DALLAS — Veteran journalist Ivan Maisel, whose work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Newsday, Sports Illustrated and on ESPN.com, is the winner of the FWAA’s prestigious Bert McGrane Award. He will be honored next Monday at the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Celebrating its 75th Anniversary — founded in 1941 — the FWAA will bestow the honor on Maisel, 55, an award-winning journalist who served as the FWAA’s President in 1995.
The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, has been awarded to person who has performed great service to the organization and/or profession since 1974. McGrane is a former Des Moines, Iowa sportswriter-editor, who served as the association’s executive director from the early 1940s until 1973.
Maisel is the 43rd recipient of the Bert McGrane Award, which appears in the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. He succeeds National Football Foundation President and CEO Steve Hatchell as winner of the award.
“I can’t imagine an award more worthy than one selected by your peers,” Maisel said. “The Bert McGrane Award winners are featured in the College Football Hall of Fame, and there can’t be anything cooler than that.”
A sportswriter since 1981, he has covered national college football at The Dallas Morning News (1987-94), Newsday (1994-97), Sports Illustrated (1997-2002) and ESPN.com (2002-present). Maisel, who hails from Alabama but graduated from Stanford, lists a long list of friends and associates who have boosted his career.
“Dan Jenkins, then and now; the late Ron Fimrite, who not only wrote with a clean grace and a man-about-town style, but showed me how to treat my subjects; Steve Wulf, who taught me how to make the little anecdote tell a bigger story; Dave Smith, who hired me at The Dallas Morning News and put me on the national college football beat, if not on the front of the Sunday sports section; and my friend and colleague for the last 13 years, David Duffey, who shares my passion and sensibility about what makes a story.
“And my writing colleagues: I learned reporting from Mark Blaudschun; fresh ideas, humor and integrity from Gene Wojciechowski; passion from Tony Barnhart; hard work from Dennis Dodd, and from our beat writer of the year, Chris Dufresne, just great wit.”
Maisel adds what the FWAA has meant to him: “As our collective voice to the schools and conferences, as the publisher of the directory, which for its 20-year existence has remained in my bag, and as the gathering place for my friends and colleagues, the FWAA has developed into an invaluable professional resource.”
His year as FWAA President was tumultuous. The organization was in transition.
“I had not been president more than a few weeks when I received news that our executive director, Volney Meece, had died suddenly,” Maisel said. “My two greatest accomplishments as FWAA President were one, I picked up the phone when Steve Richardson called to inquire about replacing Volney; and two, I suggested that we create a directory similar to the NFL Black Book. Tiger made it happen, as he has made everything happen for the FWAA for more than 20 years.”
Maisel has had a working bag at most of the big college games during the last three decades, but two or those stand out even to him, a grizzled writing veteran who has adapted well to the new communications age. Maisel has served as host of the ESPN Championship Drive podcast since 2007.
“I was in the press box when Kordell Stewart threw the Hail Mary at the Big House in 1994,” he said. “Vahe Gregorian and I didn’t leave early for the locker room, and that taught me not to leave if the winner is in doubt. I saw Reggie Bush go off on Fresno State in 2005. I was in the press box in 2013 at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the Kick Six.”
He wrote a first-place story in the FWAA Best Writing Contest on that Auburn thriller over Alabama, one of six awards he has captured over the years in the FWAA Contest alone. He has won three straight game story first-place awards. The football for that one is already in his den back in Fairfield, Connecticut, where he resides with wife Meg. They have two daughters, Sarah, who lives in San Francisco, and Elizabeth, a freshman at Stanford. Their son Max, 21, died in February.
“We miss Max every day,” Maisel said. “My life is not as full as it had been for 21 years, and I expect it never will be. You learn to carry the pain and loss, because they are just … there. We are going about the task of putting one foot in front of the other.”
Maisel’s FWAA Awards
- 1993, Enterprise: The state of minority coaches in I-A football.
- 2002, Column: Dennis Franchione’s sudden departure from Alabama
- 2005, Feature: the Tulane football team in the days after Katrina
- 2012, Game: No. 1 Kansas State is stunned at Baylor
- 2013, Game: The Kick Six
- 2014, Game: Oregon embarrasses Florida State.
Comment by the judge, Alan Cox: Good look at one of the bigger games of the season as Oregon beat seemingly unbeatable Florida State, hitting home the key plays from the game. The article gave you a feel for what happened without simply being just a complete play-by-play recap, and had a great variety of quotes from both sides. It had a great lead and was easy and enjoyable to read.
By Ivan Maisel
PASADENA, Calif. – Give a game ball to the data geeks, the emotionless analysts who crunched the numbers and determined that No. 2 Oregon would beat No. 3 Florida State and advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T.
Those of us governed by the pit of our stomachs, the ones who had seen the defending national champion Seminoles find a way to win no matter how scruffy their play, had trouble buying into the staging of Duck Dynasty at the Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual.
Yes, Oregon had a plus-20 edge in turnover margin, but Florida State had come from behind in nine of its last 11 games.
Yes, the Ducks dominated the Pac-12, winning their last eight games by an average of 25 points, but the Seminoles had won seven games by six points or fewer. They had the indomitable quarterback, Jameis Winston, who had not lost since a high school game in 2011.
When the sun no longer lit the San Gabriel Mountains and the fourth quarter of the inaugural semifinal began, Florida State would seize control.
It didn’t quite work out that way on a typically spectacular New Year’s Day in the Arroyo Seco. By the time the fourth quarter began, all Florida State had seized was up. The Seminoles’ 29-game winning streak vaporized, their composure lost somewhere amid five turnovers in six possessions in the second half, Jimbo Fisher’s squad got steamrolled by the Ducks 59-20.
The medical examiner in Rochester, N.Y., has identified a body found Friday in Lake Ontario as Max Maisel, the 21-year-old son of FWAA member Ivan Maisel. Max had been missing since Feb. 22. The cause of death has yet to be determined.
Former FWAA president Ivan Maisel and his wife, Meg, are focusing on their special memories of their son, Max, a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology who disappeared Feb. 22 and is presumed dead.
We are having a memorial service and a celebration of Max’s life on Friday, March 27 at Congregation Bnai Israel in Bridgeport, CT. If anyone is interested in attending, please contact me at Ivan.Maisel@gmail.com.
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
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.