texas (2012), Brandon McCoy of the University of North Texas (2013), Daniel Rodriguez from Clemson University (2014), Bret Robertson of Westminster College (Fulton, Mo., 2015), Steven Rhodes from Middle Tennessee State University (2016), Dr. Chris Howard from Robert Morris University (2018), Army West Point assistant coach Mike Viti (2019) and Collin O’Donnell of Bluefield College of Virginia.

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.

Nominations for the 2022  Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA should be submitted to Tim Simmons (bfishinc@aol.com, 303/678-8484), the award’s coordinator, by October 1. The nomination link can be found at https://www.armedforcesbowl.com/armed-forces#meritaward-section.

2022 Nominations

Programs (7)

  • Athletes Of Valor, Alex Stone, Founder & CEO, Athletes of Valor (U. S. Marines)
  • Battlefields To Ballfields, Mike Pereira, CEO/President/Director
  • Bronze Boot Run – Laramie to Fort Collins prior to the Wyoming at Colorado State football game
  • National Association of College Directors of Athletics, Wounded Warrior Project
  • Thomas University Military Transition Initiative
  • Georgia Military College, Milledgeville, Ga.
  • New Mexico Military Institute, Roswell, N.M.

Active Players (1)

  • Kyran Griffin-Isom, Troy University, WR, 6-3, 169, Jun., New Orleans, La. (U. S. Marines)

Football Coaching Staff (19)

  • Troy Calhoun, Head Coach, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Jake Campbell, Assistant Backfield, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • C.B. Cornett, Volunteer Coach-Linebackers, Georgia Military College (U. S. Marines Corps)
  • Robert Green, Cornerbacks & Director of Racial Equality, United States Naval Academy (U. S. Marine Corps)
  • Charlie Jackson, Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Backs, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Brian Knorr, Inside Linebackers, U. S. Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Ken Lamendola, Inside Linebackers, U. S. Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Steed Lobotzke, Offensive Line, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Curtis Luper, Running Backs, Missouri (U. S. Army)
  • Alex Means, Outside Linebackers, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Ben Miller, Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach, Illinois (U. S. Air Force)
  • Blane Morgan, Head Coach, Lamar University (U. S. Air Force)
  • Andre Morris, Spurs, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • John Rudzinski, Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs, Virginia (U. S. Air Force)
  • Brett Skene, Offensive Assistant, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Trent Steelman, Quarterbacks, Eastern Kentucky University (U. S. Army)
  • Mike Thiessen, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Charlton Warren, Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs, North Carolina (U. S. Air Force)
  • Mick Yokitis, Wide Receivers, United States Naval Academy (U. S. Navy)

Football Support Staff (9)

  • Clayton Kendrick-Holmes, Chief of Staff/Football Operations, United States Military Academy (U. S. Navy)
  • Chris Lehmann, Colorado & Colorado State Football, Wyoming Air National Guard
  • LTC John Nawoichyk, Assistant AD/Military Operations, United States Military Academy (U. S. Army)
  • Omar Nelson, Director of Player Development, United States Naval Academy (U. S. Navy)
  • CPT Blake Powers, Admission Support, United States Military Academy (U. S. Army)
  • Trey Reed, Assistant Athletic Director, Athletic Communications, Midwestern State (U. S. Army)
  • Steve Senn, Director of Recruiting, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Jordon Simmons, Assistant Head Coach – Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, Colorado State (U. S. Army)
  • Rusty Whitt, Football Strength & Conditioning Coach, Troy (U. S. Army)

University Leadership (3)

  • Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor of Troy (U. S. Marine Corps)
  • im Knowlton, Director of Athletics, California (U. S. Army)
  • Natesh Rao, Senior Associate Athletic Director, Arizona State (U. S. Navy)

Call for entries: Submit your work for the 30th Annual FWAA Best Writing Contest 1

FWAA members can begin submitting entries in the 30th Annual Best Writing Contest immediately.  The deadline is July 1.

CATEGORIES

  • Game Story (Immediate Deadline)
  • Feature Story/Profile
  • Enterprise/Investigative
  • Column/Analysis/Commentary

In addition, we have the Beat Writer of the Year Award for the top beat writer as judged by a special FWAA committee headed by FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson. See separate nomination/entry procedure below.

BEST WRITING CONTEST RULES

You must be an FWAA member in good standing to enter.

Deadline: July 1, 2022. Entries sent after the deadline WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.

Limit: One (1) article per category, although a series of articles may be submitted in the enterprise category.

Entries must have appeared in print or on line between Feb. 1, 2021, and Jan. 31, 2022.

Entries must be submitted electronically to contest@fwaa.com. Entries not sent to this e-mail address will not be accepted.

Send MS Word or text files only. DO NOT SEND HTML files, Word Perfect files, stories in other word processing software or links to stories on the Internet or electronic libraries.

Make your entry easy to read by taking out unnecessary carriage returns (They can give your entry an odd look when opened by a judge’s word processing program).

Delete any embedded advertising, photos and cutlines from the files (The file should contain only your story and your identifying information).

At the top of each entry, the following information should be included:

  • Writer(s)
  • Publication or online service
  • Category
  • Date of publication
  • E-mail address and telephone number for the writer(s) of the entry.

The entries will be sorted and stripped of identifying information and forwarded to the judge(s).

Files containing your entries should follow this naming convention: yourname-category.doc

The category must be one of these four words: Game, Feature, Enterprise or Column

Example: KenStephens-game.doc.

Questions on the Best Writing Contest? E-mail Ken Stephens at ken.stephens@sbcglobal.net.

