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Vol. 52, No. 3 • March 2015 • .pdf version
Bradley, Burwell: Class of 1977 to Hall of Fame
By PAT FORDE
It might not have been clear at the time, but 1977 was a very good year for college basketball journalism.
That's when Mark Bradley and Bryan Burwell both graduated from college and began their careers as sports writers. Bradley graduated from Kentucky and Burwell from Virginia State, and what followed were decades of insightful, thought-provoking, picture-painting stories by the two men. They both became prominent general columnists at major metropolitan newspapers, covering a wide array of topics – but as their careers expanded, both still held a special passion for college basketball.
They have covered the sport with humor, with wonder, with enjoyment, and when necessary with caustic fearlessness. Those who deserved praise received it from Bradley and Burwell; those who deserved criticism received that as well. They wrote with distinction.
For that reason, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association is proud to announce them as the USBWA Hall of Fame Class of 2014. Thirty-seven years after graduation, it's high time for an induction.
There are no words to adequately express the sadness in the USBWA community over the fact that Bryan will not be present at the Final Four for his induction. Cancer claimed him on Dec. 4 – robbing Dawn Burwell of her husband and Victoria of her father. Two months prior to that, it was decided that Burwell, a past USBWA president, was a slam-dunk Hall of Fame nominee. He richly deserves the honor of being the first African-American member of the USBWA Hall, and it is an immeasurable shame that his peers will not be treated in Indianapolis to his broad smile, deep laugh and good cheer.
As Burwell's colleague at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bernie Miklasz, wrote: "Now that Bryan is gone, the press box will never be as warm again. It will be a much quieter place. … This is impossible, and this is cruel, and this is crushing. But I do know this: The familiar echo of that sweet, soul-replenishing laughter will always live in our hearts. He'll never really leave us."
In a profession rife with complainers, Burwell didn't go there. He was excited about that day's assignment, always energized by the task of finding that day's story angle, always curious to learn what made that day's subject tick. He covered all the pro sports with that verve, but it also was there in equal measure when the topic was college basketball. Didn't matter if it was the Final Four or the Missouri Valley Conference tournament quarterfinals, Bryan was happy to be there – covering the game, ready to dive into the task of writing a compelling column.
Bradley shared a similar devotion to the craft, starting out at The Cats' Pause – a Kentucky fan magazine – for $125 a week. He was fired after his first football season, ostensibly because publisher Oscar Combs couldn't afford Bradley's lavish salary at a start-up publication.
That launched Bradley into newspapers. The Maysville, Ky., native worked for the Lexington Herald-Leader for six years. He has worked for the the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for more than three decades.
"I was 26, and you kind of wonder whether you can hit big-league pitching," Bradley said of the move to Atlanta. "The AJC was one of the big places to go."
Bradley quickly found out he could hit big-league pitching to all fields, and with power. What started as a job writing takeouts with one column per week quickly became a full-time column gig, and Bradley excelled as translating his dry wit into print.
Living in a football hotbed, Bradley succeeded in doing the highly improbable – he got the South to care about college basketball. He opined on Georgia and Georgia Tech, and their respective conferences, in such an interesting manner that once-apathetic fans gravitated to him as the region's go-to voice on college hoops.
Married for more than three decades to wife Penny and with two daughters (Rachel and Elizabeth) and a granddaughter (Allison), Bradley spends most of his writing time chronicling Atlanta's pro sports teams and the local college football programs. But he still makes time for college basketball in his coverage schedule.
"When I go to a college basketball game, I kind of feel like this is what I grew up doing," he said. "It never feels like this is something unimportant. If I did ever make a reputation as a writer – and I'm still trying to do that – a lot of it has had to do with covering college basketball."
Mark Bradley and Bryan Burwell both have earned gilded reputations for their work covering the game. From the college graduating Class of 1977 to the USBWA Hall of Fame Class of 2015, they make a great pair.
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