2015 Best Column, by Ted Miller

ffaw_redesignComment by the judge, Alan Cox: Great look at the change in attitude and expectations of Oregon’s football program. Solid argument as to why they needed to win the championship to validate the program and to show the Playoff would expand the sport. Even more interesting in hindsight as we will see what happens to Oregon going forward having lost the championship.

By Ted Miller

ESPN.com

Coach Rich Brooks led Oregon to an 8-4 finish in 1989, his 13th season in Eugene. If that elicits a “so what,” understand the Ducks hadn’t won that many games since 1963. Five seasons — and two losing records — later, Oregon played in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1958, losing to Penn State by 18 points, though the Ducks’ media guide celebrated the program’s effort as proving it “belonged in Pasadena.”

Ted Miller, ESPN.com

Ted Miller, ESPN.com

In 2013, Oregon went 11-2, beat Texas 30-7 in the Alamo Bowl and finished ranked No. 9 in the nation. It was considered a down season, and some wondered if first-year coach Mark Helfrich had what it takes to lead the Ducks, post-Chip Kelly.

Times change and so do expectations.

“We do sit back every now and then and kind of laugh at it, us that have been around here a long time,” said first-year Ducks defensive coordinator Don Pellum, who’s accumulated 31 seasons with his alma mater as a player, administrator and assistant coach.

For the vast majority of its 119 seasons of football, a winning record was an ambitious wish for Oregon. Yet now, as the Ducks eyeball defending national champion Florida State, winner of 29 consecutive games, as more than a touchdown favorites in the Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual, the simple reality is Oregon needs to win the national title.

After going 69-10 over the past six seasons, playing for a national title in 2010 and finishing ranked in the top five three times, the Ducks need to finish the deal and be the last team standing. They need to make this their year.

That need is not only about program validation, though that’s a big part of it, as the Ducks have accomplished everything else. It’s not only about opportunity, though the greatest player in program history — Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota — is likely off to the NFL next year.

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Pillars of the FWAA: Tom Mickle (1950-2006), Florida Citrus Sports

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:  http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the 17th installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Tom Mickle was the 2010 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA Past President Alan Schmadtke (2005)   for writing and researching this sketch.

By Alan Schmadtke

College football historians link Tom Mickle’s legacy to a cocktail napkin, his vehicle of choice for game-planning a playoff.

For those who knew him best, memories take them to his unending optimism. They remember his small, perpetual grin that made them wonder if they were about to laugh or be amazed. They remember his owl-like glasses, a raspy voice and a wry delivery. They remember him hoisting a glass of wine in the fall and winter, a gin-and-tonic when it turned warm.

Tom Mickle, posthumous winner of the Bert McGrane Award in 2010.

Tom Mickle, posthumous winner of the Bert McGrane Award in 2010.

Mickle had a passion for work and play.

“Once you’d been around him, you didn’t leave and not smile about things or have a better perception about things. He had that effect,” one of Mickle’s best friends, Rick Chryst, told the Orlando Sentinel upon Tom’s death at age 55 in 2006.

Former Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Gene Corrigan called Mickle the best hire he ever made, and no one argues the point. One morning in the early 1990s, Mickle walked into his boss’s office and handed him brackets on small paper. The last remnant from a brainstorm dinner was the framework of a No. 1 vs. No. 2 New Year’s Day football game – the end result of Corrigan’s dream-shot request.

The commissioner wanted to secure the ACC’s football champion an annual New Year’s slot somewhere alongside SEC, Big Eight, Big Ten and Pac-10 champs. A de facto national championship game for college football as part of the solution worked fine, too.

Few remember now how land-locked college football used to be, when a 1 vs. 2 matchup was an anomaly.

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FWAA unveils 75th anniversary All-America team

ffaw_redesignDALLAS — The Football Writers Association of America proudly announces its 75th Anniversary All-America Team, celebrating the association’s All-America teams from near the end of World War II through the 2014 season. The FWAA, which was founded in 1941, has picked an annual All-America team since the 1944 season, making it the second longest continuously selected team in major college football.

The FWAA’s first All-America team in 1944 included Army’s famous running back tandem of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis and Georgia Tech’s Frank Broyles, who later became Arkansas’ legendary head football coach. Seven decades later, the 2014 team featured Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota of Oregon, Outland Trophy winner, offensive tackle Brandon Scherff of Iowa, and Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner, linebacker Scooby Wright III of Arizona.

“This was one of the most fun, yet most difficult exercises I’ve had in life – next to parallel parking, that is,” said FWAA 75th All-America Committee chairman Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman. “Truly, it was an exciting – if not impossible – task to find the best 75 college football players ever. Please save your hate mail, but feel free to weigh in and tell us how we messed up. And I’m sure we did, but no one should argue that it wasn’t a great idea to honor the best who have ever played the game. Let the debating begin.”