FWAA BEAT WRITER OF THE YEAR AWARD

If you have a nomination of a beat writer who covers major college football (either a team or a conference) or you want to nominate yourself, please send an e-mail/letter explaining the qualifications of the person (no more than 250 words) to:

  • Steve Richardson
  • FWAA
  • 18652 Vista Del Sol
  • Dallas, TX 75287
  • tiger@fwaa.com
  • Cell: 214-870-6516

Steve and his committee will then make inquiries into the FWAA members nominated. In order to qualify for this award the person nominated must have been an FWAA member during the 2021 football season.

First-year coach, freshman awards announced

BEAMER, HEUPEL SHARE 2021 STEVE SPURRIER AWARD
DALLAS – South Carolina coach Shane Beamer and Tennessee coach Josh Heupel are the co-winners of the Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach of the Year Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America and Chris Doering Mortgage. It’s the second time the 43-year-old Heupel has won the award, which began in 2001 but is in its first year being sponsored by Doering and named after Spurrier. Heupel, like Spurrier a former All-America quarterback in his day, was the FWAA First-year Coach of the Year at UCF in 2018. Beamer, son of celebrated Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, is the second South Carolina coach to win the award. Spurrier actually won the award in 2005 in his first season leading the Gamecocks.

GEORGIA’S BOWERS IS 2021 FRESHMAN PLAYER OF THE YEAR
DALLAS (FWAA) – Record-breaking Georgia All-America tight end Brock Bowers has been named the recipient of the fourth annual FWAA Freshman of the Year presented by Chris Doering Mortgage. The unquestioned most valuable player on the Georgia offense, Bowers led the Bulldogs with 56 catches for 882 yards and a program-record 13 receiving touchdowns. Bowers, who scored touchdowns in each of the last five games of the season, is the first player from Georgia and first tight end to win the award.

OHIO STATE’S STROUD CAPTURES FRESHMAN BREAKOUT PERFORMANCE AWARD
DALLAS (FWAA) – Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud was named the fourth annual recipient of the FWAA Freshman Breakout Performance Award presented by Chris Doering Mortgage for his performances against Michigan State and Utah. The FWAA Freshman Breakout Performance Award is awarded annually to the college football freshman with the best single-game performance of the season. Stroud, a Heisman Trophy and Davey O’Brien Award finalist and the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year, was a unanimous selection with two performances worthy of the breakout award.

OKLAHOMA STATE’S OLIVER IS MOST INSPIRATIONAL FRESHMAN
DALLAS (FWAA) – Oklahoma State defensive end Collin Oliver was named the third annual Most Inspirational Freshman for 2021 by the Football Writers Association of America and Chris Doering Mortgage on Monday night. Oliver, a 6-foot-2, 225-pounder from Oklahoma City, played considerably bigger than his frame and made giant contributions for a defense that led the nation with 4.0 sacks per game. Oliver’s 11.5 sacks led FBS Power 5 conference freshmen, and only Coastal Carolina freshman Josaiah Stewart (12.5) had more. The unanimous Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year was somewhat under the radar when he signed with the Cowboys in 2020, rated a three-star linebacker by the 247 Composite. Oliver quickly changed the narrative upon his arrival in Stillwater.

Chris Doering Mortgage, based in Gainesville, Fla., was established in April 2007 as a residential lending company providing mortgage products including conventional, FHA, USDA and VA loans. The branch is a division of MortgageAdvisors.com – 3940 NW 16th Blvd., Suite A, Gainesville, FL 32605 – NMLS 70168/1937321. FHA Lender ID 2631500094. Chris Doering Mortgage is committed to skillfully and ethically delivering the highest quality customer service throughout the mortgage process, with a team of professionals that strive to exceed the expectations of clients and business partners while continually educating and adapting to the changing needs of the industry. For more information, visit ChrisDoeringMortgage.com.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

Related link:
Download Steve Spurrier Award logo

2021 FWAA Freshman All-America Team unveiled

DALLAS – The 2021 Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-America Team features one of the dynamic playmakers from national champion Georgia, a key linebacker from national runner-up Alabama, the country’s third-leading passer and a combined 13 players from the Big Ten and Southeastern Conferences.

This is the 21st season the FWAA has honored freshman All-Americans.

The recipients of the fifth annual FWAA Freshman of the Year, the 2021 Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach of the Year Award, the Most Inspirational Freshman Player and the Top Freshman Performance awards, all presented by Chris Doering Mortgage, will be announced tonight at 7:45 p.m. ET on a virtual press conference that will also be streamed on SEC Country.

Three schools had teammates on the Freshman All-America team, led by Ohio State with three, followed by Iowa and Texas A&M with two each. The list includes players who were either redshirt freshmen, true freshmen, or freshmen playing in their second season via the NCAA’s updated COVID eligibility rules as designated by their respective schools.

Paced by a combined five selections from Iowa and Ohio State, the Big Ten led all conferences with eight members followed by the SEC’s seven and the Big 12 and Pac-12 had three each. The American Athletic, Atlantic Coast, Conference USA and Independents had two apiece with the Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt placing one as all 10 conferences were represented. Of the 32 honored players, 24 are true freshmen.

“This was among the most competitive FWAA Freshman All-America Team selections to date, on account of COVID-19 eligibility allowances adding to the pool of players eligible to make the team,” said Mike Griffith of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s DawgNation and the chair of the 2021 Freshman All-America Committee. “The talented group of young men who made this team are also to be applauded for their perseverance, as well as their performances, amid the unprecedented circumstances of these times in collegiate athletics.”

