Special Awards Salute: Eric McDowell (Union, N.Y.), Warren Berg Award

Special Awards Salute: Eric McDowell (Union, N.Y.), Warren Berg Award

• 2016 CoSIDA Special Awards general announcement/release
• Special Awards feature story schedule

by Dan O'Connell, Towson University (retired)

Like many of the previous Warren Berg Award winners, Eric McDowell of Union College is a
McDowell at the CoSIDA Convention podium; with retired CoSIDA treasurer
Dave Wohlhueter at Busch Stadium during the St. Louis convention; with
and his wife, Jennifer and daugher Sara.
hard-working, passionate, dedicated sports information director (SID) with an abundant amount of integrity.

The Berg Award is presented annually to a CoSIDA member from the college division who has made outstanding contributions to the field of college athletic communications, and who, by his or her activities, has brought dignity and prestige to the profession.

What sets Eric McDowell apart from so many of his colleagues is his creativity. He has spent most his career coming up with unique ideas for panels and other ways to make the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) better for its membership.

The Dennis, Massachusetts, native may be most renowned for developing the most innovative programming that has been seen at the workshops. Using a number of his colleagues, McDowell came up with two game show formats. In 2000, he developed “The SID Is Right!” in St. Louis. Three years later, he came up with a Family Feud for SIDs in Cleveland.

In Calgary a year later, McDowell abandoned his game show theme and came up with a unique panel about press conferences. He used SIDs to demonstrate how to handle the unexpected at press conferences.

Chuck Sadowski, the SID at the University of Bridgeport, who has helped McDowell stage these panels says, “His creativity is amazing and he is so organized. His concern for others shows in many of the things he does on a professional level to assist his peers.“

According to B.L. Elfring, the SID at Southern Maine, “Eric has always been able to recognize those moments when doing something outside the box can bring positive recognition to an athlete, program or institution,”

Although McDowell didn't plan on a career in sports information, he got a very early start in it.

When he enrolled at the University of New Haven as a communications major, he wanted to be a
McDowell with the late San Franciso State SID Sam
Goldman (i.e. reporter 'Scoop Sorcerer') in 2000 during
the convention's "The SID is Right" presentation skit.
broadcaster. When SID Peter VanderVeer left, Athletic Director Joe Machnik offered the job to the student assistant.

He took advantage of the opportunity and when he graduated, he was promoted to full-time
“New Haven was a high-quality Division II program,” McDowell said. “I felt truly, truly blessed.”

McDowell moved up to the NCAA Division I ranks as an assistant SID at the University of New Hampshire. When SID Mike Bruckner left, McDowell was promoted to the director's position. A few years later, McDowell moved west as the SID at Cal Poly, a prominent Division II program that was moving up to NCAA Division I status.

He became entrenched with CoSIDA as a member of the then-workshop program committee and served as its vice-chair in 1996-97.

However, McDowell’s career took a detour in 1997 when he became the director of public relations for the Golden State Warriors of the NBA. His time with the Warriors involved McDowell in one of the most bizarre incidents in NBA history.

Latrell Sprewell, the Warriors' all-star guard, got in a dispute with Coach P.J. Carlesimo at a practice  and attacked the coach. Sprewell was accused of trying to choke Carlesimo and his contract was terminated. Sprewell was also suspended by the league for one year. Meanwhile, McDowell was besieged by countless media requests.

After his stint with the NBA, McDowell became the SID at Brockport State. At Brockport, he mentored Eric Dolan,
At 2014 Women's Final Four in Nashville with Union women's
basketball head coach Mary Ellen Burt and Amy Loya. Loya
was one of three NCAA Div. III student-athletes selected to
the WBCA Good Works Team in 2013-14 and honored in
currently the assistant director of athletic communications at Stanford.

“I owe a great debt of gratitude to Eric,” says Dolan. “As a student in his office, I learned his passion for the profession was contagious. He provided an example of all the things that SID's love about their jobs. Eric’s enthusiasm overshadowed a profession filled with deadlines and overflowing with stress, and he transcended stats and press releases with the relationships he built with student-athletes, coaches and staff. He is a true ambassador of the profession.“

In 2005, McDowell was named as assistant athletic director and SID at Union where he has remained  for 11 years. McDowell was also thrilled when he was selected to the CoSIDA Board of Directors. He impressed his board colleagues with his enthusiasm, ideas and energy. As a board member, he brought a unique perspective of the issues faced by the membership because he had worked  at three different levels.

He worked with the NCAA to get the CoSIDA Hall of Fame recognized at the NCAA Hall of Champions with permanent plaques. In 2008-09, McDowell was chosen as the first chair of the College Division Management Advisory Committee. In that role, he advocated with others for the expansion of the Academic All-America® program. The program now has doubled in size, honoring twice as many student-athletes annually while providing more recognition for CIS, NAIA and NJCAA student-athletes.

Dan Dutcher, the NCAA vice-president for Division III, has worked closely with McDowell.
"Eric was instrumental in forging closer ties between the CoSIDA and Division III, and especially between the DIII members of CoSIDA and the Division III governance structure," Dutcher noted. "He has an unsurpassed passion and pride for the Division III student-athlete experience."

During his executive term, McDowell traveled to Canada for visits with CIS that has  in a larger turnout of Canadian SIDs at the CoSIDA conventions. He did the same with the NAIA SIDs. For the last three years, McDowell worked to have members of the national Student-Athlete Advisory Committee attend CoSIDA and serve on interactive panels with the athletic communicators in the room.

The move to Union also enhanced Eric's personal life. In 2007, he met Jennifer Chadwick. They were married a
The McDowell family.
year later and now they are the parents of a five-year old daughter, Sara.

In 2012, his next CoSIDA goal was achieved when he was named as the third vice-president, putting him on track to be the first Division III SID to become CoSIDA president. In 2014-15, McDowell enjoyed a very productive term as president.

During his presidential year, he implemented a plan for members to annonymously consult with a mental health professional (Lisa Stromeier) for 2015-16. He also helped to establish “CoSIDA U,” a program where SID's talk to groups of college students with the hope of recruiting them to get involved in the athletic communications profession.

The 2005 winner of the ECAC-SIDA Irving T. Marsh Service Bureau Award, McDowell is serving as the past president on the CoSIDA Board of Directors this year.

Selected to the CoSIDA Hall of Fame in 2009, McDowell is far from done. He will continue to make an impact on CoSIDA for years to come. The Warren Berg Award is testament to that.