President’s column: Beat Writer award to be named for Steve Ellis 1

By Mark Anderson, FWAA President

A friend and I were traveling through the West with Steve Ellis back in the early 1990s. We all woke up in Provo, Utah, one morning ready to hit the road. But first we had to wait for Steve to file a Florida State football notebook.

In July. On his vacation.

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

2016 FWAA President Mark Anderson

That was Steve. From him, I learned the value of great reporting. No one could ever outwork Steve. The trips with Steve also gave me a love for this region of the country and an appreciation for the beauty of the West. I eventually made my way from the Tallahassee Democrat to the Reno Gazette-Journal and then to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Having worked with and having known Steve, I think it is truly appropriate that we name our FWAA Beat Writer of the Year Award after him. I have to credit FWAA Board Member Malcolm Moran, a long-time friend of Steve’s, with the idea. We both wish Steve could be here to enjoy the recognition.

Steve, sad to say, died on Nov. 19, 2009 after suffering a heart attack nine days earlier. His widow, Karen, will attend the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast on Jan. 9, 2017 in Tampa and present the award in his name.

Karen shared her thoughts with the FWAA:

When I found out the Football Writers Association of America planned to name its Beat Writer of the Year Award after Steve, I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. I know Steve was an outstanding writer and a special man, but to be recognized by his peers is just amazing. I watched Steve work 24/7 to make sure he didn’t miss a story and to ensure all the facts were correct. The other writers on the Florida State beat always said they had to work harder just to keep up with Steve. He truly loved what he did and knew at an early age he wanted to be a writer.

When we first started dating Steve was working on a story about a freshman football player and was worried about a quote he thought could give people the wrong impression about the young man. He called the player’s position coach and was up until 2 a.m. waiting for a quote from the coach that would help give credibility to the player with fans. More…

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President’s column: Look for your AutoNation FWAA All-America ballot on Nov. 9

ffaw_redesignOMAHA — It’s hard to think of three more beautiful words than “November college football.’’ As the old saying goes, the games we remember are played in November.

So when you write about, broadcast or administer these games, keep your eyes on those making the biggest plays because our process to pick the 2015 AutoNation Football Writers Association All-America team starts this week. Confidential teleconferences are set for Nov. 15 (defense, offensive linemen) and Nov. 22 (all others). First and second teams will be chosen.

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

Ballots from the FWAA membership (which are scheduled to be sent out on Nov. 9) will be used as a framework to build our teams. Please feel free to contact your regional representative from our All-America Committee with nominations, pertinent statistics and other intelligence to help us do the very best job possible.

Also, we need Outland Trophy nominees (centers, guards, offensive and defensive tackles but no ends).

The selection committee:

Lee Barfknecht, Omaha World-Herald (National)

Zach Barnett, Football Scoop (Conference USA)

Kirk Bohls, Austin American-Statesman (National)

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President’s column: One month in, college football is a world turned upside down

ffaw_redesignOMAHA — My god, isn’t this fun?

It’s difficult to recall a college football season in which we seem to have more questions than answers after the first month than we did before the darn thing started.

Ohio State quarterbacks? Oregon down, Utah up? Defensive coordinator mental-health warnings in the Big 12? Alabama, Auburn and Arkansas a combined 0-4 to start SEC play? Clemson rolling and Louisville falling in the ACC?

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

Good luck to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. Looks like you’ll need it. As for those of us chronicling the action, the stories get more interesting by the week.

Something worth following this season is the amped-up work on recognizing our national players of the week (offense and defense) and national team of the week.

The Football Writers Association of America has partnered with a new valued sponsor, AutoNation, to honor deserving players and teams as selected by the FWAA All-America Committee. AutoNation generously donates $1,000 for each team of the week and each player of the week (offense and defense) toward the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. AutoNation also is presenting sponsor of our All-American team and the 75th Anniversary All-America squads.

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President’s column: 2015 directory an invaluable resource

ffaw_redesignOMAHA  Members of the Football Writers Association of America are in the process of receiving a piece of pure gold.

That’s how strongly I feel about the value of our annual directory: 250 pages of precious information to help all of us work smarter and faster. This book will pay dividends on your membership fee over and over and over again.

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

Don’t just toss this gem aside when it arrives. Place it in your workbag immediately. The contact information from fellow members is invaluable. The names, addresses and cell numbers of sports information directors are there in an easy-to-read-and-find format. Need to contact a beat writer or a play-by-play announcer for a bit of background? That’s there, too. Also, calendars detailing the dates of various games, awards and meetings are included. And it’s in this one spot. You don’t waste time sifting through multiple websites looking for what you need. Practice schedules, times and contact information for weekly teleconferences and lists of all-time award winners are all there, too. A special addition this year is our 75th Anniversary All-America Team.

As a member, you have online access to the guide, too.

If you get a chance, offer a big thank you to Executive Director Steve Richardson and Editor Ted Gangi and our friends at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic for their toil on this important project. One more thing: show the directory to someone who isn’t a member. Hopefully, he or she will see what they are missing and want to join.

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President’s column: Bowls agree to media operations standards

ffaw_redesignOMAHA — What better time than early July to start thinking about bowl games?

Among board members of the Football Writers Association of America, bowl-game operations are in mind year round. We strive to create and sustain access, improve logistics and bring some polish to what sometimes can be a rough-edged experience for our members.

In that spirit, the FWAA and the Football Bowl Association present what we hope is good news.

Last winter, our board — with USA Today’s George Schroeder as the lead blocker — asked FBA Executive Director Wright Waters to present his membership with a list of standardized media operations for bowl games.