Following is the complete, 32-man 2021 FWAA Freshman All-America Team:

OFFENSE

QB• Seth Henigan, Memphis6-3200Denton, Texas
QBCJ Stroud, Ohio State6-3218Inland Empire, Calif.
RB• Braelon Allen, Wisconsin6-2238Fond du Lac, Wis.
RB• TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State5-10215Hopewell, Va.
WRCorey Rucker, Arkansas State6-0203Bentonia, Miss.
WR• Xavier Worthy, Texas6-1160Fresno, Calif.
TE• Brock Bowers, Georgia6-4230Napa, Calif.
OL• Joe Alt, Notre Dame6-7305North Oaks, Minn.
OL• Campbell Barrington, BYU6-6285Spokane, Wash.
OL• Connor Colby, Iowa6-6298Cedar Rapids, Iowa
OL• Reuben Fatheree II, Texas A&M6-8320Richmond, Texas
OL• Bryce Foster, Texas A&M6-5325Katy, Texas
OL• Wyatt Milum, West Virginia6-6291Kenova, W. Va.

DEFENSE

DL• Collin Oliver, Oklahoma State6-2225Oklahoma City, Okla.
DL• Maason Smith, LSU6-6292Houma, La.
DL• Josaiah Stewart, Coastal Carolina6-2245Everett, Mass.
DLLukas Van Ness, Iowa6-5264Barrington, Ill.
LB• Junior Colson, Michigan6-2225Brentwood, Tenn.
LB• Eric Gentry, Arizona State6-6200Philadelphia, Pa.
LBCal Haladay, Michigan State6-1235Elysburg, Pa.
LB• Dallas Turner, Alabama6-4245Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
DB• Calen Bullock, USC6-3180Pasadena, Calif.
DB• Denzel Burke, Ohio State6-1192Scottsdale, Ariz.
DB• Duce Chestnut, Syracuse6-0195Camden, N.J.
DB• Jack Howell, Colorado State5-11195Chandler, Ariz.
DBDonte Kent, Central Michigan5-11185Harrisburg, Pa.
DB• Andrew Mukuba, Clemson6-0185Austin, Texas

SPECIALISTS

K• Cam Little, Arkansas6-2185Moore, Okla.
P• Nick Haberer, Washington State6-5224Queensland, Australia
KRBrian Battie, USF5-8165Sarasota, Fla.
PRJaylin Lane, Middle Tennessee5-8174Clover, S.C.
APRasheen Ali, Marshall6-0201Cleveland, Ohio

* Denotes true freshman

Brock Bowers, the true freshman tight end at Georgia who burst upon the national scene quickly with a highlight 89-yard catch-and-score against UAB on Sept. 11, stands out on the team as one of two selections to also earn FWAA All-America status as its second-team tight end. Bowers’ 56 receptions for 882 yards and 13 touchdowns led all Bulldogs receivers and the SEC Newcomer of the Year also broke school records for receptions and touchdown receptions by a tight end in a single season. Bowers is Georgia’s 10th FWAA Freshman All-America selection of the past six seasons and its 12th of the past 10 seasons.

Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud powers the team as one of two quarterbacks, along with Memphis’ Seth Henigan. Stroud, a true freshman, was a Heisman Trophy and Davey O’Brien Award finalist and had four games of 400-or-more passing yards. He swept the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Quarterback of the Year awards, the first time for one player to win all three in the same season. He led the nation’s top offense (561.4 ypg) and a scoring offense (45.7 ppg) that was fifth in passing yards (380.9 ypg).

Bowers and Stroud, along with Oklahoma State defensive end Collin Oliver, are the finalists for the 2021 FWAA Freshman of the Year.

Also selected from Ohio State was Denzel Burke at defensive back and running back TreVeyon Henderson. Burke started all 13 games at cornerback – a first for a freshman at Ohio State – and led the team with 12 pass break-ups to go with one interception. Henderson, the top-ranked running back in the 2021 recruiting class, didn’t disappoint as the Buckeyes’ rushing leader with 1,272 yards and 15 touchdowns, setting multiple OSU records along the way. Along with Stroud, the trio are Ohio State’s first Freshman All-America players in five seasons.

Henigan’s deep balls were one of Memphis’ top weapons this season and his 3,322 yards passing were the most among FBS true freshmen. Henigan earns the school a third consecutive season with a member of the team, joining all-purpose player Kenneth Gainwell (2019) and receiver Tahj Washington (2020), and is one of two players from the American Athletic Conference to make the team. Kick returner Brian Battie of USF, a first-team FWAA All-American, had three kick return touchdowns as a constant special teams threat to earn his spot on the team.

Joining Henderson in the backfield was Big Ten mate Braelon Allen, who averaged 6.8 yards per rush as Wisconsin’s top rusher with 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns. Allen is the first Wisconsin player selected to the team since center Tyler Biadasz and running back Jonathan Taylor, both now in the NFL, in 2017.

Xavier Worthy led Texas in receptions (62), receiving yards (981) and touchdowns (12, most among all FBS freshmen). He is Texas’ first Freshman All-American in three seasons and its first at a skill position since Colt McCoy in 2006. The other receiver spot went to Arkansas State’s Corey Rucker, who led Sun Belt Conference wide receivers with nine touchdown catches. Rucker is A-State’s first Freshman All-American since 2014 and its first on offense in nine seasons.