A nomination ballot with selected players from all FWAA All-America teams was sent to the entire membership this spring. The popular vote was then taken into consideration by a Blue Ribbon Committee of FWAA past presidents, current board members and officers. That committee put the finishing touches on selecting the 75-man team. In order for a player to be considered for the FWAA’s 75th team, he had to be on a previous FWAA All-America team.

The FWAA’s 25-man first team included Navy quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach, the only member from a military academy; the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner running back Archie Griffin of Ohio State; three-time FWAA All-America end Leon Hart of Notre Dame; and the only two-time Outland Trophy winner, center Dave Rimington of Nebraska. On the three 25-man teams, the Cornhuskers led all schools with six selections – including four on the first team – and four of their overall honorees are Outland Trophy winners. Ohio State and Pittsburgh each had five selections and Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas had four. Schools with three selections were Florida State, Georgia, Michigan and USC.

75th ANNIVERSARY FWAA ALL-AMERICA TEAM

FIRST TEAM OFFENSE

QB Roger Staubach Navy
RB Archie Griffin Ohio State
RB Herschel Walker Georgia
WR Larry Fitzgerald Pittsburgh
WR Jerry Rice Mississippi Valley State
TE Keith Jackson Oklahoma
OL John Hannah Alabama
OL Orlando Pace Ohio State
OL Will Shields Nebraska
OL Ron Yary USC
C Dave Rimington Nebraska

FIRST TEAM DEFENSE

DT Lee Roy Selmon Oklahoma
DT Ndamukong Suh Nebraska
DE Leon Hart Notre Dame
DE Ted Hendricks Miami (Fla.)
LB Tommy Nobis Texas
LB Mike Singletary Baylor
LB Derrick Thomas Alabama
DB Ronnie Lott USC
DB Deion Sanders Florida State
DB Jack Tatum Ohio State
DB Charles Woodson Michigan

FIRST TEAM SPECIALISTS

P Ray Guy Southern Miss
K Kevin Butler Georgia
RS Johnny Rodgers Nebraska

SECOND TEAM OFFENSE

QB Tim Tebow Florida
RB Tony Dorsett Pittsburgh
RB Barry Sanders Oklahoma State
WR Fred Biletnikoff Florida State
WR Randy Moss Marshall
TE Mike Ditka Pittsburgh
OL Bill Fralic Pittsburgh
OL John Hicks Ohio State
OL Calvin Jones Iowa
OL Jonathan Ogden UCLA
C Chuck Bednarik Penn

SECOND TEAM DEFENSE

DT Merlin Olsen Utah State
DT Randy White Maryland
DE Hugh Green Pittsburgh
DE Bruce Smith Virginia Tech
LB Brian Bosworth Oklahoma
LB Dick Butkus Illinois
LB Luke Kuechly Boston College
DB Champ Bailey Georgia
DB Kenny Easley UCLA
DB Jerry Gray Texas
DB Ed Reed Miami (Fla.)

SECOND TEAM SPECIALISTS

P Russell Erxleben Texas
K Mason Crosby Colorado
RS Raghib Ismail Notre Dame

THIRD TEAM OFFENSE

QB Tommie Frazier Nebraska
RB Bo Jackson Auburn
RB Doak Walker SMU
WR Anthony Carter Michigan
WR Calvin Johnson Georgia Tech
TE Gordon Hudson BYU
OL Barrett Jones Alabama
OL Willie Roaf Louisiana Tech
OL Jerry Sisemore Texas
OL Dean Steinkuhler Nebraska
C Jim Ritcher N.C. State

THIRD TEAM DEFENSE

DT Steve Emtman Washington
DT Reggie White Tennessee
DE Bubba Smith Michigan State
DE Jack Youngblood Florida
LB Jack Ham Penn State
LB Lee Roy Jordan Alabama
LB Chris Spielman Ohio State
DB Dré Bly North Carolina
DB Dave Brown Michigan
DB Troy Polamalu USC
DB Roy Williams Oklahoma

THIRD TEAM SPECIALISTS

P Rohn Stark Florida State
K Tony Franklin Texas A&M
RS Derek Abney Kentucky

75th Anniversary All-Americans by school (75 players from 41 schools): Nebraska 6, Ohio State 5, Pittsburgh 5, Alabama 4, Oklahoma 4, Texas 4, Florida State 3, Georgia 3, Michigan 3, USC 3, Florida 2, Miami (Fla.) 2, Notre Dame 2, UCLA 2, Auburn 1, Baylor 1, Boston College 1, BYU 1, Colorado 1, Georgia Tech 1, Illinois 1, Iowa 1, Kentucky 1, Louisiana Tech 1, Marshall 1, Maryland 1, Michigan State 1, Mississippi Valley State 1, Navy 1, North Carolina 1, N.C. State 1, Oklahoma State 1, Penn 1, Penn State 1, SMU 1, Southern Miss 1, Tennessee 1, Texas A&M 1, Utah State 1, Virginia Tech 1, Washington 1.

