2017 Best Feature: John Crist

By John Crist

Saturday Down South

My phone rings. The caller ID reads “Dak Prescott.” He’s getting back to me shortly after I left him a message. Turns out he was in the middle of a workout. He’s still out of breath.

It’s Monday. I’m in Tampa. He’s in Orlando. But by Wednesday, we’ll both be in Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine — the annual meat market for college players ahead of the NFL Draft. I’ll be there as a member of the media. Prescott, of course, is a prospect following a spectacular career at Mississippi State.

He’s the best quarterback ever to play in Starkville, and he may just be the single best player in school history. Prescott elevated a mediocre program in a brutal conference to heights never seen before.

Nevertheless, when the draft experts go through the list of top QBs, his name isn’t mentioned. Jared Goff of California, Carson Wentz of North Dakota State — yes, FCS-level NDSU — and Paxton Lynch of Memphis are considered the first-tier passers. Prescott is a second-tier guy alongside the likes of Michigan State’s Connor Cook and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg.

He’s currently projected as a mid-round pick. But if Prescott is worried, he hides it well. He sounds authentic and confident without an iota of cockiness.

“(Other quarterbacks) are going to get their hype,” he says. “Just going to camps, even the combine, I don’t know that I’ll make people drop their pen and drop their jaw and say, ‘We’ve got to get this guy first off the board.’ That hasn’t been the player I’ve been all my life.”

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2017 Best Enterprise: David Ching

By David Ching
ESPN.com

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — When they received word that UAB football was coming back, Lee Dufour and Nick Vogel — best friends and former roommates at the school — could not wait to share the news with each other.

Unfortunately, they heard about it at the exact same time.

“Literally the second that they announced football’s coming back, I called him and at the same time, he called me. The calls didn’t go through,” Dufour said, recalling the moment last June when UAB reversed its decision from December 2014 to drop its football program. “I was like, ‘Yes, we have to go back. Whatever we have to go through, we’re coming back.'”

Added Vogel: “We were both going nuts trying to call each other. We both missed a couple calls in a row until we got ahold of each other. We were overjoyed.”

Both players had found new college football programs after UAB’s implosion: offensive lineman Dufour at South Alabama and kicker Vogel at Southern Miss. And yet they missed the friendships and connections that formed in their short time in Birmingham.

They had promised each other they would return to UAB if it ever reinstated the football program, and this was the opportunity many thought would never come.

“That was my primary plan in life: it’s going to come back and I’m going to leave this place and go back to my home in Birmingham,” Vogel said. “I know that sounds completely insane, but when I made the deal with Lee, I was 100 percent behind it. I genuinely thought it would come back.”

Dufour and Vogel are among 16 players from the 2014 team who were back at UAB in time for its recently completed spring practice. However, many of their 2014 teammates with eligibility remaining did not return.

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2017 Best Game Story: Andrea Adelson

By Andrea Adelson
ESPN.com

TAMPA, Fla. — The game clock showed 2:01. Deshaun Watson gathered his teammates and told them simply, “We’re going to get this touchdown. We’re going to win this national championship.”

Nobody on that sideline doubted. Not with Watson under center. Everybody wearing orange and purple firmly believed they had the best player in the country on their side, Heisman or no Heisman. They reminded everybody: Heismans are voted on; championships are won.

This would be it for him, on the last drive, in his last game.

“I’d seen the two minutes and one second on the clock, and I just smiled and I just knew,” Watson said after Monday’s title game. “I told myself, ‘They left too much time on the clock.'”

First play, pass complete. Second play, pass complete. Down the field they went, a march toward inevitability. When Watson arrived at Clemson in January 2013, he tweeted, “Me. In a National Championship Game. I’m just waiting on that moment.”

It came on first-and-goal at the Alabama 2. The play call came in: Crush. Watson would roll out and go to receiver Hunter Renfrow in the flat.

“We knew that play was going to work,” Clemson receiver Mike Williams said. “When you want it the most, you go out with your best call. We knew that was our best call.”

The play call was brilliant. So was its execution.

“I saw the whole play develop, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, wide open,'” Tigers defensive lineman Christian Wilkins said. “I’m on field goal unit, so I sprinted right onto the field as Deshaun was throwing it. I knew it was game. One second left. It was beautiful timing.” More…

2017 FWAA Best Writing Contest winners announced

DALLAS — Three writers — Alex Scarborough and Jake Trotter of ESPN.com and Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports — each claimed two individual awards and Glenn Guilbeau of USA TODAY Network/Gannett Louisiana repeated as a first-place winner in the 25th Annual FWAA Best Writing Contest.

