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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Winners of 2014 FWAA Best Writing Contest announced

Longtime FWAA members Ivan Maisel and Dennis Dodd were joined by two relatively new members, Andrew Greif of The Oregonian and Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News, in the winner’s circle of  the 22nd annual Best Writing Contest results that were released Wednesday.

Maisel from ESPN.com won the Game Story category for the second straight year, this time for his description of the Auburn-Alabama football game. Dodd from CBSSports.com claimed the Column category for his decision to renounce his Heisman Trophy vote in the aftermath of new voting regulations.

Greif won in Features for a moving story on the death of Oregon assistant coach Gary Campbell’s son after a lifelong battle with illnesses.  Armstrong’s account of one of the nation’s top quarterback gurus was tops in Enterprise. Both were first-time winners.

Maisel also claimed a third place in Features for a story on how the state of Alabama still reveres Bear Bryant 30 years after his death.  Dodd picked up an Honorable Mention in Enterprise.

Harry Minium of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot took a second place in Features for a story on how the sick brother of former Old Dominion offensive tackle D.J. Morrell finally got to see his brother play in person. Minium also collected a third place in Enterprise with his detailed account of how Old Dominion jumped to the FBS and Conference USA.  Blair Kerkhoff of The Kansas City Star picked up Honorable Mentions in Game and Column.

The winners in each category will receive a personalized football from The Big Game and a cash prize.  Second and third places win cash prizes and certificates. Honorable mentions receive certificates.  All will be recognized at the FWAA’s Annual Award Breakfast on Jan. 13, 2015,  in Dallas.

The following is the complete list of winners.

Game

First place — Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com

Second place — Jesse Temple, FOX Sports Wisconsin

Third place — Max Olson, ESPN.com

Honorable mention — Andrea Adelson, ESPN.com; Ryan McGee, ESPN.com; Joe Rexrode, Detroit Free Press; Blair Kerkhoff, Kansas City Star

Feature

First place — Andrew Greif, The Oregonian

Second place — Harry Minium, The Virginian-Pilot

Third place — Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com

Honorable mention —  Lindsay Schnell, The Oregonian; Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com; George Schroeder,USA Today; Jeremy Fowler, CBSSports.com

Column

First place — Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com

Second place — Matt Hayes, Sporting News

Third place — J.P. Scott,  KnowItAllFootball.com

Honorable mention — Blair Kerkhoff. Kansas City Star; Matt Brown, SportsonEarth.com; Mike Griffith, MLive.com; Glenn Guilbeau, Gannett Louisiana Newspapers

Enterprise

First place — Kevin Armstrong, New York Daily News

Second place — Pete Thamel, Sports Illustrated

Third place — Harry Minium, The Virginian-Pilot

Honorable mention — Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com; Michael Cohen, Syracuse.com/The Post-Standard; Jon Solomon, AL.com

2014 Best Game Story, by Ivan Maisel

Comment by the judge: Great look at the most compelling game and play of the entire 2013 college football season that helps readers picture it perfectly in their heads. The story featured a great sampling of quotes from all those involved, including great snippets from Chris Davis. However, I especially enjoyed the quotes from Alabama tight end Brian Vogler, who was covering on the play, which provided a unique perspective I had not seen in any other articles about this game.

By Ivan Maisel

ESPN.com

Ivan Maisel

Ivan Maisel

AUBURN, Ala. — Someday, someday, there will be a greater Iron Bowl finish than this one. Babe Ruth died, and the Yankees continue to play. Sinatra has come and gone, and people still sing. Forty-one years after “Punt Bama Punt,” Chris Davis caught a field goal attempt nine yards deep in the end zone, and started running.

So it’s possible that the way that No. 4 Auburn dethroned No. 1 Alabama 34-28, will be eclipsed. But at this moment Saturday night, with the cheers at Jordan-Hare Stadium still reverberating from here to Columbus, Ohio, it doesn’t seem possible at all. With the clock showing all zeroes, Davis returned Adam Griffith’s Hail Mary of a 57-yard field goal attempt 109 yards for a touchdown.

“We saw they had a guy back there,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Everybody knew they had to cover him. We just didn’t, we didn’t cover it right.”

In the 15 seconds or so that it took Davis to sprint from end line to end line, Alabama lost its chance at a third consecutive BCS championship; Auburn won the SEC West and planted itself in the BCS title debate, No. 3 Ohio State saw its BCS hopes come to life, and the spectrum of emotions that college football can elicit stretched a little beyond its limit.