The committee awarded six offensive line spots, buoyed by the Texas A&M pair of Reuben Fatheree II and Bryce Foster. They are the Aggies’ first Freshman All-Americans since 2015 and A&M’s first on the offensive front since Luke Joeckel in 2010. Foster started every game. Iowa, always a staple for offensive linemen, has Connor Colby on the team along with teammate Lukas Van Ness at linebacker. Colby is just the sixth true freshman to start on the offensive line under Kirk Ferentz. He gave up one sack all season to become the Hawkeyes’ first Freshman All-American on the offensive line since Alaric Jackson in 2017. With Van Ness, it’s the first time for Iowa to have two players on the team.

Joining them on the line are the Notre Dame’s Joe Alt and BYU’s Campbell Barrington, who make up the representation from the FBS Independents. Alt helped reform the Irish up front, moving into the starting left tackle spot after six games. The Irish line surged in the second half of the season and helped Kyren Williams, a member of last year’s Freshman All-America team, to become just the fifth Notre Dame running back to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. The Irish have had a Freshman All-American in three consecutive seasons. Barrington is BYU’s first player on the team in three seasons. West Virginia’s Wyatt Milum, who rounds out the offensive line, made seven starts at right tackle to earn the school’s fifth Freshman All-America honor and first since 2019.

A standout season by two linemen put them at the head of the defense. Oklahoma State’s Oliver took full advantage of his first start, posting five solo tackles, two sacks and three hurries in an Oct. 2 win over Baylor. He tied for 15th in the FBS with 11.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. Oliver, who had the game-sealing sack against Oklahoma that sent the Cowboys to the Big 12 Championship Game, is the fourth Freshman All-American in school history and the first on defense in 11 seasons. Josaiah Stewart, a true freshman at Coastal Carolina, was one of the country’s top pass rushers, tallying 12.5 sacks to lead all FBS freshmen and tied for fifth in the nation. He had four sacks and forced two fumbles against Georgia Southern. Stewart is Coastal Carolina’s third all-time Freshman All-American, each of them from the past two seasons.

Maason Smith of LSU was the nation’s top prep defensive lineman in the fall of 2020 and became a coaches’ pick as an All-SEC Freshman in 2021. He earned three starts toward the end of the season and was third on the team with four sacks. Smith gives LSU a defensive member of the team in five of the last six seasons. Iowa’s Van Ness tied for the team lead with 7.0 sacks and was second with 8.5 tackles for loss among his 33 total tackles. Van Ness, along with Colby, are the fifth- and sixth all-time Freshman All-America selections from Iowa and Van Ness is the first on defense since 2010.

Depth in the secondary led the committee to expand to six selections. Joining Ohio State’s Burke, Syracuse’s Duce Chestnut became one of the top cover cornerbacks in the country. He tallied three interceptions and had eight passes defended to anchor an Orange secondary that allowed just 202 yards passing per game. He is Syracuse’s third defensive Freshman All-America nod in the past four seasons. Chestnut and Clemson’s Andrew Mukuba are the ACC’s two selections on the team. Mukuba was the Tigers’ first freshman to start at safety since 1973 and had eight tackles and a pass breakup in the opener against Georgia. He had 54 tackles and a sack this season as Clemson’s seventh All-Freshman pick of the past eight seasons.

Calen Bullock, USC’s first true freshman to start an opener at safety since 2013, had two interceptions on the season, three PBU’s and 40 tackles. He is USC’s first All-Freshman player on defense since 2014. Jack Howell of Colorado State made six starts at safety for the Rams and finished fifth on the team with 64 tackles, including 3.5 TFL’s. He is CSU’s third all-time Freshman All-American and the second in three seasons, and is the lone choice from the Mountain West. Central Michigan cornerback Donte Kent started all 13 games and led the MAC with 14 PBU’s. He was third on the team with 55 total tackles and second with 45 solo stops. Kent is CMU’s second Freshman All-American, joining Antonio Brown from 2007.

Two true freshmen started for two of the College Football Playoff teams, both of them linebackers. Michigan won the Big Ten title with its defense and true freshman Junior Colson was fourth on the team in tackles with 61 to go with two PBU’s and three quarterback hurries. Colson is Michigan’s first Freshman All-American since 2017 and its first on defense since 2015. Dallas Turner of Alabama is the Crimson Tide’s seventh Freshman All-American of the past four seasons and the fifth on defense during that span. He earned a starting role in mid-season and finished third on the team with 8.5 sacks for the national runner-up.

Linebacker Cal Haladay of Michigan State started 12 of 13 games for the Spartans and was third on the team with 96 tackles to go with two interceptions and two forced fumbles. An honorable mention All-Big Ten selection, he is Michigan State’s first Freshman All-American since 2016 and its first on defense since 2014. Arizona State linebacker Eric Gentry had 45 tackles as ASU’s first Freshman All-American since 2018.

Rasheen Ali, selected as the all-purpose player, made an immediate impact with four touchdowns in Marshall’s opener against Navy. He carried on more than half of the Herd’s rushing plays (250 of 449) and his 23 rushing touchdowns tied for the most in the FBS. He is only the second player from Marshall to earn FWAA Freshman All-America honors and its first since 2012. Ali, who also returned a kickoff for a score, is one of two players from Conference USA on the team, along with punt returner Jaylin Lane of Middle Tennessee, who was fourth in the nation in punt return average at 14.6. Lane is MTSU’s fourth Freshman All-American.

Punter Nick Haberer from Washington State is the sixth Australian to earn a Freshman All-America honor, all of whom are punters. He finished the season with a 42.8-yard average and is the school’s second Freshman All-American. Arkansas kicker Cam Little led the team in scoring with 106 points and connected on 20 field goals, the third-most in school history.