ESPN.com writers collected 10 individual or co-bylined awards, including 1-2-3 sweeps in the Game Story and Enterprise categories.

First-place winners will receive game balls, certificates and cash prizes. Second and third-place winners will get certificates and cash prizes. Honorable mention award recipients will receive certificates. All will be recognized at the annual FWAA Awards Breakfast on Jan. 8, 2018 in Atlanta.

GAME

First Place — Andrea Adelson, ESPN.com

Second Place — Alex Scarborough, ESPN.com

Third Place — Jake Trotter, ESPN.com

Honorable Mention — John Feinstein, Washington Post; Dennis Dodd, CBS Sports; Matt Fortuna, ESPN.com; Rich Scarcella, Reading Eagle

FEATURES

First Place —  John Crist, Saturday Down South

Second Place — Mike Vorel, South Bend (Ind.) Tribune

Third Place —  Nate Mink, The Post-Standard (Syracuse, N.Y.)/Syracuse.com

Honorable Mention —  Alex Scarborough, ESPN.com; Jake Trotter, ESPN.com;  Daniel Uthman, USA TODAY

COLUMNS

First Place — Glenn Guilbeau, USA TODAY Network/Gannett Louisiana

Second Place — J.P. Scott, Athlon Sports

Third Place — Ryan McGee, ESPN.com

Honorable Mention — Matt Hayes, Bleacher Report; Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com

ENTERPRISE

First Place — David Ching, ESPN.com

Second Place — Mark Schlabach and Paula Lavigne, ESPN.com

Third Place — Kyle Bonagura and Mark Fainaru-Wada, ESPN.com

Honorable Mention — Harry B. Minium Jr., Norfolk Virginian-Pilot; Dennis Dodd, CBS Sports; Pete Thamel, Sports Illustrated; Michael Casagrande,  AL.com/Alabama Media Group; Jack Ebling and Joe Rexrode, Dog Ear Publishing; Andrew Greif, The Oregonian

Fan Plan Championship Index for Sept. 11

DALLAS, TX (September 11, 2017) – Just two weeks into the 2017 college football season and we’ve already had some major shake-ups in the chase for college football’s national championship. Among the major movement in the rankings following an exciting season-opening weekend was Florida State’s tumble after its loss to Alabama and, more consequential, the loss of its starting quarterback for the season. Then, Week 2 provided another blow to a heavily-favored playoff contender when the Oklahoma Sooners went into Columbus and had their way with Ohio State.

With the win Oklahoma vaulted from No. 6 in the Fan Plan Championship Index (“FPCI”) all the way to No. 2 with a 25.6% chance to make the national championship game. The Sooners stand behind only Alabama, which again sits atop the FPCI at No. 1 with a 34.5% chance to play in the national championship game, down just slightly from the previous week.

With big Week 2 wins against ranked opponents under their belts, USC and Clemson remained in the Top 4, reflective of the favorites to advance to the College Football Playoff. However, USC jumped to the No. 3 spot with a 22.4% chance to make the championship game, up nearly ten percentage points from a week ago, and Clemson dropped to No. 4, though the Tigers’ overall percentage rose slightly to 18.6%.

The top 10 is rounded out by Michigan (11.09%), Penn State (9.96%), Washington (9.71%), Louisville (8.37%), Ohio State (7.28%), and LSU (4.85%).

WK 3

RANK

TEAM % TO MAKE

CHAMPIONSHIP

% TO WIN

CONFERENCE

FAN PLAN

PRICE

1 Alabama 34.47% 22.83% $396.41
2 Oklahoma 25.56% 28.80% $239.63
3 USC 22.44% 29.40% $210.38
4 Clemson 18.57% 20.71% $174.09
5 Michigan 11.09% 17.19% $83.18
6 Penn State 9.96% 14.66% $99.60
7 Washington 9.71% 24.19% $97.10
8 Louisville 8.37% 16.42% $83.70
9 Ohio State 7.28% 23.25% $72.80
10 LSU 4.85% 13.78% $60.63
11 Oklahoma State 4.75% 20.68% $59.38
12 Tennessee 4.16% 9.04% $52.00
13 Wisconsin 3.96% 19.32% $49.50
14 Mississippi State 2.92% 6.19% $36.50
15 TCU 2.77% 11.56% $34.63
16 Utah 2.38% 4.02% $29.75
17 Kansas State 2.33% 12.14% $29.13
18 Georgia 2.03% 13.65% $25.38
18 Michigan State 2.03% 6.00% $25.38
18 Washington State 2.03% 6.07% $25.38
21 Colorado 1.98% 6.07% $24.75
22 Auburn 1.78% 10.76% $22.25
22 Oregon 1.78% 11.59% $22.25
24 UCLA 1.34% 3.56% $20.00
25 Iowa 1.29% 5.19% $20.00

