The Fifth Down

President's column: Marriott moving in a new direction

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Tim Griffin

A change in philosophy by the Marriott Company is ending the Athletic VIP program for FWAA members.

I figure that I've stayed in Marriott properties for a combined total of more than two years in my life. So, the Marriott Athletic VIP Card is something I have held close to my heart.

Almost every sportswriter who travels has a certain amount of brand affinity. Marriott was able to seize upon that fact to become a leader in the field. As such, some members considered acquiring a Marriott VIP Card as one of the most important perks of FWAA membership.

Immediate Past FWAA president George Schroeder has overseen the Marriott account for us for several years. Along with Joe Mitch, the United States Basketball Writers Association executive director, they have started negotiations for a new arrangement with Marriott that would be tailored to our two organizations. Several of the current cards expire in January 2011, and some not until July 2011.

The hotel business apparently is struggling, at least considering the correspondence that I repeatedly see from the various companies. So you would think Marriott officials would be seeking to fill their rooms, even with discounts.

In this issue of The Fifth Down:
Griffin: Marriott moving in a new direction
Coach of the Year Award move changes FWAA calendar
Nagurski Legend: Mike McCoy

But the rooms set aside for the special VIP rates are getting to be more difficult to find (particularly during peak periods in some premier destinations) because there are so many VIP card holders. The program was originally set up for sports executives and coaches. With the addition of writers groups, the competition for the rates has grown.

"Each hotel decides how they are going to parcel those rooms out," Schroeder said. "We thought we had a deal in good faith to continue the pro- President's column gram. Joe and I are very disappointed and the fact they didn't tell us until a couple of months after the fact."

The FWAA has been a good partner for Marriott over the years. All of the BCS bowls games now use Marriott properties for the media through our insistence. That deal has provided Marriott with an inventory of thousands of hotel nights during that period over the years.

Apparently, those figures don't resonate with the hotel's bean counters as much as we all would like.

Schroeder remains confident that some kind of program will be worked out with Marriott. He's also open to hooking up with another hotel chain regardless of what happens with Marriott.

The hotel discount is only a portion of an array of products that are provided with FWAA membership. The membership to Rivals.com is worth more than the cost of yearly membership. There are also deals in place for preseason yearbooks, computer security devices, rental cars and a clothing line among others.

For the fifth straight year, the FWAA and the Discover Orange Bowl will announce a weekly nominee for the Discover Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award each Wednesday during the season for an athlete who overcomes adversity in his college football career. The yearly recipient of the Courage Award will be announced in December and presented with a trophy in conjunction with this year's Discover Orange Bowl. Any potential nominees should be sent to George Schroeder. You may contact him at gschroeder@aol.com.

We're also looking for recommendations for the best and brightest among the sports information directors across the country. Let me or Steve Richardson know if you've been impressed with the work of an SID staff, or if you think one might be lacking.

We're interested to know what you think.

You may contact me at my new location back at my old newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, which I rejoined in late September. My new e-mail is tgriffin@express-news.net.

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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