From the Freshman All-America team, California and Texas took honors as the most common home state with four players each, followed by two each from Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

The panel of nationally-prominent college football experts from the FWAA membership represented each of the FBS conferences along with independents in the selecting the team.

Chris Doering Mortgage, based in Gainesville, Fla., was established in April 2007 as a residential lending company providing mortgage products including conventional, FHA, USDA and VA loans. The branch is a division of MortgageAdvisors.com – 3940 NW 16th Blvd., Suite A, Gainesville, FL 32605 – NMLS 70168/1937321. FHA Lender ID 2631500094. Chris Doering Mortgage is committed to skillfully and ethically delivering the highest quality customer service throughout the mortgage process, with a team of professionals that strive to exceed the expectations of clients and business partners while continually educating and adapting to the changing needs of the industry. For more information, visit ChrisDoeringMortgage.com.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

Related link:
• All-Time FWAA Freshman All-America Teams (.pdf)

Dennis Dodd named recipient of 2022 Bert McGrane Award

INDIANAPOLIS — Veteran sportswriter Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports has been named the recipient of the FWAA’s Bert McGrane Award for 2022, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame.  He will be honored during the Past Presidents Dinner here tonight.  

“To paraphrase the great Bobby Bowden upon his retirement,” said Dodd, who was previously a co-FWAA Beat Writer of the Year recipient, “there is only one more big event in your life after you win the Bert McGrane.

Dennis Dodd

“Seriously, I am humbled to join such an accomplished and legendary group. I truly don’t consider myself worthy. The FWAA has been at the core of my professional life. The FWAA’s values and principles have formed the foundation of college sports writing. Its members consider journalism a vocation, not just a job.”

The Bert McGrane Award, since 1974, has been bestowed on a FWAA member in recognition of contributions to the association and to college football and recognized in the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. Dodd was named the Steve Ellis co- FWAA Beat Writer of the Year in 2018 and was also FWAA President in 2006.

“These last 18 months or so have been an inspiration,” Dodd continued. “Some of the best writing in any discipline has come from FWAA members during the pandemic. The virus presented a lot of us with unique challenges. We, as a group, rose to the occasion to frame COVID and its impact on the sport. To be part of this great fraternity remains an honor of a lifetime.”

A rundown of Dodd’s career …

PERSONAL: Married. Wife Janet. Two children — Haley, 29, and Jack 25. Haley is a graduate of Missouri, former Volney Meece scholarship recipient in 2009 and is working in Los Angeles in digital media. Jack is in business development in Kansas City. Dennis has won three first-place FWAA Best Writing Contest Awards. He is one of seven media members to cover all 16 BCS title games. Counting this year’ CFP championship game, that’s 22 of 24 championship games overall in the BCS era (since 1998). He has written two books, one on the history of Missouri basketball and the other on the formation of the Big 12. He calls his wife, Janet, “the absolute light of my life, guidance counselor, travel companion, life coach, cancer survivor and best friend.” One of his hobbies, NCAA Football on the PlayStation, was taken away from him by litigation. That and Jack took the Xbox to college. His passions are Happy Hour, hockey and Friday nights before Saturday games in college towns dining with media friends. “There’s no better fellowship,” he says.

MENTORS:  Kansas City Star co-workers Tom Shatel and Steve Richardson, early on. Richardson, Dodd says, “mentored him when he came to Kanas City in 1981.” Shatel: “I wish I could be him as a writer and a father.” They can all still be seen in San Diego in somebody’s picture of that little joint by the sea. Dodd started going to America’s Finest City 38 years ago to watch the 1983 Holiday Bowl. In his last college game, Steve Young caught the game-winning touchdown. Shatel was along for the ride. Ivan Maisel, a “literary and personal hero.” I also want to thank Vahe Gregorian, Andy BagnatoChuck Culpepper, David Jones, Todd Jones, Dick Weiss, Mark Blaudschun, Tony Barnhart, Chris Dufresne, Pat Forde and everyone who has pounded the keyboards at midnight with me.”

BEST STORIES:  He is most proud of two — one was on Dave Redding. “I drove up to central Nebraska to see legendary strength coach Dave Redding,” Dodd said. “In a profession full of characters, rogues and heroes, he was all three. Red Man had been stricken with Parkinson’s. He lived in a house built on the banks of the Platte River by himself and his dad. His only companions were a couple of dogs and a houseful of memories. He showed me his Super Bowl ring he earned with the Packers.He went in depth on two brothers who made it big in Hollywood before both dying of HIV. He kept asking me if I wanted a drink. It was 2 p.m. It was clear he was lonely. I had to decline because I had to drive back to Lincoln. I’m really proud of honoring him by writing that story.”

“In 2001, I had the idea to drive out to Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, to find the Knute Rockne Memorial where the great coach’s plane had crashed in 1931,” Dodd said. “It was the 70th anniversary of the crash that killed Notre Dame’s legendary coach. Before the days of GPS or Siri, I drove 90 minutes to Emporia, got directions to Cottonwood Falls, and then got directions again to Bazaar, Kansas. That’s the closest spot on a map to the memorial which stands alone on a 1,500-acre plot of land in the Flint Hills.

