The Fifth Down

Explaining the FWAA awards process

By Steve Richardson / FWAA Executive Director

From time to time I get calls and e-mails from FWAA members and also those outside the association about our awards process. So, here is an explanation.

The FWAA's structure was set in motion decades ago and seems to have stood the test of time. No process is perfect, but this one tends to be solid, with good representation and good transparency.

Why does the FWAA not have semifinalists for awards? We do not do position awards (quarterback, running back, defensive back). Those kinds of awards lend themselves better to watch lists as well as a semifinalist list because they are comparing apples with apples. Our two individual player awards, the Nagurski (Best Defensive Player) and Outland (Best Interior Lineman), cover several positions. The five finalists for the Nagurski and three for the Outland also come from our 25-man All-America team. In effect, once each side of the ball is chosen in November in two separate calls separated by a week, those people (the 11 on defense for the Nagurski) and the (five to eight linemen on offense and defense for the Outland) could be considered semifinalists in the end, but cannot be pre-announced say in early November, because we have not voted on the team.

In this issue of The Fifth Down:
President's column: Job cuts and other nightmares
FWAA Awards Q&A
2008 All-America Committee
Lodge Notes

The FWAA selects just one All-America team. Why? We have two conference calls. And it is difficult enough to get busy writers to take time out of their schedules to select one team effectively let alone two. That is one reason. The other reason is schools cannot say or imply a player was a first-team FWAA All-America when he, in reality, was second team. If we select just one team, then a player is either an FWAA All-America or he is not. There is no ambiguity.

How is the All-America team chosen? Every FWAA member will get two ballots, one for offense and one for defense in November. They are emailed to the FWAA members separately. At that point, each member is encouraged to fill out the ballots for the 11 best defenders by position, the three best special team players (included with the offensive ballot) and the 11 best offensive players. FWAA members are encouraged to e-mail the ballot (s) to the person on the FWAA All-America Committee from their conference or national representative by certain staggered dates. All 11 leagues and the independents have a representative on the committee. The ballots are only one instrument committee members use in casting their votes by position. They observe games, look at statistics, talk to players and coaches and other football support personnel as well as receive information from the schools.

Do SIDS need FWAA mailing lists? The FWAA encourages SIDs to send information to the committee members. Sending big mail outs to all the members may or may not be effective. Choosing the smaller group may be more cost effective. The FWAA encourages SIDs to know the person on the committee who is their representative. In this way, the SID is actually communicating with the person who has the most influence in choosing the team. Casting a big net, may not catch more fish, so to speak.

What happens as the team is selected? When are finalists and the winners chosen for the individual awards? We will announce the five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski in mid November. They will come from the 11- man defensive side of the ball. The committee will then select a winner by secret ballot as the month progresses. The three Outland Trophy finalists are selected about week later and then announced. The winner of the Outland Trophy is then selected by secret ballot of the committee. The winner of the Bronko Nagurski will be announced at a banquet on Dec. 7 in Charlotte, N.C. Four days later, the winner of the Outland Trophy will be announced in Orlando.

Why does the FWAA team sometimes look different? Maybe one year there are three wide receivers, for example, and only one running back. Sometimes there may not be a tight end: The committee has the authority to put the best 11 players in the country on the team on one side of the ball. The FWAA believes the team should be able to play on the field. But with the proliferation of spread offenses and one-back sets, some years the team will look different if teams with the top individual players run those kind of offenses or, for instance, it is a particularly poor year for tight ends or running backs.

The Outland Trophy considers interior linemen. Explain which positions are eligible: Tight ends or defensive ends are not eligible. On offense, tackles, guards and centers are considered. On defense, tackles and guards (nose guards) are considered for the award. If a player switches from one position, say from end to tackle on defense or vice-versa during the season, then a determination would have to (Continued from page 1) be made about his eligibility. If a player played tackle as a junior and then moved to end as a senior, he would not be eligible for the Outland Trophy his senior season. The Outland Trophy is based on only the performance of the current season.

What is the FWAA's position on putting freshmen on the team? Some awards groups shy away from giving awards to freshmen: The FWAA has and will continue to consider and place true freshmen or redshirt freshmen on the All-America team as well as consider them for individual awards. The 2007 FWAA All-America team was one of the youngest in history. Picking a team based on academic class is dangerous because a player might have a great freshman year and then get hurt and never play again. That player should not be penalized.

How important are pre-season watch lists? Players play their way on to the FWAA All-America team and ultimate consideration for the FWAA's individual awards. Appearing on a pre-season Watch List has no bearing on the committee's consideration. Those players who are capable will rise to the top. SIDs, if they are in contact with members of the committee, should be able to effectively state the case of a player regardless whether he is on a Watch List.


Nov. 10: All-America defense ballots sent to membership
Nov. 16: All-America defense selection committee call
Nov. 16: All-America offense/special teams ballots sent to membership
Nov. 17: Announcement of five Bronko Nagurski Trophy finalists
Nov. 23: All-America offense/special teams selection committee call
Nov. 24: Announcement of three Outland Trophy finalists
Dec. 7: Bronko Nagurski Trophy presentation (Charlotte, N.C.)
Dec. 10: Announcement of Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year finalists; ballot sent to membership
Dec. 11: Announcement of Outland Trophy winner (Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Show)
Dec. 13: Announcement of 25-man FWAA All-America Team (ABC-TV)
Jan. 6: Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year presentation/reception (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Jan. 8: FedEx Orange Bowl Courage Award presentation (Tentative, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Jan. 9: Grantland Rice Trophy presentation (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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