Compiled weekly during the season, the FPCI is a proprietary analytical look at the current state of the chase for college football’s national championship. As opposed to traditional polls and rankings which purport to rank the best teams at a particular point in the season, the FPCI aims to rate college football teams by their real-time percent chance to make the national championship game — a dynamic metric that no other poll or ranking system measures.

The FPCI also includes the cost of a Fan Plan for each team. A Fan Plan is a one-of-a-kind indemnity product fans can purchase for their favorite team. If that team goes to the national championship game, Fan Plan pays for the fan’s game tickets and travel costs, up to the total coverage value of the Fan Plan. Each Fan Plan has a $1,000 coverage value and fans can buy additional coverage in $1,000 increments, up to $10,000 in total coverage. Fan Plan costs are dynamic and change based on each team’s real-time odds of making the championship game. The FPCI and Fan Plan pricing are based on season simulations that take into account a team’s wins and losses, opponents results, suspensions, weather, SOS, and other data points and projections.

FAN PLAN CHAMPIONSHIP INDEX NEWS & NOTES

IN AND OUT: Four teams are making their 2017 debuts in the FPCI this week, including some surprise entrants that are unranked in both the AP Top 25 and the Coaches Poll this week. Mississippi State (2.92% chance to play in the national championship game) makes its first appearance in the FPCI at No. 14 overall, taking advantage of losses by Auburn and Arkansas in the SEC, along with the fact that Ole Miss is unable to play for the conference title this season. The Bulldogs, whose Fan Plan this week is $36.50, received votes in both human polls this week but have yet to be ranked. They will face a stiff test this coming week when they host the No. 10 LSU Tigers (4.85% chance to make the championship game, $60.63) in both teams’ first SEC clash of the season.

Two other schools are ranked in the FPCI this week without being ranked by either human polls. Those teams are No. 18 Michigan State (2.03%, $25.38) and No. 25 Iowa (1.29%, $20.00), both out of the Big Ten. The Big Ten has six teams in the FPCI Top 25, including three in the Top 10 in Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State. That conference appears to be the most unsettled at the top, as the loss by Ohio State opened up the door for a few more potential contenders.

And finally there is UCLA, which earned its spot in the FPCI at No. 24. The Bruins (1.34%, $20.00), ranked No. 25 in the AP Poll and unranked in the Coaches Poll, replaced Stanford as a Pac-12 representative in the FPCI this week. Stanford dropped out of the rankings after a loss to USC, while Notre Dame, Florida State, and Virginia Tech also fell out of the FPCI Top 25 for the week.

RANKING THE CONFERENCES: There were no changes in the FPCI conference strengths this week, as once again the SEC stood atop the conference standings thanks to Alabama’s overall strength. The SEC is followed by the Pac-12, Big Ten, and ACC as the top four conferences. For the second straight week the Big 12 is on the outside looking in despite Oklahoma’s huge out-of-conference victory over Ohio State, the former top team in the Big Ten. After Oklahoma, which comes in at No. 2 in this week’s FPCI, the Big 12 doesn’t have a ranked team until Oklahoma State at No. 11. All other Power 5 conferences have multiple teams in the FPCI Top 10, led by the Big Ten with three.

BREAKING DOWN THE CONFERENCES: In an era when winning your conference is almost a must in order to make it into the playoff field, the Pac-12 seems to have really separated itself as having a group of elite contenders, followed distantly by the rest of the pack. USC currently carries the highest percentage of any team in the Power 5 to win its conference, coming in at a 29.40% chance to win the Pac-12. The Trojans are followed closely by Washington which is at 24.19%. The two teams combine for a better than 50% chance to win the conference. Surprisingly, Oregon is next with a 11.59% chance to win the Pac-12, followed by Washington State and Colorado who are both at 6.07% and UCLA at 3.56%.

The largest spread from the favorite to the second-rated team in the conference comes from the SEC where Alabama is atop the ratings at 22.83%. The next team in the SEC is LSU at 13.78%, followed closely by Georgia at 13.65%.

