Tennessee’s athletic media relations staff was honored by the Football Writers Association of America Tuesday, earning “Super 11” distinction as one of the best performing sports information departments in the Football Bowl Subdivision for the 2016 season.
Tennessee is receiving the honor—which has been awarded by the FWAA every year since 2009—for the first time. UT is the only SEC school to earn Super 11 distinction in 2016 and joins staffs at Air Force, Arkansas State, Clemson, Colorado, Miami (Ohio), Navy, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, USC and UTEP.
During the 2016 season, the UT media relations team for football was made up of Senior Associate Athletic Director for Communications Ryan Robinson and assistant directors MJ Burns, Stephen K. Lee and Kellen Hiser.
Tennessee's complete media relations staff includes eight full-time SIDs who are assisted by a pair of graduate assistants and several student interns.
“We are so fortunate to have a strong media relations staff that works directly with our football program,” UT head football coach Butch Jones said. “This was a staff that had a lot of demands on them in 2016, including all the logistics with our Battle at Bristol game against Virginia Tech. We are fortunate as coaches and players to have a staff that looks out for our best interest and keeps a professional working relationship with our local and national media. They understand the needs of the media on a daily basis and work long hours to make sure all media members are updated on our program. I’m really happy for everybody that was a part of this award, because the majority of their work is done behind the scenes.”
Former Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs shared Jones' enthusiasm upon learning of Tuesday's announcement.
"I'm excited about them receiving this award," Dobbs said of UT's media relations team. "They definitely did an outstanding job of teaching, prepping and showing me how share my thoughts concisely. They also worked with me on promoting my brand and the brand of the Tennessee program.
"They are the best at what they do--hands down."
Tim Griffin of Cox Communications is a former FWAA president who heads the Super 11 committee.
"Our organization believes this award is one of the most important tasks that we do each year," Griffin said. "There are many outstanding SID staffs across the country. But these 11 departments we are honoring are consistently exemplary beyond expectations. We hope these awards help to showcase them."
Criteria employed in determining the winners not only included how press boxes and media operations were operated, but also the quality and timeliness of information provided. Also judged was the amount of information presented and appropriately updated on websites, and personal responsiveness to media inquiries as well as the accessibility of a program's players, coaches and assistant coaches. The ratings considered those departments that went the extra mile in servicing the media.
The Super 11 Committee received input from FWAA members and others who covered college football during the 2016 season.
"The FWAA takes very serious the importance of good sports information departments and what they can mean to coverage of college Football," said PA Media Group’s David Jones, 2017 FWAA President. "They can greatly aid in that coverage. And we want to salute those departments. Obviously, there are other top sports information departments. But these are ones the committee believed were in the top category during the 2016 season."
In January 2009, the FWAA formed the first Super 11 Committee. The concept has been supported and endorsed by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA), many members of which are also members of the FWAA.
The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,300 men and women across North America who cover college football for a living. 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 gameday operations, major awards, a national poll and its annual All-America team.
For more information on the Super 11, visit the FWAA's official website at footballwriters.com.