75th Anniversary All-Americans by current conference: Big Ten Conference 19, Atlantic Coast Conference 15, Southeastern Conference 13, Big 12 Conference 10, Pac-12 Conference 7, Conference USA 3, Independents 3, American Athletic Conference 2, Ivy League 1, Mountain West Conference 1, Southwestern Athletic Conference 1.

“Picking the FWAA’s 75th Anniversary teams was like taking a final exam with no wrong answers,” said 2015 FWAA President Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald. “Even though some answers may be more ‘right’ than others, this will add to the colorful conversation about college football, honor those chosen, and help celebrate the game.”

The quarterbacks of the top two teams are both Heisman Trophy winners: Staubach and Tim Tebow of Florida. Quarterback Tommie Frazier of Nebraska was selected to the third team after leading Nebraska to back-to-back national titles and finishing runner-up in the Heisman Trophy his senior season. All six of the running backs are Heisman Trophy winners: Griffin, Georgia’s Herschel Walker, Pittsburgh’s Tony Dorsett, Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders, Auburn’s Bo Jackson and SMU’s Doak Walker. There are 16 Outland winners (selected since 1946) and five Bronko Nagurski Trophy winners (selected since 1993) on the three teams.

All eight decades in which the FWAA teams have been selected are represented on the 75-man team, starting in the 1940s with SMU’s Walker all the way through Alabama’s two-time All-America Barrett Jones, the 2011 Outland winner. In all, there are 56 members of the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame and 41 schools are represented on the three 25-man teams.

The FWAA has selected All-America Teams in different forms over the years. All the teams are online at allamericateam.com and footballwriters.com in the All-America section in the FWAA awards area.

“This was truly an enriching experience picking this team,” said FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson. “It put our members in contact with the great players of the past and truly gave them a better snapshot of college football history. All of our All-Americans were great, but picking this team was like choosing between a filet mignon and a Kansas City strip.”

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of 1,400 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 game-day operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson.

The FWAA welcomes comments on the selection of its 75th Anniversary All-America Team. Please send your comments to allamerica@fwaa.com or Tweet them to @TheFWAA.

Related links:

 

Mock CFP Final Four proves revealing

By Kirk Bohls

Austin American-Statesman

GRAPEVINE — Got your back, Mack.

And got your Longhorns in the playoffs. Better late than never, right?

Sure, it’s six years too late, and it’s only fictional like all those mythical national championships the last hundred years. At least, until the real College Football Playoff committee convenes.

FWAA President Kirk Bohls at the mock selection meeting for a College Football Playoff Final Four based on the 2008 season.

FWAA President Kirk Bohls at the mock selection meeting for a College Football Playoff Final Four based on the 2008 season.

On Thursday, some of us pushed revisionist history on college football and voted Texas into the first four-team playoff. If a playoff existed then, Mack Brown’s Longhorns would have joined Oklahoma, according to a mock exercise by a 17-member media selection committee that was asked to evaluate the 2008 season and pick the best four teams in America.

The most spirited debate of the day revolved around the Longhorns’ worthiness in the Final Four. ESPN’s Rod Gilmore and Holly Rowe strongly criticized Texas’s non-conference schedule that included Rice, UTEP and Florida Atlantic but also Arkansas and omitted the Longhorns from their final four. Rowe asked, “Is Florida Atlantic a worthy opponent?” Responded Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated, “Oklahoma was, and Texas beat them on a neutral field.”

In our mythical playoff, No. 3 Texas would face No. 2 Oklahoma in a Rose Bowl semifinal, a rematch of that Cotton Bowl Classic in which the Longhorns came back from an 11-point deficit to win 45-35. Florida, our No. 1 team and the national champion that year, would play Southern Cal in the Sugar Bowl in the other semifinal.

I joined such media luminaries as Tony Barnhart, Jerry Palm and Staples, who was chosen as our bow-tied chairman and ran our six-hour panel discussion. We began by compiling a collective Top 25 and 34 teams received votes. We voted our top four three times, and it never varied. Jeff Long, the chairman of the real CFP panel, said his committee spit out a different four teams from 2008 but declined to reveal them. Then, we added to the field in small pods in complicated comparisons until we finalized our top 25 and then placed our teams in the Orange, Cotton, Fiesta and Peach bowls.