“I met a gentle soul named Easter Heathman.” Dodd said. “As a 13-year old in 1931, he had seen the plane come out of the clouds and crash. He was one of the first upon the scene. He remembered seeing a body with the legs wrapped with bandages. Years later, Heathman figured that must have been Rockne because the coach had phlebitis. Over the years Easter became a caretaker for the memorial, taking anyone who wanted to see it, up to the site. The landowner had given him a combination to unlock the gate. I revisited the story on the 90th anniversary of the crash this past March. But I had to sneak onto the land which has new owners who prohibit trespassers, including reporters like me. The five-mile hike across the Kansas prairie was worth it to geta cell phone picture of the memorial for the story.”

BEST ADVICE: Came from Janet, of course: “Listen … listen to her, listen to your children, listen to your heart,” Dodd says. “Professionally, listen to your interview subjects. They are doing you a favor by talking to you. They have a story to tell. It’s up to you to communicate it clearly.” Also, “Read (your story) one more time before sending it.”— Several editors.

THE BIGGEST CHANGE IN THE PROFESSION:  Dodd says: “The lack of intimacy. I don’t have to tell anyone in the FWAA how hard it is now to connect with subjects. Open locker rooms are few and far between. Interviews are now ‘media availability.’ A chat must fit into an available ‘window.’ I believe schools sometimes are doing a disservice to these kids. They come to college to grow as people and, sure, as athletes. For a lot of them this is going to be the time of their lives. I’ve said it many times, on the college beat we’re there to write something positive 80 to 90 percent of the time. Don’t make it so hard. I mourn the loss of access. Often the story that gets told is not THE story. COVID has obviously had an impact, but let’s hope we can get back to what we had. 

“On the positive side, the best biggest change is the influx of women into our profession. There still aren’t enough, but they keep coming. That’s a good thing. Thank you, Stef Loh for being our 2018 FWAA President and Heather Dinich this year. I know there are moretalented leaders inthe pipeline. Kelly Whiteside was our first female FWAA President in 2002”.

BEST INTERVIEW:  Jeff Sims.  “He wasthe coach at Garden City Community College,” Dodd says. “When I visited a few years ago, this was before Last Chance U. Sims grew up in St. Louis and had a dad — a cop—  who smoked marijuana in front of him. Sims once waited outside a prison to get a commitment from a player who was completing 3 1/2 years for armed robbery. There’s a book here somewhere about the desperation at the junior college level — for the players to get there, get good and get out. During my visit there, I sat across from a linebacker, Alex Figueroa, who’d been kicked out of a previous school for a violation of school policy. His teammate had body-slammed a high school security guard on camera. These are some of the kids Sims pursued to be on his team. It remains a fascinating interview. Coach and players made no excuses about why they were there in the southwest corner of Kansas — to get out as soon as possible.

Georgia Student receives Volney Meece Scholarship

Indianapolis — Jacob Weiszer, a senior at Cedar Shoals High School in Athens, Ga., was named the 25th winner of the Volney Meece Scholarship on Monday.

The scholarship is awarded annually by the Football Writers Association of America and named for the late Volney Meece. Meece served 22 years as the FWAA’s executive director and was the organization’s president in 1971.

Jacob Weiszer

The scholarship is a $1,000 annual grant for four years. It is awarded to a deserving son or daughter of an FWAA member.

The 17-year-old Weiszer is the son of FWAA member Marc Weiszer. 

Jacob has compiled an impressive list of academic and extracurricular achievements. Accepted at the University of Georgia, where he is already taking classes, Jacob has also applied to several more universities. If he selects Georgia, he will be considered a sophomore when he enters next fall because of the college credits he’s earning as part of the of dual-enrolling program with the university.

At Cedar Shoals, Jacob has maintained a weighted 4.32 GPA while taking several advanced placement courses. A member of the National Honor Society, he ranks third academically in his senior class of 280 students and has been awarded the school’s Phi Beta Kappa Book Award, for exemplifying the highest level of academic, ethical and social commitment.

Jacob is a four-year member of his school’s soccer team, plays Alto saxophone in the marching band, is sports editor of the school magazine and a reporter for Cedar Shoals’  WJAG-TV station. He also volunteered as a youth summer camp counselor and is a religious school volunteer, helping mentor first-grade students in Judaic studies and the basics of Hebrew.

Jacob has attained many additional honors while also working part-time at a neighborhood restaurant. He intends to pursue a business degree with a goal of working in the accounting, financial or international business fields.

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.
2014Robert AbramsonPalos Verde, Calif.
2015Danielle HooverTulsa, Okla.
2016Dolen HelwagenPataskala, Ohio
2017Elizabeth SchroederNorman, Okla.
2018Mallory RosettaBaton Rouge, La.
2019Alexandra HaleyHamilton, N.J.
2020Sarah ShatelOmaha, Neb.

FWAA names finalists for First-Year Coach and Freshman Player of the Year Awards

GAINESVILLE, FLA.  – The Football Writers Association of America is pleased to announce the finalists for the Steve Spurrier First Year Coach Award, which goes to the best coach in his first year at a school, and the FWAA Freshman of the Year Award. Both awards are sponsored and presented by Chris Doering Mortgage, with the winners announced in January.

“I’m excited to honor my former coach (Spurrier) with the naming of the First Year Coach Award,” said Chris Doering, former college and NFL player and current football analyst for SEC Network. “It means a lot to me knowing how passionate he is about this award and what it stands for. In most cases as a first year coach, you’re basically being asked to turn around a program with a largely inherited roster. Coach Spurrier took great pride in each of his first year head coaching opportunities with an innate ability to get those around him to buy into the culture and what they’re being asked to do. I think it speaks to the essence of what a good coach is.”