The Big Ten seems to be the most wide open of any conference. Ohio State, despite having a lower chance than both Michigan and Penn State to advance to the national championship game, has a higher chance to win the Big Ten than do both of those teams ranked ahead of the Buckeyes. Ohio State still has a 23.25% chance to win the Big Ten according to the FPCI, but a 7.28% chance to play in the national championship game. Further, Wisconsin, which is on the opposite side of the conference standings than Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State, also has a better chance to win the Big Ten than Michigan and Penn State despite a much lower overall percent chance to play in the national championship game. Wisconsin has a 19.32% chance to win the Big Ten and a 3.96% chance to play for the national championship. Michigan comes in at a 17.19% chance to win the Big Ten, followed by Penn State at 14.66%.

The Oklahoma teams are dominating the Big 12 to no surprise. The Sooners have a 28.8% chance to win the conference, the second-highest percentage of any Power 5 team to win its conference, followed by Oklahoma State at 20.68%. The next Big 12 teams are Kansas State at 12.14% and TCU at 11.56%.

Clemson is currently the class of the ACC at a 20.71% chance to win the conference, followed by Louisville at 16.42%. Those two teams face each other this weekend in a huge early-season conference showdown. One of those teams will obviously lose, and that’s good news for Florida State, which is unranked in this week’s FPCI but still holds onto a 15.77% chance to win the ACC.

BEEN THERE BEFORE: If history is any indication, the Ohio State Buckeyes may be the best buy on the board this week after suffering a tough loss to Oklahoma. The Buckeyes fell from No. 2 in the FPCI to No. 9 with a 7.28% chance to play in the national championship game and a Fan Plan cost of just $72.80. However, it’s not like we haven’t heard this song before. Remember 2014 when the Buckeyes lost a Week 2 out-of-conference showdown at the ‘Shoe? That year it was against Virginia Tech, and guess who the QB was back then for Ohio State? That’s right, J.T. Barrett, who also struggled in that game as well, finishing just 9-for-29 throwing the football for 219 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. But 2014 was one of the seasons in the playoff era when a team that suffered a September home loss actually came back to claim the national crown. The other season was 2015 when the Alabama Crimson Tide lost at home in Week 3 to Ole Miss, only to rebound and win it all. So don’t count out the Buckeyes just yet. This might well be the cheapest their Fan Plan will be all season.

TOP FAN PLAN SELLERS: If the public sales of Fan Plans are any indication, we are setting up for an exciting playoff season. As of Sunday, the top selling team was Oklahoma. Other teams seeing brisk sales included Washington and USC out of the Pac-12, Alabama and Georgia from the SEC, Florida State from the ACC, and Ohio State and Michigan State from the Big 10. But as Fan Plan sales have proven, owning a Fan Plan is not all about who will be playing in the national championship game. It’s also about a source of pride and passion for their school for those buying them, as proven by Fan Plan purchases for teams such as Florida International, North Texas, Southern Miss, and Tulane. No matter what team you’re rooting for, owning a Fan Plan provides a little more excitement to the college football season.

 

Alabama tops Fan Plan Championship Index

DALLAS (September 5, 2017) — The Alabama Crimson Tide remained in the top spot on the Fan Plan Championship Index (“FPCI”) this week, rising even higher after an impressive win over the Florida State Seminoles. The Crimson Tide enters Week 2 of the season with a 35.84 percent chance to make the national championship game, improving nearly 11 percentage points over its chances from a week ago.

Compiled weekly during the season by Fan Plan, the FPCI is a proprietary analytical look at the current state of the chase for college football’s national championship. As opposed to traditional polls and rankings which purport to rank the best teams at a particular point in the season, the FPCI aims to rate college football teams by their percent chance to make the national championship game — a dynamic metric that no other poll or ranking system measures.

The other three teams in the FPCI top four and, thus, currently projected to make the playoffs are Ohio State (27.38 percent to make the championship game), Clemson (15.25 percent) and USC (14.65 percent).

The top 10 is rounded out by Michigan (11.09 percent), Oklahoma (8.37 percent), Wisconsin (8.27 percent), LSU (7.18 percent Penn State (6.49 percent), and Washington (6.49 percent).

More…

Members: Nominate your daughter or son for the Volney Meece Scholarship

The FWAA is now accepting applications for the 21st annual Volney Meece Scholarship.

For an application please contact Dave Sittler, 8314 S. Jamestown Ave, Tulsa, OK 74137. His email is davesitt@aol.com and his cell phone is 918-629-3851 (text).

Applications must be received by Dec. 15, 2017.