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2013 Best Feature, by Adam Lucas

Comment by the judge, Alan Abrahamson: A great feature should be a journey of discovery. This story is just that. It is full of not just connections but a series of incredible moments of revealing truths, each one taking the reader along through the story of one family’s incredible journey to and through the American dream. The cast of characters is rich and diverse. The action pieces are well-told and the back stories riveting. Finally, this piece also serves as compelling evidence that even in a world increasingly turning to bursts of 140 or fewer characters there thankfully remains a place for long-form journalism and the art of the well-told narrative. 

By Adam Lucas

Tar Heel Monthly

Adam Lucas

Adam Lucas

On the most famous play in modern Carolina football history, it looked like Gio Bernard was finally going to be caught by his history.

He’d spent twenty years outrunning it. He’d lived in Haiti with no running water. He’d sat in a tiny bathroom with his brother and father, all three men in tears over the loss of Gio’s mother. He’d shared an apartment in Ft. Lauderdale with rats.
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2013 Best Enterprise, by Matt Hayes

Comment by the judge, Alan Abrahamson: In this era of 24/7, instant-access, always-on journalism, the enterprise story offers something different. It takes us behind the curtain — tells us something we didn’t already know, couldn’t possibly have known without the diligence and the purpose of the reporters’ craft. Often, these stories rely on years of experience or a network of sources. When you finish reading such a story, a complex subject has been made simple or what was once hidden has been revealed. Even when, as was the case with Florida’s championship football team during the Urban Meyer years, it was hiding in plain sight. As the years go by, and the headlines about who was on that team continue to vie for attention, this story may prove to be even all the more illuminating.

By Matt Hayes

Sporting News

Matt Hayes

Matt Hayes

The uproar and controversy of Urban Meyer’s stunning recruiting coup at Ohio State settled in and Stefon Diggs, still on the Buckeyes’ wish list, was debating his future.

Diggs, the second-highest rated wide receiver in the country, had narrowed his list of potential schools to Maryland, Florida and Ohio State. For more than a week following National Signing Day on Feb. 1, and before Diggs eventually signed with Maryland, Meyer relentlessly pursued Diggs.
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2013 Best Column, by Ben Frederickson

Comment by the judge, Gene Duffey: Touching story of young boy and his enthusiasm for Wyoming football. Well researched with good quotes from Wyoming coach and a player.  

By Ben Frederickson

Casper Star-Tribune

Ben Frederickson

Ben Frederickson

The chubby-cheeked, brown-eyed boy from Rock Springs beamed on game days.

He loved to watch the University of Wyoming football team play in War Memorial Stadium, especially when his dad let him go down, close to the field, to be near the players.

Phillip and Cherilyn Hansen had taken their son, Hunter, and his older brother, Phillip Jr., to Laramie three times to join the crowd of brown and gold. Together, the family had cheered for their Pokes.

But things changed after July 29, 2011. Instead of trips to Laramie to watch his favorite team, Hunter made trips to Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City.

Hunter was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a white-blood-cell attacking cancer that starts in bone marrow — and then spreads.
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2013 Best Game Story, by Ivan Maisel

Comment by the judge, Gene Duffey: Good lead that quickly told the story of Baylor football. Story captured the mood of the game and Baylor’s dominance. Liked the reference to Baylor knowing what a Heisman winner is like compared with Collin Klein. Nice quotes from Snyder and Klein.

By Ivan Maisel

ESPN.com

Ivan Maisel

Ivan Maisel

WACO, Texas — Floyd Casey Stadium will never be confused with Death Valley or the Horseshoe or any of the college football palaces where road teams get mugged. It seats 50,000 in theory, if rarely in reality, because Baylor just doesn’t fill it up. It’s old and unloved and five miles from campus, and Baylor can’t wait to tell you about the new stadium it will open in two years.
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Former FWAA president Ron Higgins moves to NOLA.com/The Times Picayune

ron_higgins_crop

Ron Higgins

Higgins, a 28-year veteran of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, also is a frequent analyst on SEC sports for The Tim Brando Show on CBS, has written for the SEC’s official website and is a highly sought after guest on regional and national sports radio. A native of Baton Rouge and a graduate of LSU, Higgins will write commentary and special features about LSU sports for NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune, and will continue to appear on regional and national television and radio talking about the Tigers and SEC sports.
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Former FWAA President Pat Harmon dies at age 97

patharmon2

Pat Harmon, 1916-2013

Former Cincinnati Post sports editor and columnist Pat Harmon, who was president of the Football Writers Association of America in 1984 and later received the organization’s Bert McGrane Award, died on July 28 at the age of 97.

Harmon also served as the National Football Foundation’s historian for 20 years, from 1986 to 2006.

“Pat Harmon’s passion and talent for covering sports created a lasting legacy,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “He honed his skills during an incredible 70 year career, and the NFF greatly benefited from the depth of his knowledge during his 20 years as our historian. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family as we mourn his loss and celebrate his life.”
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