Steve Spurrier First Year Coach Award finalists presented by Chris Doering Mortgage:

Shane Beamer, South Carolina: Beamer, the son of first-ballot College Football Hall of Famer Frank Beamer, helped the Gamecocks improve from 2-8 to 6-6 in his first season as a head coach. Beamer had to win games with three different quarterbacks – two apiece – one a former FCS quarterback and another a former graduate assistant coach.

Josh Heupel, Tennessee: Heupel led the Vols to a 7-5 record after taking over a program that went 3-7 the year before and was mired in an NCAA investigation left over from the previous staff. Heupel, a national championship quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up as a player at Oklahoma, is vying to become the first two-time winner of the Spurrier Award, having won it at Central Florida in 2018.

Gus Malzahn, UCF: Malzahn led the Knights to an 9-4 season including a Gasparilla Bowl victory over Florida, a three-game improvement from the 6-4 mark they ran up last season despite losing several key players, including QB Dillon Gabriel. Malzahn finished the season coaching with a broken tibia after being injured in a sideline collision, working some games from a sideline platform rather than going up into the coach’s box and just finished off the highest recruiting class in school history.

“This award is given to the coach in his first year at his school who comes in and exceeds expectations,” said Steve Spurrier. “All three of these coaches got their programs heading in the right direction and they didn’t make any excuses. They took what was there and started running with it and they all had outstanding seasons.”

Chris Doering Mortgage is also honored to present the Freshman Player of the Year award. Doering said this award is of particular interest to him because compared to his days as a player when you would typically get red-shirted and a chance to acclimate, today’s players are expected to come in and immediately contribute.

TE Brock Bowers, Georgia: The SEC Newcomer of the Year and a second-team All-American, Bowers set Georgia all-time tight end records for receiving yards (791) and touchdowns (11), and he enters the College Football Playoff needing three catches to set the receptions record. Bowers had a career-high 10 catches in the SEC Championship Game and recorded his fourth game with more than 100 yards receiving.

Chris Doering on Brock Bowers: “The tight end position has been something that has been a way to create a mismatch at the NFL level for 10 plus years. It’s now creeping into the college ranks and they can do it all, hands on the ground, the ability to run block, run routes to create matchup issues among the linebackers and safety’s. Brock definitely tasks opposing defensive coordinators with figuring out how to defend him.”

DE Collin Oliver, Oklahoma State: The Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year tied for seventh in the nation with 11.5 sacks for an Oklahoma State team that led the Big 12 and finished eighth in the nation in scoring defense. Oliver came through with two sacks in the Cowboys’ win over Oklahoma, and two more in the Big 12 Championship Game against Baylor.

Chris Doering on Collin Oliver: “You talk to defensive coordinators and they’re looking for a game-wrecker guy who can impact the opposing offense and their quarterback’s passing game. Oliver is that game wrecker and is a large part of Oklahoma State’s resurgence to one of the top defensive units in the country.”

QB CJ Stroud, Ohio State: The Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year currently has the best Ohio State single-season mark for passing efficiency (182.2), completion percentage (70.9) and passing yards per game (351.1). The Buckeyes led the nation in total offense and scoring offense with Stroud under center, and Stroud was a finalist for the Davey O’Brien national quarterback of the year award.

Chris Doering on CJ Stroud: “The quarterback position at Ohio State came with a lot of expectations and competition heading into the season. They were not sure who was going to start, let alone how much success that player would have. Stroud took this offense and the opportunity and ran with it. He served as great leader for the Ohio State Buckeyes.”

ALL-TIME FWAA FIRST-YEAR COACHES OF THE YEAR

2002 Tyrone Willingham, Notre Dame2012 Urban Meyer, Ohio State
2003 Steve Kragthorpe, Tulsa2013 Gus Malzahn, Auburn
2004 Mike Price, UTEP2014 Bryan Harsin, Boise State
2005 Steve Spurrier, South Carolina2015 Tom Herman, Houston
2006 Chris Petersen, Boise State2016 Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech; Clay Helton, USC
2007 Jeff Jagodzinski, Boston College2017 Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
2008 Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech2018 Josh Heupel, UCF
2009 Chip Kelly, Oregon2019 Ryan Day, Ohio State
2010 Jimbo Fisher, Florida State2020 Karl Dorrell, Colorado
2011 Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia 

ALL-TIME FWAA FRESHMAN PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

2018 Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson2020 Will Anderson Jr., LB, Alabama
2019 Kenny Gainwell, RB, Memphis 

This will be the 21st straight season in which the FWAA has named a Freshman of the Year and the 20th consecutive year for the First Year Coach Award, although the first time with a namesake for the award, Steve Spurrier. The winner of each award will be announced in January 2022.

Spurrier, along with former player Chris Doering of Chris Doering Mortgage, is planning a February dinner to honor the winners. The site of the dinner in the state of Florida will be announced at a future time.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

Chris Doering Mortgage, based in Gainesville, Fla., was established in April 2007 as a residential lending company providing mortgage products including conventional, FHA, USDA and VA loans. The branch is a division of MortgageAdvisors.com – 3940 NW 16th Blvd., Suite A, Gainesville, FL 32605 – NMLS 70168/1937321. FHA Lender ID 2631500094. Chris Doering Mortgage is committed to skillfully and ethically delivering the highest quality customer service throughout the mortgage process, with a team of professionals that strive to exceed the expectations of clients and business partners while continually educating and adapting to the changing needs of the industry. For more information, visit ChrisDoeringMortgage.com.

