UCF Senior Associate Athletics Director John Heisler Receives Football Writers Association Bert McGrane Award
By UCF Knights // November 19, 2020
After four decades at Notre Dame, Heisler joined the UCF staff in July 2019
ORLANDO, FLORIDA – UCF senior associate athletics director for strategic communications John Heisler, formerly a longtime University of Notre Dame sports information director and senior staff member, has been named the recipient of the Football Writers Association of America’s Bert McGrane Award for 2021.
The McGrane Award is presented to an FWAA member in recognition of contributions to the FWAA and college football.
McGrane was a sportswriter and editor at the Des Moines Register for 45 years and served as the FWAA’s Executive Director from the early 1940s until 1973.
This is the FWAA’s highest honor and equivalent to an association’s Hall of Fame.
Heisler is the 48th recipient of the Bert McGrane Award, which started in 1974 and was first awarded to Charley Johnson of the Minneapolis Star.
“I can’t think of anything that’s been any more meaningful to me,” Heisler said.
“I say that because it represents hundreds of relationships over a long period of time, and I hope it means we built some trust, could share some institutional knowledge when it was appropriate and did at least a few things right in terms of working with the media. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Heisler, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, is a native of South Bend and returned home shortly after his college days.
He learned his trade first under SID Bill Callahan at Missouri and later under Roger Valdiserri at Notre Dame.
Both the late Callahan and Valdiserri were long-time FWAA members, with Valdiserri still residing in South Bend.
Heisler started working at Notre Dame in 1978 in the SID office and was the award-winning SID from 1988-2003.
Thereafter, Heisler rose further up the ladder in the athletic department as an assistant and associate athletic director and was involved in numerous jobs in communications/broadcasting at Notre Dame.
He was also editor and frequent contributor to the highly respected “Strong of Heart,” Notre Dame’s annual holiday book of features on Irish athletics.
A member of the CoSIDA Hall of Fame, Heisler has claimed numerous awards and written and edited several other books about Notre Dame sports and its coaches.
After four decades at Notre Dame, Heisler joined the UCF staff in July 2019.
“John was a fixture at Notre Dame and helped make the sports information office in South Bend one of the best in the country for a number of years, actually a few decades,” said FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson.
“John has been of great help with FWAA members in a number of ways and provided a path for others in the SID profession to follow. He still does in his relocation to UCF.”
Heisler will receive the Bert McGrane plaque at a later time.
His name will be a part of the permanent McGrane presentation at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
Furthermore, a small plate with his name also will be placed on the master board of former McGrane recipients at the National Football Foundation (NFF) offices in Irving, Texas.