The scholarship is awarded annually by the FWAA and named for the late Volney Meece, who served 22 years as the FWAA’s Executive Director and was the organization’s President in 1971.

The $1,000 annual grant for four years is awarded to a deserving son or daughter of an FWAA member. Since the program started in 1997, the FWAA has distributed more than $60,000 in scholarship money to deserving children of FWAA members.

The winner will be announced at the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast at the media hotel in conjunction with the College Football Playoff  National Championship Game on Jan. 8, 2018, in Atlanta.

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.
2014 Robert Abramson Palos Verde, Calif.
2015 Danielle Hoover Tulsa, Okla.
2016 Dolen Helwagen Pataskala, Ohio

 

Florida State’s Bobby Bowden Will Receive Tom Osborne Legacy Award

OMAHA — Bobby Bowden, Florida State University’s highly successful football coach from 1976 to 2009, will appear in Omaha for the Outland Trophy Awards Dinner on Jan.10, 2018, at the Downtown Doubletree Hotel.

Bowden, 87, inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006, will accept the fourth annual Tom Osborne Legacy Award from the legendary former Nebraska head football coach.

For the 21st consecutive year, the prestigious awards dinner will be held in Omaha where the Outland Trophy will be presented to the 2017 winner. The best interior linemen in college football, as selected by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), will be announced on ESPN on Dec. 7, 2017 during the Home Depot College Football Awards Show from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

“Having Bobby Bowden receive the Tom Osborne Legacy Award brings together iconic coaches of the same era who not only coached against each other in some epic games, but who share many of the same values off the field,” said FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson. “It is another home run for the city of Omaha and the FWAA in conjunction with the presentation of the 2017 Outland Trophy to a worthy recipient.”

Also on hand in Omaha will be Greg Sharpe, the radio voice of the Cornhuskers who will emcee the dinner where Nebraska senior awards will be presented: the Tom Novak Trophy, Guy Chamberlin Trophy and Cletus Fischer Native Son Award.

The Legacy Award, which Bowden will receive, is presented to a person for making extraordinary contributions to the Outland Trophy and to the interior line play in college football; for exhibiting the characteristics of integrity, sportsmanship and fair play associated with Tom Osborne; for demonstrating a record of leadership and good citizenship in the community that’s consistent with Rotary International’s primary motto, “Service Above Self”.

Previous winners of the Osborne Award are former Nebraska assistant coach Milt Tenopir, Outland Trophy sculptor Jim Ridlon and former Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer.

Bowden is only the third coach in major-college football history to coach 500 games and is the only coach in the history of major-college football to compile 14 straight 10- victory seasons from 1987-2000.  Bowden led the Seminoles to consensus national championships in 1993 and 1999 and won 12 Atlantic Coast Conference titles.  In claiming the first of the national titles, Bowden’s Seminoles defeated Osborne’s Nebraska Cornhuskers, 18-16, in the 1994 Orange Bowl.

Bowden makes monthly motivational speeches to Christian groups. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) also presents an award in his name each year to a Division I FBS football player “who epitomizes the student-athlete and conducts himself as a faith model in the community, in the classroom and on the field.”

Additionally, the Outland Trophy semifinalists announcement reception will be held in Omaha on Nov. 16, 2017 at the Old Mattress Factory.

For more information on the Outland Trophy Awards Dinner and semifinalists reception contact:

Bob Mancuso, Jr.

Chairman – Greater Omaha Sports Committee

7015 Spring St

Omaha NE 68106

w – 402-346-8003

fax – 402-346-5412

bmancuso07@msn.com

www.showofficeonline.com

The Outland Trophy 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 23 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935. Visit ncfaa.org to learn more about our story.

The Football Writers Association of America, founded in 1941, consists of 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 game-day operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson at tiger@fwaa.com.

The Greater Omaha Sports Committee, founded in 1977, is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization,consisting of more than 1000 men and women from the City of Omaha, the State of Nebraska, and others. The membership serves to communicate, develop, initiate and promote sports activities in the Greater Omaha sports area. In addition to the Outland Trophy Award Dinner, the Greater Omaha Sports Committee promotes high school, college, and professional sports in the Greater

Books: Dave Matter on Gary Pinkel

FWAA member Dave Matter from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is the author on a new book about recently retired Gary Pinkel, the winningest coach in Missouri football history. 