Cincinnati’s Fickell wins 2021 FWAA-Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award

DALLAS – Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell has taken the Bearcats to unmatched feats this season, qualifying for the College Football Playoff as the nation’s only undefeated team (13-0) and the first so-called ‘Group of 5’ program to do so while winning a second straight American Athletic Conference championship. For those achievements, Fickell has been named the recipient of the 2021 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award by the Football Writers Association of America and the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Fickell is a first-time winner of the Eddie Robinson Award in his second straight season as a finalist. He is Cincinnati’s first winner of the award as well and the second coach from the American Athletic Conference to win the honor. He was selected from voting by the entire FWAA membership from a record field of 12 other finalists from all 10 FBS conferences and independent programs. Then-head coach Brian Kelly was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award at Cincinnati in 2009.

The other finalists were Blake Anderson of Utah State, Dave Aranda of Baylor, Thomas Hammock of NIU, Jim Harbaugh of Michigan, Billy Napier of Louisiana, Pat Narduzzi of Pitt, Nick Saban of Alabama, Kalani Sitake of BYU, Kirby Smart of Georgia, Jeff Traylor of UTSA, Mel Tucker of Michigan State, and Kyle Whittingham of Utah.

Fickell will receive the iconic bust of the late Eddie Robinson, a College Football Hall of Fame coach at Grambling State University for 55 years and winner of 408 career games, at a Jan. 8, 2022, reception in Indianapolis prior to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

Luke Fickell

Prior to that, Fickell’s No. 4 Bearcats will face top-ranked Alabama in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, on Dec. 31 for a berth in the national championship game.

“On behalf of the Sugar Bowl Committee, I want to congratulate Luke Fickell on an outstanding season,” said Ralph Capitelli, the President of the Sugar Bowl Committee. “His accomplishments speak for themselves – the only undefeated team in the country, a conference championship and Cincinnati’s first trip to the College Football Playoff. More importantly, he’s conducted himself with class and demonstrated great sportsmanship throughout his career. He’s truly deserving of an award named for Louisiana’s own Coach Robinson.”

“The Eddie Robinson Family congratulates Luke Fickell and the University of Cincinnati football program on their historic 2021 season, and especially for winning this year’s ‘Eddie’ Award,” said Eddie Robinson III, coach Eddie Robinson’s grandson.

In a season of anticipation to see if the Bearcats could duplicate their banner 2020 results, Fickell led Cincinnati to a 13-0 mark as it heads into the CFP Semifinals headlined by a win at No. 5 Notre Dame that cemented the Bearcats’ place among the national title contenders. Cincinnati then maintained that standard as one of only two teams that list in the Top 10 in the FBS in scoring offense (8th at 39.2 ppg) and scoring defense (t-4th at 16.1) which aided another undefeated run through the American Athletic Conference with 12 All-AAC first-team selections.

Fickell is in his fifth season at Cincinnati and won the AAC’s Coach of the Year this season for a third time within the last four years. He is 47-14 at Cincinnati, including a 43-6 mark since the start of the 2018 season. Only a final-seconds loss to Georgia in last season’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl kept Cincinnati from back-to-back undefeated seasons going into this year’s postseason.

“I’m truly honored to receive this award. To be mentioned with one of the all-time greats in Eddie Robinson, who did so much for this profession, is humbling,” Fickell said. “I got into coaching because of the impact my coaches had on me when I was growing up, and my goal is to have a positive impact on my players. Any awards we receive are a credit to the success of our team as a whole and the hard work put in by all of our student-athletes.”

“It’s quite fitting that Cincinnati’s historic season is decorated with an honor for the coach who guided them through it,” said FWAA president Heather Dinich, a senior writer for ESPN.com. “To finish with a perfect 13-0 record speaks volumes about the program, the buy-in, and the discipline it takes to get there – and it all starts at the top. Congratulations to Luke Fickell.”

Fickell has guided Cincinnati to the highest rankings in school history as well. UC has been ranked as high as No. 2 in the AP and Coaches’ Polls earlier this fall and its current No. 4 ranking in the College Football Playoff Rankings is the highest ever by a non-Power 5 school.

The Eddie Robinson Award is the second of two FWAA postseason honors won by Cincinnati this season. Standout cornerback Ahmad Gardner became Cincinnati’s first two-time FWAA All-American this season with only UC’s sixth all-time All-America honor. The AAC’s only other Eddie Robinson Award winner was UCF’s then-head coach Scott Frost in 2017.

The FWAA has presented a coaching award since the 1957 season when Ohio State’s Woody Hayes was named the first recipient. Beginning in 1997, the FWAA Coach of the Year Award has been named in honor of the late Robinson, a coaching legend at Grambling State University for 55 seasons.

Robinson, who passed away in 2007, won 70.7 percent of his games during his illustrious career. Robinson’s teams won or tied for 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) championships after joining the league in 1959. His Tigers won nine Black College Football Championships during his career spent all at the same school.

The Eddie Robinson Award is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 25 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935. Visit ncfaa.org and @NCFAA on Twitter to learn more about the association.

The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier college football bowl games, having hosted 28 national champions, 99 Hall of Fame players, 51 Hall of Fame coaches and 19 Heisman Trophy winners in its 87-year history. The 88th Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic is scheduled to be played on Jan. 1, 2022 between Baylor and Ole Miss. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee annually invests over $1.6 million into the community through the hosting and sponsorship of sporting events, awards and clinics. Through these efforts, the organization supports and honors thousands of student-athletes each year, while injecting over $2.7 billion into the local economy in the last decade. For more information, visit AllstateSugarBowl.org.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

2021 Eddie Robinson Award
• Thirteen finalists named for 2021 Eddie Robinson Award
• Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award | All-time winners