Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register.
DALLAS (FWAA)-- Randy Peterson, long-time writer for the Des Moines Register, has been named the FWAA's Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for the 2023 season, it was announced today.
The FWAA's Lifetime Achievement Award is given to an individual who has been an FWAA member or someone close to the organization who has contributed greatly to either college football, the writing profession or the FWAA itself during his or her career.
"Randy truly has been an institution in Iowa where he has covered the Big Eight, Big Ten, Missouri Valley and Big 12 at different times over the last 50 years," said Steve Richardson, FWAA Executive Director. "There are probably some other conferences I have forgotten about that he has covered--all at the same paper. If anybody in the state of Iowa involved in sports doesn't know Randy, then I really question whether they live in Iowa. He has been on the front page of the Des Moines Register Sports Section longer than many Iowans have been alive."
Peterson joins an illustrious list of 11 previous FWAA Lifetime Achievement winners: Art Spander, San Francisco Examiner (2013); Bill Little, University of Texas (2014); Irv Moss, Denver Post (2015); Buddy Davis, Ruston Daily Leader (2016); Mike Finn, ACC (2017); Dave Plati, University of Colorado (2018); Paul Hoolahan, Sugar Bowl, and Wright Waters, Football Bowl Association (2019); Sid Hartman, Minneapolis Star-Tribune (2020); Shelly Poe, Auburn University, (2021) and Donald Hunt, Philadelphia Tribune (2022).
"You cannot imagine how surprised and honored I was when I was told I was joining this list," Peterson said. "I grew up reading and then working alongside Des Moines Register legends Maury White and Buck Turnbull...both former long-time FWAA members. I saw the way they interacted with other writers while covering games throughout the country, all of whom were FWAA members. I couldn't wait to become a fulltime college writer--to join this group and to share that commerarderie. As I near the end of this journey, I will always remember the FWAA."
Peterson lives in a city and state that is dominated by high school, college and minor league sports, specifically college basketball and football rule, with wrestling somewhere in the mix. Peterson graduated from Drake in 1973 as a journalist. But he was into sports writing well before that because of his mother.
"Ink was in my blood probably at birth," said Peterson, who has been an FWAA member for more than 30 years. "My mother started working in the Register's advertising department shortly after I was born. She worked late on Thursday and Friday nights, finalizing the ads for the Sunday paper. After that job was finished, she sometimes took me to the fourth-floor newsroom, where I was immediately mesmerized by the night-time newsroom culture, especially in the sports department. I was hooked.
"Shortly after I started as a Register part time while attending Drake University, the sports editor told me to get out to Drake_to interview Maury John (men's basketball coach) about an upcoming basketball game. I thought I'd pee my pants while driving to the school I actually attended, but I managed my way through it. The sports editor, Leighton Housh, said, 'Son, you just might have a future in this business--once you stop ending sentences in a preposition.'"
Peterson started his career when the Register's "Big Peach" was flourishing.The Sunday Sports Section was known as that because it was printed on peach-colored paper, setting the Register apart from other papers.
"We proudly not only covered Iowa and Iowa State. but we covered every Big Eight and Big Ten football game back in the day," Peterson said. "We had reporters all over the country on most football Saturdays. We had the staff and the financial resources to do it. Budgets became smaller, staffs were cut, the price of peach newsprint soared so high that it was no longer a part of The Sunday Register, and like others, we gradually scaled back our coverage. We still cover Iowa State and Iowa football and basketball home-and-away. So I guess all is not doom and gloom. We don't do it on peach paper. That ceased in 1981 for the daily sports section and in 1999 for The Sunday Big Peach."
Over the years, Peterson has covered his share of big football and basketball games. None was probably more memorable than the Iowa-Iowa State basketball game in 2015, during which he suffered a broken leg going to the press room when fans rushed the court and he was caught up in the celebration in Ames.
"The Cyclones rallied from 20 down to win, 83-82," Peterson recalled. "Fans stormed the court, and at Hilton, reporters have to walk across the court to get to to the work room/media area. Well, as I was carrying my laptop, cell phone, notebook and pen. I was jostled. I ended up breaking the tibia and fibula in my left leg--laptop as busted as my leg. For some reason, it made national news..."
Reporters across the country reached out for interviews. Peterson said he granted most of them and the most-asked question was: "What do you think about court storming?" His response: "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was something that happened during that spontaneous passion we all love about college athletics."
Peterson said he never thought of doing anything other than sports writing. He wrote for the East High School newspaper in Des Moines followed by the Drake student newspaper and then the Des Moines Register in 1972, and has been there ever since. "I had no desire to ever leave, especially considering my wife was a pharmacist after growing up in the corner drug store that her family owned.
"Fifty-one years at one place probably is unheard of these days and especially in these days of layoffs, and I couldn't have done any of this without a supportive familys," Peterson added. "I have been fortunate enough to escape that (layoffs), while also agonizing over the losses of so many wonderful journalists. I've been through eight sports editors, some better than others. I've worked with a lot of great people, and as for mentors--Buck Turnbull was always there to answer my questions. Michael Gartner, former editor of the Register whose journalistic background is more extensive than anyone I know taught me a lot, too. Mostly, though, I learned by watching others."
Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or firstname.lastname@example.org.