Book blurb: “Very few college football coaches earn the distinction of becoming their programs’ winningest, but Gary Pinkel has done it twice. From his nine-year tenure at the University of Toledo to his career at the University of Missouri from 2001 to 2015, Pinkel has shown he has the talent and meddle to take his teams to the top.  These remarkable achievements have been met by challenges along the way in Pinkel’s personal and professional life, including a DUI and a divorce, a threatened team boycott at Mizzou which dominated national news headlines, and ultimately, a decision to step away from it all following a diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  In The 100-Yard Journey, Pinkel offers a glimpse into the mind of a winner as well as an honest reflection on meeting and overcoming the unexpected. Follow along from the start of Pinkel’s coaching career at Kent State, the same program for which he played as a tight end, through stops at Washington and Toledo, and finally, taking over at the helm of Missouri, a program he guided to 10 bowl games in 15 years, a No. 1 AP ranking at the end of the 2007 season, and SEC Coach of the Year honors in 2014. Whether you’re a Tigers fan or just interested in what makes a successful head coach tick, anyone can find something to relate to in Pinkel’s personal memoirs.”

To order Dave’s book, CLICK HERE to go to Triumph Books.

 

President’s column: Twitter storm at Texas resolved; let us know if 20-hour rule causes media access problems

By Dave Jones

I don’t know about where you live. But in the woods of Pennsylvania, it’s always the cicadas and crickets that let you know.

David Jones, 2017 FWAA President

I still can’t smell that certain scent of sweet freshly mown grass in August without thinking of the end of practice. Of taking off my helmet in the dewy dusk after being drill-sergeanted by coaches for two hours in 90 degrees.

The sensual connect is the same: You know it won’t be long now until the first kick.

When I was a kid this time of year, I couldn’t wait for the Street & Smith’s Official College Football Yearbook. I’m not suggesting you feel exactly the same about the 2017-18 FWAA Directory, but I can assure you it’s at the printers and headed for your mailbox within days. As always, thanks to Ted Gangi, it’s the most useful little book you will carry with you all season.

We’ve had some news on the access front that I feel compelled to address. In particular, we’ve had some good vibes lately at Texas — the positive resolution of a two-day dust-up at UT revolving around something that looked like a mandate about when reporters could tweet.

New coach Tom Herman, just arrived from Houston, caused something of a mini-furor when he requested that anyone covering the 30 to 45 minutes of practice and subsequent interviews not tweet until after those interviews had been completed. The purpose ostensibly was to allow everyone to digest and accurately relate info. Beat reporters understandably felt it was micromanagement and complained in print and to longtime sports information director John Bianco.

Well, they got the rule or guideline or whatever it was rolled back. It’s a good example of a coach who wants to have a good relationship with media deciding when and where to pick his battles after getting some push-back. Herman ended up saying his idea was only a preference, not a dictum.

A more global issue has been the new NCAA rule that media obligations count as part of the players’ 20-hour max. I want to know how your program is treating this, if they attempt to reduce access by using this as a lever and especially if you encounter unworkable constraints. For instance, if Monday becomes a blanket off-day but player interviews are not offered until Tuesday evening, does this become a burdensome jam against print deadline, if you have one, or push your post into an online readership dead zone beyond 8 or 9 p.m.? If it is, let me know and we’ll see if we can help finesse a solution.

I think we’ve turned the FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll into the best in the business and a particularly interesting one to fill in the two months before the CFP committee’s first rankings.

This will be our fourth go-round with it. After the first two polls (announced on Tuesdays), the results of the 48 pollsters are released at 11:30 every Sunday morning, allowing a quick post for you by noon before the NFL games crank up. Please continue to stress the transparency of the poll to your readers and link the individual ballots. It’s a hook that often sets ours apart from other polls and sets up weekly debate the others don’t have.

I also want to make special mention of Gina Lehe being honored by SportsBusiness Journal on Monday. Good reporters don’t depend on media relations folks, but we sure as hell appreciate the ones who know their jobs. And Gina is one. Not only is she the consummate pro, she hires people who do great work, as anyone who’s been to one of the bowls she’s managed can attest.

Now, as communications director and brand manager for the College Football Playoff, she’s been named as one of SBJ’s “Game Changers: Women in Sports Business.”

I can personally attest that if any sports info staffer ever acted with something bordering on heroism, Gina did at the post-2008 Rose Bowl. She was one of roughly half of those in the press box that day — media members and publicity staffers alike — who’d been stricken with a withering food poisoning plague the night before. A lot of people “played hurt” that day but none more so than Gina.

So, on that note, the season is upon us. In the words of one of my old coaches: “Are you ready?! I can’t have you people coming out flat!”