DALLAS (FWAA) – David Ubben
of The Athletic has been named the recipient of the first annual
Edward Aschoff Rising Star Award, which is presented
by the Football Writers Association of America and named after the
beloved ESPN college football reporter who died this past Christmas
Eve on his 34th birthday from previously undetected Stage 4 non-Hodgkin's
lymphoma in his lungs.
In honor of Aschoff, a bright light in the sports journalism
industry, the FWAA decided to annually recognize one promising journalist
no older than 34, who has not only the talent and work ethic it
takes to succeed in this business, but also the passion to make
it better. Aschoff, a 2008 graduate of the University of Florida,
loved people, and even as his career at ESPN escalated, he still
guided and befriended younger journalists along the way.
Ubben, a 2009 University of Missouri graduate, covers the University
of Tennessee Volunteers football team.
"David Ubben's growth as a reporter and writer, plus his passion
for college football that was shared by our friend Ed, embodied
everything we were looking for," said ESPN.com's Heather Dinich,
FWAA first vice president and chairman of the five-person Selection
Committee. "There were so many amazing, talented candidates to choose
from, which was a challenge for us, but a great sign for the future
of our industry."
"Ed was my friend and colleague," Ubben said. "We had a lot in
common, but he was much cooler than I am and infinitely more well-dressed.
Watching him climb the ladder at ESPN was so thrilling and seeing
him live out his dreams in this business made me so happy for him.
Anyone who knew him would say the same. Nobody deserved it more.
Winning an award named for him is such an honor, and I want to do
work the rest of my career he'd be proud of. I miss his random texts
checking in on me. I miss his jokes. I miss his innate ability to
always take his work seriously and never take himself seriously.
I miss wasting time with him in the press box before games we were
both blessed enough to be covering. I miss his work. It's badly
needed in college football today.
"Thank you to whoever nominated me and thank you to the panel
that voted to select me. Rising star only begins to describe Ed.
Like he did, I want to pass down what I've learned, make this profession
better and do what I can to make sure there are plenty of other
Ed Aschoffs writing about college football in the decades to come."
Ubben, the FWAA's second vice-president, has covered Tennessee
football for The Athletic since May of 2018. After graduating from
Missouri in 2009 he was the Oklahoma Sooners beat writer for The
Oklahoman before leaving to write about Big 12 football at ESPN.com
for three and half years. He then spent another two years at Fox
Sports Southwest writing columns about Big 12 sports and serving
as a television analyst for the network. In 2015, Ubben was a freelancer
and wrote for a variety of outlets including Sports on Earth and
The Athletic, while also launching his own podcast.
In 2018, he took a job as the college insider and editor at Dave
Campbell's Texas Football before moving from Dallas to Knoxville
later that year to join The Athletic full-time. He lives there now
with his wife and their golden retriever puppy. Ubben also serves
as an adjunct lecturer for The School of Journalism and Electronic
Media at the University of Tennessee.
"In two years on the notoriously access-restrictive Tennessee
beat, David has already separated himself from everybody else, taking
a unique and refreshing approach to churn out off-the-beaten path
features, critical analysis and informative background stories about
a program that has had an uneven run on and off the field during
his time covering the Volunteers," said fellow staffer at The Athletic,
Fortuna added: "Embodying the spirit of his former ESPN.com colleague
Edward, David attacks every day with enthusiasm, never letting the
pushback from the Vols or their fanbase drag him down' , the way
it often does with so many in our business (myself included). He
has made many of us re-think the traditional way we have gone about
beat writing, especially with the way he always goes the extra mile.
And he has proven himself to be more than capable of stepping outside
of the day-to-day comfort zone of his beat, as evidenced by his
Here are four of Ubben's stories:
Feature on UT assistant Brian Niedermeyer, in which Ubben traveled
all the way to Alaska to profile an assistant who was forbidden
from talking on the record
Feature on UT receiver Grant Frerking, who is also the CEO of a
million dollar company
All-access with Chattanooga, which provided readers with a behind-the-scenes
account of how to scheme for UT
Re-visiting what was almost the Pac-16, which threatened to turn
college sports as we know it on its head
Remembering Ed Aschoff
Aschoff moved to Los Angeles in 2017 to begin a more expanded
national role that included television coverage. Over the past three
seasons, he reported from campuses across the country for ESPN.com,
SportsCenter, SEC Network and ESPN Radio, and he worked as a television
and radio sideline reporter during college football games.
During the 2015 college football season, Aschoff and ESPN.com
colleague Adam Rittenberg were winners in the FWAA's annual best
writing contest for their enterprise piece, "The racial impact of
Eric Striker." Contest judge Michael Weinreb called it, "An eye-opening,
surprisingly frank and timely examination about how college football
is affected by issues of race and identity."
Aschoff inspired us through his storytelling, brightened our
lives with his gregarious personality, and uplifted our spirits
with his energy. The FWAA hopes to honor his memory and his commitment
to aspiring journalists with this award.
"Edward epitomized everything you want in a sports journalist:
He knew how to build relationships, to gain trust, to break stories
but also to tell stories," said ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson. "And
he did it all with a flair that made you want to watch his television
pieces or read his written stories right away. His dogged determination
and relentless work ethic allowed him to rise to the top at ESPN,
and all his exemplary qualities serve as a model for young journalists
everywhere about what truly can be achieved if you go after what
The University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications
has established the Edward Aschoff Memorial Fund, which will provide
support for students involved in sports journalism.
"Edward was one of our stars – not just because he was so talented
as a journalist and storyteller, but also because of everything
he did to help people around him. He always had a good word of advice
for young journalists, he was always willing to give back, and he
always made people smile," said Ted Spiker, chair of the department
of journalism at the University of Florida who taught Edward in
several classes at UF.
Jordan McPherson, a student reporter at Florida from 2013-17
who is now covering the Miami Marlins for the Miami Herald, said
Aschoff helped him on several occasions.
"He was a pro's pro and touched my life with just a few brief
interactions that he didn't have to make," McPherson said. "His
positivity was infectious, his ability to mentor through simple
conversation was second to none. He will be missed, but always be
Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of 1,300 men and women who cover college football.
The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key
executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas
that include game-day operations, major awards and its annual All-America team.
For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson
Give to the Edward Aschoff Memorial Fund at the University of Florida
Feb. 13: FWAA creates new award in
memory of Edward Aschoff