“I knew when I caught the ball I would have room to run,” Davis said, “and I knew we had bigger guys on the field to protect and that was all after that.”

The game unfolded as Alabama’s toughest games have unfolded all season long. The Tide started slow, fell behind, warmed up and took the lead in the fourth quarter thanks to a 99½-yard touchdown pass from AJ McCarron to Amari Cooper. In any other Iron Bowl, that would’ve been the stuff of legend. But then Alabama’s karma got run over by Auburn’s karma, in which the Tigers keep believing until they pull off a miracle finish. That’s what happened against Georgia, when Ricardo Louis caught a deflected pass for a 73-yard touchdown in the final minute.

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2014 Best Enterprise, by Kevin Armstrong

Comment by the judge: Well-crafted story about one of the top quarterback gurus in the country. Writer presents a lot of detail about a topic that is one of the new trends in college football as well as provides insight into the behind-the-scenes dealings and relationships.

By Kevin Armstrong

New York Daily News

MOBILE, Ala. — Half-hour to kickoff at St. Paul’s Episcopal School on a Friday in October, and there’s a caller on WNSP 105.5 FM claiming Mother Nature’s keeping Hurricane Karen at bay in order for a varsity football game to be played. The top-ranked Toros from Spanish Fort are in The Port City to march against the No. 8 Saints, and David Morris, the one-time Alabama state record holder for yards and touchdowns in a season, pulls his gray Yukon — the one with the smile-shaped crack across the windshield — into the packed lot, pays $4 to park and walks on past tailgaters. St. Paul’s Headmaster Marty Lester greets Morris, a tutor to St. Paul’s sophomore starting quarterback Miller Mosley.

kevin armstrong

Kevin Armstrong

“David, don’t you have the other quarterback tonight, too?” Lester asks.

Morris nods. Truth be told, Morris tinkers with the mechanics of the starters on both teams, as well as the backups. There is a pipeline at St. Paul’s for Morris to tap into and he does so regularly, having helped along the careers of past preps stars such as Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and Florida State backup Jacob Coker.  All the better to the mothers and fathers whose children he instructs. As the private teacher and not a coach, Morris is undefeated on Friday nights and decides no controversies. Saints reserve Drew Wing’s father, Andrew, double checks with Morris on the next appointment.

“Nine thirty tomorrow morning, right?” Wing asks.

“Yessir,” Morris says.

Morris holds a unique position in Mobile’s quarterback boom. Once a three-year reserve behind Eli Manning at Ole Miss, Morris left the game after graduation, burnt out from being one snap away for three seasons behind the immovable Manning. Morris fought depression, took a job at his father’s real estate agency and moonlighted as a throwing instructor with teenagers in town upon request. Now 33, Morris is all in on growing his program — “Quarterback Country” — into a year-round, nationwide business. His experiences range from pushing Manning through the paces in the offseason to working with Tim Tebow to readying now-Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Matt Barkley for the NFL draft. Top prospects — including University of Miami recruit Malik Rosier — tout Morris’ ability to boost their confidence and identify flaws.

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President’s column: Season of changes is upon us

2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls

2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls

Let’s kick this thing off.

Actually Sam Houston State and Eastern Washington did the honors Saturday on an all-red field with a no-huddle offensive fury — my eyes are just now adjusting back to normal — but the college football season starts in earnest this Thursday.

If the real season is anywhere near as eventful as the off-season was, this promises to be one of the most exciting, electric years ever.

To recap, we’ve witnessed an all-out assault on the NCAA and the status quo with a move toward greater autonomy for the Power Five conferences, the likelihood of cost of attendance benefits for athletes and the player-friendly outcome of the landscape-altering Ed O’Bannon lawsuit.

We’ve seen football strongholds embrace diversity as Charlie Strong and James Franklin become the first African-American head coaches at tradition-clinging Texas and Penn State. We’ve also seen Chris Petersen leave his comfort zone at Boise State to test the big-school waters at Washington. And we’ll see coaches on the hot seat like Will Muschamp, Dana Holgorsen and Charlie Weis try to stave off the wolves on their doorsteps.

We’ve grimaced when we see stars like Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and Oregon offensive tackle Tyler Johnstone go down with injuries that ended their seasons before the first kickoff.

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Bagnato, Pflipsen Take Next Step

Andy Bagnato and Kristen Pflipsen, long-time FWAA members, have formed Bagnato Pflipsen Communications LLC, a full-service communications consulting firm in the Phoenix area.