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

The good news is the 41 bowls said yes to our standards for operation without exception. We heartily thank Wright for his patience, cooperation and guidance in these matters — and George for his persistence and attention to detail.

This doesn’t mean our work is done.

The Football Bowl Association doesn’t have enforcement authority on these regulations. I repeat: It DOESN’T have enforcement authority. But as Wright told his members: “It has been made clear that this is a request coming from the media, and is an attempt to help the bowls generate more media attention.”

Yes, the College Football Playoff bowls have a good thing going with standardized methods of operations and penalties for violations. It’s a pleasure to cover bowls that offer agreed-upon access, top-flight press box services and handy transportation.

However, we all know that isn’t the standard everywhere.

I have covered 34 bowl games put on by 14 entities, from Honolulu to Miami.

Some bowls have the process nailed, working with their sponsors and the sports information directors of the participating schools to fulfill the basic needs of the media — and often beyond.

In other cases, covering a bowl is like working a high school game.

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President’s column: High school baseball star Randy White never expected to be a football ‘Legend’

2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls

2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls

(Note:  Randy White was honored at the same banquet where Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III was revealed as college football’s best defensive player as deemed by the Football Writers Association of America.)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Randy White never expected to be honored as a legend in college football.

Of course, the highly decorated defensive star for Maryland and then the Dallas Cowboys never really expected to even play college football in the first place.

He’d been a star pitcher and first baseman for his high school team in Wilmington, Delaware, and had been told at one time that the Philadelphia Phillies wanted to draft him and sign him for a $30,000 bonus.

“I thought, ‘I’m rich,’” White recalled Monday before the Charlotte Touchdown Club Banquet where he was recognized as a Bronko Nagurski Legend from the FWAA’s 1974 All-America Team. “But my dad told the scout no. He said I was going to Maryland and play college football.”

Father knew best.

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President’s column: SEC madness kicks off 2014 season

2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls

2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls

It’s begun.

And it began in SEC Country naturally.

Anytime you see a 47-year-old wedding photographer from Australia spend $8,000 to fly himself and his Alabama graduate wife to the States and salivating over getting a glimpse and maybe an autograph from the Crimson Tide royal family, you know SEC fans are rabid. And maybe something else, too.

Antony Hands was among hundreds who crowded into the hotel lobby getting autographs or just a momentary peek at their favorite Alabama players.

He did get signatures from Landon Collins, Amari Cooper and Christion Jones. And has Hands met Nick Saban yet?

“Oh, God no,” he said, practically swooning.

He carried a colorful, handmade sign he made with seven bucks from Wal-Mart that read: “I Flew All the Way from Australia to Meet Nick Saban.”

I just flew from Austin, but was feeling no less passionate about the experience.

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New president Kirk Bohl’s column

2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls

2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s the dawning of a new day for college football. I hope I don’t oversleep.

I wouldn’t want to miss it. By this time next year when we’ve celebrated our first champion from a real, live playoff culminating in Arlington, Texas, we might not even recognize the game. Change is coming, and, yes, it will be dramatic.

We enter 2014 with an appreciation for the rich past of this wonderful game we follow and an eye toward a future filled with equal parts anticipation of a historic season with the first College Football Playoff after the 2014 regular season. We also have a healthy concern for the direction of the sport. After all, the game is in a state of flux. Who knows when the Southeastern Conference will end its long drought and ever win another championship?

First, it’s a privilege to be your 2014 FWAA President. And I’d like to especially salute our 2013 President, Chris Dufresne, for his terrific service. I’d like to thank him for the great California weather for the final BCS game and the fact the game did not go into overtime

These are tumultuous times as college football wrestles with overwhelming issues: potential federation within the NCAA that could lead to a separate division and more distance between the haves and have-somes; Football Bowl Subdivision anxiety over uneven enforcement of penalties; players’ long-term health and safety; subsidies for players for the full cost of a scholarship; a tangled, complicated rulebook; and the controversial Ed O’Bannon lawsuit over payment for use of players’ likenesses for video games. And that doesn’t even count Lane Kiffin’s fascinating future, especially the week of the Alabama-Tennessee game.

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President’s Column, by Chris Dufresne

FWAA’s Wieberg joins very elite committee

FWAA President Chris Dufresne

FWAA President Chris Dufresne

We take care of our own.

One of my primary goals as FWAA President this year was to help facilitate the placement of a member on the new College Football Playoff Selection Committee.

I learned this was my goal when former FWAA President Mark Blaudschun pulled me aside last January in Florida and, with the lullaby gentleness of a New Jersey longshoreman, said  “Your job is to get member on the playoff selection committee. … Don’t screw it up.”

Mission accomplished.

The FWAA was thrilled in mid October when it was announced the new 13-member panel for the College Football Playoff would include former USA Today college writer Steve Wieberg.

Steve Wieberg

Steve Wieberg

Wieberg joins a prestigious group that includes the likes of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, College Football Hall of Fame coach Tom Osborne and former Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning, now chairman of the National Football Foundation.

It was almost surreal to hear Wieberg on the same conference call hook-up with Rice.

“To be a part of it is beyond humbling to me,” Wieberg said. “I feel a little bit like Ringo, and there are four Johns, four Pauls and four Georges in the band. But Ringo was a contributor, and I plan to be a contributor.”

Wieberg, who was co-winner of the FWAA’s Beat Writer of the Year Award in 2012, knows he will get a little bit a help from his friends.

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