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Vol. 47, No. 3 • March 2010 • .pdf version
Byers, Myslenski, Withers enter USBWA's Hall of Fame
The U.S. Basketball Writers Association will induct into its Hall of Fame two writers who covered the NCAA for most of their lives and a former sports writer who was the NCAA for more than 30 years.
Longtime Chicago Tribune writer Skip Myslenski, Bud Withers of the Seattle Times and former NCAA executive director Walter Byers are members of the USBWA's Hall of Fame Class of 2010.
Myslenski worked for the Tribune from 1978-2008, after a total of 11 years with the Rochester Times-Union, Sports Illustrated and the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was named the Tribune's national college basketball writer in 1988. After a two-year retirement, Myslenski returned to sportswriting last fall as a contributor to Northwestern's nusports.com.
Myslenski has covered nine Olympic Games, multiple Final Fours and Super Bowls, the original 1992 Dream Team, the NBA Finals during the Michael Jordan era of the Chicago Bulls, the Ali-Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle" on Oct. 30, 1974, the Ali-Frazier III "Thrilla in Manila" on Sept. 30, 1975, and Northwestern football and basketball on-and-off for the last decade.
Withers has been a sports writer for three Northwest newspapers since 1970 and has covered college basketball in Oregon and Washington for 39 years, including 20 NCAA Final Fours and three Olympic Games. He worked at the Eugene Register-Guard from 1970-87 and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1987-99 and has been at the Seattle Times since 1999.
He was USBWA president in 1992-93. The thrust of the organization then was greater access to both the Division I men's basketball committee and to game officials, who hadn't been subject to reporter questions after controversial situations in the NCAA Tournament.
Withers co-authored a biography of Ralph M iller ("Spanning the Game") in 1991. He also authored "Bravehearts ... The Against-All-Odds Rise of Gonzaga Basketball" in 2002. A regular contributor to Basketball Times, Withers has been named 11 times in the annual USBWA writing contest, including five first-place finishes. He was honored by APSE for a 1989 story detailing Princeton's epic near-upset of Georgetown in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He has been named "Sportswriter of the Year" in both Oregon and Washington.
Byers, the first executive director of the NCAA, served in that role from 1951-88. He was instrumental in the formation of the USBWA in 1956 and in the development of the NCAA Tournament.
Byers also was a former sports writer.
According to a Sports Illustrated profile on Byers in 1986: "Two interesting facts about Byers. He is no admirer of the press, even though he started out as a journalist. And, although he's been the No. 1 man in intercollegiate sports for almost four decades, he doesn't have a college diploma – not that he needed one.
"Byers spent one year at Rice in 1940 before transferring to the University of Iowa, where he majored in English and minored in journalism. He worked for the student newspaper, the Daily Iowan, and it was there that he met his first wife, Marilyn McCurdy. Byers needed only nine hours to graduate when he quit school in 1943 and enlisted in the Army; he was eventually discharged because of an affliction known as "wandering eye."
It is not particularly noticeable today but, upon close inspection, his left eye appears crossed and his eyes do not "track" correctly; he has worn glasses since he was 18 months old. Those close to him say he doesn't like to talk about his eye condition, but back in 1958 he joked to the Kansas City Star. "The Army was afraid I'd shoot the wrong person. When I went to the Navy and Marines after that, they just laughed at me."
After his discharge he went to work for United Press (as it was then called) in St. Louis.
"United Press moved him to Madison, Wis., Chicago and, finally, to New York City, where he was editor of the foreign sports desk. Byers' journalistic background is evident in his careful use of language. He rarely stumbles. "We have an intraoffice file on that," he'll say. If he doesn't exactly have the soul of an old newspaperman – once he left the profession, he never looked back – he at least has the heart. He does his work on a vintage black Royal typewriter. "I wouldn't think of using an electric," he says.
The three will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during the USBWA's annual Monday morning breakfast during the Final Four, April 5 in Indianapolis.
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