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.