“After writing the successful bid for Arizona’s 2016 College Football National Championship Game last fall, we both felt a sense of closure,” they wrote in a press release. “We had seen the Fiesta Bowl organization through its crisis and needed a new challenge. As the Fiesta Bowl went through its reorganization, the timing could not have been better.”

The Phoenix Final Four, an attempt to land an NCAA men’s national basketball semifinals, was their first client.

“Working on the Phoenix Final Four bid has given us an opportunity to expand our reach and work within both the sports and tourism industries,” they wrote. “Although there is always uncertainty starting a new business, we have been energized by working on a variety of projects.  Our website, http://www.bagnatopflipsen.com, will launch soon.”

More Comings and Goings

Arnie Sgalio of  ESPN and ERT  has retired after 19 years. … Christopher Walsh is now a beat writer/columnist for Saturdays Down South. … Stewart Mandel has moved from Sports Illustrated to FoxSports.com. … Tony Barnhart has switched from CBS Sports to the SEC Network. … Gina Mizzel has traveled from The Daily Oklahoman all the way to Oregon to cover Oregon State for the Oregonian. … More…

FWAA accepting weekly nominations for Courage Award

The FWAA is now accepting nominations for the 2014  FWAA/Orange Bowl Courage Award, which is annually given to a player, coach or support person in college football such as a trainer, cheerleader or a member of an athletic department’s staff.

The requirements for nomination for the weekly award include displaying some sort of courageous act (on or off the field). These would include overcoming an injury, sickness or physical handicap, preventing a disaster, or living through a lifetime of hardships.

At the end of 2014 season, a select group of FWAA members will choose the winner of the award who will be honored during the Orange Bowl Week.

Please email all nominations with supporting information to FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson at tigerfwaa@gmail.com

UGA fortunate to have collegiate sports’ premier publicist, Claude Felton

By Tim Gardner

UGA Athletics Historian

Webster defines pre-eminent as: excelling above all others.

Pre-eminent aptly describes the University of Georgia’s Claude Felton.

Serving the UGA Athletics Association for more than 30 years, the legendary Felton is generally regarded by knowledgeable observers as the standard by which collegiate sports information directors are measured.

Claude Felton received the FWAA's Bert McGrane Award in 2008.

Claude Felton received the FWAA’s Bert McGrane Award in 2008.

Aptly aided by a staff of full-time, part-time and student assistants, Felton’s primary responsibility is to chronicle and disseminate information about the UGA intercollegiate sports teams and student-athletes to media on local, state, regional, and national levels as well as Bulldogs fans and all others who request it.   He is the consummate professional — well-organized, thorough at handling details and performing his job with an objective approach.  Felton is quick to deflect any credit for his efforts while devoting his attention to getting out information about the Bulldogs’ newsworthy deeds.

Felton’s career has spanned the glory days of UGA Athletics.  He has directed the overall publicity operation for thirty-plus national championship teams, including the school’s fifth national football championship, as well as numerous individual national champions. During his tenure, UGA Athletics highlights have also included the greatest play in Bulldogs Football history (the Buck Belue-to-Lindsay Scott 93-yard miracle touchdown pass that helped push UGA past hated Florida, 26-21 in 1980 and propelled the Bulldogs to the national title), running back Herschel Walker winning the 1982 Heisman Trophy and the men’s basketball team making its only appearance in the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four (1982-83 season).

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O.K. ‘Buddy’ Davis to be honored by Ark-La-Tex Sports Museum of Champions

Still recovering from a near-fatal stroke suffered a year ago, O.K. “Buddy” Davis of the Rustin Daily Leader is one of six people who will be honored on Aug. 2 by the Ark-La-Tex Sports Museum of Champions.  Click here to read a profile of Buddy by Jimmy Watson of the Shreveport Times. 

 

2014 FWAA Pressbox Conference Committees

The FWAA has regionalized its press committees for your convenience. If you encounter difficulties during the season in regards to game coverage, including access during the week, please contact the chairman of your conference by email. He will get back to you in a reasonable time. Please explain the problem in DETAIL, so the conference chairman can better understand the situation.

C—Chairman

Pac-12

C-Chris Dufresne, Los  Angeles Times   (chris.dufresne@latimes.com)

Jon Wilner, San Jose Mercury

Lindsay Schnell, SI.com

Mountain West

C-Mark Anderson Las Vegas   (manderson@reviewjournal.com)

Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman

Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan

Big Ten 

C-Malcolm Moran, National Sports Journalism Center (moranma@iupui.edu)

David Jones,  PA Media Group

Lee Barfknecht, Omaha World-Herald
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