The Fifth Down

President's column: See you in Arizona

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Tim Griffin

It's always an exciting time of year around the holidays. We at the FWAA will be busy around the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game in Glendale, Ariz., after the New Year.

But before we talk about all we've got planned in the desert, there's an explanation about one of those players who will be playing in the national championship game.

Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton will be playing in his first game since winning the Heisman Trophy earlier this month when the Tigers face Oregon.

There's been a lot of controversy over the last few weeks about our decision to keep him off our All-America team. There was a teleconference late in the regular season where chosen representatives from each conference in the country sat down to talk about our picks. It was done over a two-week period during teleconferences that totaled more than three hours.

I was a participant on the teleconference, although I did not vote on Newton's place on the team. I don't want to speak for how our representatives voted, but I think it's clear that Newton's then unresolved "Pay to Play" scandal that was raging at the time of our vote played a part in him being left off.

In this issue of The Fifth Down:
• Griffin: See you in Arizona
• SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 dominate All-America team
• Oregon's Kelly named Coach of the Year
• Outland Trophy goes to Wisconsin’s Carimi
• Clemson’s Bowers wins Bronko Nagurski Trophy

Instead, the board chose to select Kellen Moore of Boise State as our first-team quarterback and Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson as a "designated offensive back" along with Oregon's LaMichael James.

We've been skewered on the Auburn message boards for that decision over the past several weeks, but I'm comfortable with it. The group of voters who picked our team has by my count more than 200 seasons covering the game. The committee's decision wasn't made lightly, no matter what some pundits might think.

Earlier in the month, I was able to take off from the pro basketball beat for a few days to present the Bronko Nagurski Trophy to Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers and attend the college football awards show in Orlando later that week. It was great to be able to renew some old friendships and make a few new ones during my visit there. A record crowd of more than 1,300 attended the banquet where Bowers' selection was announced.

FWAA second vice president Lenn Robbins earlier presided over the presentation of our Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year trophy to Oregon coach Chip Kelly in New York City.

The FWAA again will be represented at the BCS National Championship Game. We'd like to invite all who will be covering the game to attend our annual breakfast at 8 a.m. Monday Jan. 10 at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn, which will also double as the media hotel.

At the breakfast, the FWAA will recognize the winners and placers in the Best Writing Contest with certificates and cash prizes. The FWAA will also honor the Bert McGrane (FWAA Hall of Fame) winner, the FWAA Freshman All-America Team, the Discover Orange Bowl Courage Award winner and reveal the recipient of the Volney Meece Scholarship.

My successor, Tommy Hicks of the Mobile Press-Register, will be installed at that meeting. I'm sure he'll have as much fun and learn as much as I have over the past year.

His first task the following morning will be the awarding of the 2011 Grantland Rice Trophy to the No. 1 NCAA Bowl Subdivision team as selected by a panel of veteran FWAA writers. The vote will take place after the Oregon-Auburn game.

Tentatively, the presentation of the Grantland Rice Trophy will be on the morning of Jan. 11 at the media hotel.

It's been a wild ride for me over the last 11 months. I wouldn't recommend anybody taking the exact route that my family and I have experienced during that period, but everything works out in the long run. As this holiday period approaches, we are all grateful for the support I've received from so many FWAA members I've been blessed to work with over the years.

I've been honored to serve as your president over the last year. Many thanks to all who have made my stewardship an easy one, particularly to Steve Richardson and the many former presidents whom I've leaned on for counsel during times of duress.

I'll continue to work on various projects after my time as president ends. I would again like to ask for recommendations for the best and brightest among the sports information directors across the country. Let me or any of our officers or past presidents know if you've been impressed with the work of an SID staff, or if you think one might be lacking. We plan to name our second group of winners in February, shortly after National Signing Day.

KEY FWAA CONTACTS

• Bert McGrane Award nominees: Mark Blaudshun (blauds@aol.com)
• Volney Meece Scholarship nominees: Dave Sittler (davesitt@aol.com)
• Website, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team of the Week: Ted Gangi (webmaster@sportswriters.net)
• Membership Directory: Charlie Fiss, AT&T Cotton Bowl (charlie@attcottonbowl.com)
• Ethics/Press Relations Committee: Kirk Bohls (kbohls@statesman.com)
• College Football Playoff Liaison: Gina Lehe, College Football Playoff (glehe@collegefootballplayoff.com)
• Eddie Robinson Award: Steve Richardson (tiger@fwaa.com)
• Fifth Down Blog/FWAA Best Writing Contest: Ken Stephens (ken.stephens@sbcglobal.net)
• Bronko Nagurski Award: John Rocco, Charlotte Touchdown Club (jrocco@touchdownclub.com)
• Outland Trophy, All-America Team: Steve Richardson (tiger@fwaa.com)
• Grantland Rice Super 16 Poll: Phil Marwill, National Football Foundation (pmarwill@footballfoundation.org)
• Discover Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award: George Schroeder, USA TODAY (gschroeder@aol.com), Ron Higgins, Nola.com (rhigg@aol.com)
• Freshman All-America Team: Mike Griffith, MLive Media Group (mgrif32@aol.com)

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