The Fifth Down

President's column: Fight for access goes on

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Tim Griffin

I saw first-hand a few weeks ago when Texas lost to Alabama in the Bowl Championship Series title game why the fight for our access is so important.

The BCS games, thankfully, are different than most all of college football. Some media members would call them trips to Fantasyland.

Normally, after a Texas or Alabama game during the regular season, we would have been held out of either locker room. Closed locker rooms are the rule during the regular season and have been for many years.

But BCS rules state that post-game locker rooms, after short cooling off periods, are supposed to be open for 30 minutes. When the gathered press corps at the Texas locker room was told interviews would be outside in the hall, several veteran reporters familiar with the BCS rules wouldn't budge. It led to all of us having the opportunity to do our jobs and some fine reporting after the game.

In this issue of The Fifth Down:
President's column: Fight for access goes on
Patterson named Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year
FWAA selects 9th annual Freshman All-America Team
Mickle named posthumous winner of Bert McGrane Award
Alabama claims Grantland Rice Trophy
Kansan wins Volney Meece Scholarship
UConn wins FedEx Orange Bowl Courage Award

Now, if it could just be as easy during the rest of the season.

Access is by far the biggest issue that faces our profession today. With the proliferation of media sources helping to make college football more popular than ever before, it's tougher to get the basic access to players and coaches that we need to do our jobs.

During the 25 years I've been in the business, things have gradually gotten away from us. Open locker rooms used to be the rule across college football as they are in most professional sports. It used to be on Friday nights or after the games, many head coaches were even accessible at informal social hours and hospitality rooms. Now, we're lucky to get 10 minutes in a group interview with the men who are working in their jobs today. How times have changed.

And with it getting tougher and tougher to do our jobs, I think it's vastly important that we recognize the sports information departments that go the extra mile to help us.

With that in mind, we'll be awarding our first "Super 11" to the top sports information departments in the country. We hope this award becomes coveted and is a measure that sets apart the very best in the business for the work they do. A blue-ribbon panel of selectors from across the country will convene to determine those who will earn our first awards, which will be presented later this spring.

Another plan will be to honor the memory of former Tallahassee Democrat reporter Steve Ellis, who passed away last November. Ellis was a tenacious but fair beat reporter covering Florida State for nearly 30 years, including 19 at the Democrat.

We want to remember Steve by honoring the nation's very best beat writer. It's something that our organization should do.

Heading into 2010, the FWAA has never been in better shape. More people than ever are covering college football. And thankfully, many of them see the benefits of joining our organization that extend past a Marriott discount card or free access to recruiting websites.

When we work together, we're able to fight for the common good of the profession. It has resulted in open locker rooms at BCS games.

Hopefully, that will only be the start.

Before we start with 2010, we need to look back at the job that Gina Chappin did at the BCS title game with her staff from the Rose Bowl. From the daily e-mails of post practice and arrival quotes from each team to the police-escorted shuttles to the stadium, she should be congratulated. Personal thanks for her holding that last bus as Chris Low and I hammered out our final stories well past even West Coast deadlines for a certain large national website. My gratitude is immense.

I'd like to congratulate my predecessor George Schroeder for all that he has done as he served as FWAA's president. He has set a high standard for me to follow.

I'm excited and honored to have been selected for this position. When I look at some of the names of the legends of our profession who have preceded me, I'm humbled by the opportunity to follow in what they have done.

The 2010 season will mark my 25th season covering college football. I've seen it gradually evolve over the years from the days when clunky couplers were needed to send a story to today where wireless access is a necessity. It has been fun seeing most aspects change.

I just hope that the crusty old-timers from this era won't be sitting back a few years from now talking about how the access got away from us over the years.

You may contact me at timgriffin@satx.rr.com.

Griffin becomes FWAA's 67th president

Tim Griffin, a veteran of Big 12 Conference reporting since its inception in 1996, has ascended to the FWAA's presidency for the 2010 season. Griffin became the association's 67th president and assumed his duties at the FWAA's annual awards breakfast on Jan. 7 in Newport Beach, Calif.

The 50-year-old Griffin has worked for ESPN.com the past two years covering the Big 12 Conference. Working tirelessly for the 24-hour blogging operation, Griffin has enhanced his reputation as a mad-dog reporter in Texas and in the Big 12 region.

From 1986-2008, he was a star sports reporter for the San Antonio Express- News, where he covered college and professional sports. Since the beginning of the Big 12, he covered that assignment for the paper until moving to ESPN.com.

Before the Big 12 was formed, Griffin worked as national college football and basketball reporter and columnist at the Express-News. He also covered professional baseball and football and sports business. By estimates of Express-News editors, Griffin has more than 7,000 bylines in Express-News archives during his nearly a quarter-of-a-century stay at the paper. That makes him one of the most prolific writers in the paper's history.

Before joining the sports department at the Express-News, Griffin was a news reporter at the same paper from 1984-86 and covered the police beat, general assignments and education. At the time, the Express-News and the San Antonio Light were embroiled in a newspaper war where work ethic was important in breaking stories.

"I always took pride in my work ethic," Griffin said. "I may not have been the most creative writer at turning a phrase, but no one was going to outwork me."

Born in Campbellsville, Ky., Griffin also resided in Bowling Green, Ky., Carmi, Ill., and Terre Haute, Ind., before his family settled in Memphis.

Griffin started his love affair with newspapers when he was in fifth grade in Memphis.

"My parents never let me read a morning paper because they knew if I ever did, I wouldn't get ready for school," Griffin said.

In those days, Memphis had an afternoon newspaper, The Press-Scimitar, so that is the newspaper he would grab after school.

He attended Memphis State starting in 1977. In 1980 he was awarded the Memphis Gridiron Club's Mike McGee Memorial Scholarship. He graduated a year later with a B.A in Journalism (cum laude) from Memphis State.

Upon graduation Griffin began his newspaper career at the Temple (Texas) Daily Telegram. He was a news reporter and covered general assignments, police, business, city government and regional stories. In 1983 he moved to the Plano (Texas) Daily Star-Courier and reported on education for two years before he wound up in San Antonio.

Over the years, Griffin has been a contributor to other media as well. Currently he makes regular appearances on radio all over Big 12 country, including stations in San Antonio, Kansas City, Omaha, Oklahoma City and Des Moines. He also has been a correspondent and columnist for Baseball America (1993-95) and SI.com (1999- 2001) and is currently a featured contributor for Dave Campbell's Texas Football Magazine.

Griffin resides in San Antonio with his wife, DeDee, and 5-year-old son, Bradley.

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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