The Fifth Down

President's column:
World Peace

The last question had been asked, and it was time for the walkoff. Not with Urban Meyer; the coach hurried out the door. But the guy the sportswriters really wanted the man we fawned over like preteens at a Jonas Brothers concert hung around for a while, happy to talk.

Yeah, on the morning after the BCS Championship game, a fortunate few of us met J. W. Marriott. No one received lifetime platinum status, and because one notable FWAA member did not have a sharpie, his VIP Athletic Rate card remains unsigned.

In this issue of The Fifth Down:
President's column: World peace
Saban named Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year
FWAA selects 8th annual Freshman All-America Team
Barnhart wins Bert McGrane Award
Florida claims Grantland Rice Trophy
Kansan wins Volney Meece Scholarship
Tulsa's Holloway wins FedEx Orange Bowl Courage Award

I'm kidding, sure. But the hotel magnate spent a few minutes cordially answering questions about Meyer, Utah and the BCS. Heck, he even chatted a while. And it was striking, just how different the scene was than our typical interaction these days with the football programs we cover.

Which brings me to this year. I'm honored to have the opportunity to serve as FWAA president, and to succeed Ron Higgins, who spent 2008 speaking loudly about the deteriorating relationships between college football coaches and our profession. The discourse was pleasant enough, but Ron made sure the message was forcefully delivered. I'm glad he'll remain involved, helping to ensure our voice is a vital part of the conversation about college football.

There was some progress, and we'll continue to take what Ron calls "baby steps," because there's no other choice. Nobody went Gundy last year not even Gundy but the separation between college coaches, their teams and the people who cover them continues to widen, and access continues to be di- minished. For example, at two BCS bowls, coaches from traditional powers violated in one case BCS rules on availability and in another did not live up the spirit of the rules. During the regular season, the coach from Boise State yes, those cute, cuddly BCS-busting Broncos denied opponents' media game-week access to his players.

So if anyone asks about an agenda for 2009, I'll repeat a line from our annual breakfast meeting, when I suggested if Barack Obama can tackle the playoffs, may be we should work on world peace. But the task remains much the same. I'm enthusiastic about the opportunity to carry forward the fight for access, and to try to repair the eroding relationship.

A few specifics from the FWAA's annual board meeting and assorted other official conversations which took place in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.:

● As noted above, there were problems with access at two BCS bowl games. Joe Paterno refused to open the Penn State locker room after the Rose Bowl, despite BCS rules requiring that it be open. And during the week leading up to the Fiesta Bowl, Ohio State's Jim Tressel did not make starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor available to media, causing Fiesta Bowl officials dismay and writers questioning serious loopholes in the BCS media policy.

The FWAA will follow up with the BCS and with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, urging the BCS to deal with the situations. BCS officials say they will review the situations during their annual meetings in April. We plan to attend the meetings, and we will push them to put "teeth" in the rules to prevent further violations.

● For the second straight year, we discussed these and other issues during a roundtable session at the BCS Championship Game. For more than an hour, FWAA members, conference officials and sports information directors gathered to discuss various issues.

● Along the same lines, the second annual FWAA/National Football Founda- tion Forum will take place May 14-15 in Fort Lauderdale. This will bring together a group of conference and college administrators and coaches with media to discuss issues related to the game. A year ago in Grapevine, Texas, we heard them and they heard us and the exchange was positive. Details of this year's forum are still being worked out, but expect a similar lineup and format. And consider this a significant baby step.

● John Humenik, executive director of CoSIDA, is a solid ally in our push for more access. Again this year we'll send a representative to that group's annual meeting. Also, recognizing the difficult dance that's often performed by SIDs, we'll work with Humenik to revive a tradition of recognizing very best in the profession. Former FWAA president Mike Griffith will chair the committee, which will first develop a list of criteria for the honor, which has a working title of the "Super 11."

● As I said earlier, Ron Higgins will remain involved, building on some of the momentum created in 2008. He's a member of an SEC media committee composed of journalists, conference and school officials. He'll also chair an FWAA ethics committee that will develop a code of conduct for members. The Knight Foundation's Malcolm Moran, a former national college football writer, will also serve on the committee.

These are just a few of the ways the FWAA will keep pushing in 2009. We've got a few more baby steps before we can get to work on world peace.

FWAA president George Schroeder covers college football for The Register-Guard in Eugene, Ore. He can be reached at gschroeder@aol.com.

Schroeder becomes FWAA's 66th president

George Schroeder, columnist for The Register-Guard of Eugene, Ore., ascended to the presidency of the FWAA on Jan. 8 at the association's annual awards breakfast in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He is the 66th president of the FWAA.

Schroeder, 40, has served as First and Second Vice-President of the FWAA. He has been instrumental in the association attaining and maintaining its Marriott VIP cards. He also has run the highly successful FWAA-Fed Ex Courage Award program in recent years.

"I love college football," Schroeder said. "It has always been my passion. There's nothing better than 12 fall Saturdays and then the bowl season. What's cool is I've been able to cover the Big 12, SEC and now the Pac-10 to see how college football is played in different parts of the country. It's different, but it's more alike than we usually recognize."

Schroeder got his start at his hometown newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat- Gazette. in the summer of 1990. His career began with a summer internship secured because of impressive credentials and superlative geography. Wally Hall, the Democrat-Gazette's sports editor and the FWAA's 2003 President, lived next door.

Schroeder grew up a Razorback fan and developed a passion for college football. He attended the Jan. 1, 1980, Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. After the Razorbacks lost to Alabama, 24-9, young George still got down on the field and was soaking up the atmosphere of the Louisiana Superdome. Some Alabama fraternity brothers snatched off his head a plastic Hog Hat, which he had received as a Christmas present. His father twice had to run the ornery Tide fans down and retrieve it.

These days, Schroeder's son has laid claim to the Hog Hat.

After working at the Arkansas newspaper for nearly a decade, 1999 Schroeder moved to The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City in 1999. He spent seven years covering University of Oklahoma football and the Big 12 Conference. The Sooners won the first 20 games Schroeder covered as the Oklahoma beat writer, including a 13-0 mark in the national championship year of 2000.

"I have covered a national championship, but also a probation and an NCAA investigation," Schroeder said of the Sooners.

Schroeder, a University of Oklahoma graduate, moved to Eugene in August 2007. He bravely loaded up the kids and wife and made a four-day trek to his new home. Always a runner, Schroeder is in running heaven now where urban trails and Olympic-class runners abound. He has completed six marathons, which is to say he has crossed the finish line without collapsing after 26.2 miles.

He has run four marathons in Oklahoma City, one in Little Rock and one in Eugene. This May, he plans to run another one in Oregon.

Schroeder has written one book Hogs, A History: The Story of Razorbacks Football. He has placed often in FWAA Best Writing and Associated Press Sports Editor (APSE) contests. In 2007, he was named one of APSE's Top 10 columnists in the 40,000-100,000 circulation category. He also covered the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

In the offseason, Schroeder enjoys exploring the Pacific Northwest with his wife, Shannon, and two children, nine-year-old Elizabeth and seven-year-old George. But he is always ready for college football to crank up in the fall.

"My favorite thing is on a Saturday night when the stadium is so loud it is shaking, and you are, too," Schroeder said.

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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