2017 was a roller coaster of a year for this site. After a mass departure of writers and editors, as well as cycling between two different site managers in 2016, the few of us that stuck around devoted ourselves to save Underdog Dynasty and build it back up from the ground level.
We were incredibly fortunate enough to bring on some very talented, knowledgeable, and dedicated staff members last year that helped us rise from the ashes like a phoenix as we enjoyed record readership numbers just a year after the site seemed doom for a sudden death. Some of those members are recognized below but we have so much appreciation for our entire staff that helps keep this site running and fulfilling our vision of providing comprehensive coverage for Group of Five football.
We would also like to thank our community for reading and sharing our work, listening to our podcasts, commenting on our articles, and just generally being awesome. Everyone that is a part of this website either makes no money for their effort or takes home very little compensation for restless hours of work. Your support keeps us motivated and helps this site grow. If you’re interested in joining our staff as a writer or in any other capacity please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So without further ado, please allow me to introduce our 2017 Underdog Dynasty Award winners as voted on by our staff.
Best In-season Coverage
Winner: Joe Broback
One of the absolute pillars of this site, Joe hit the ground running after joining the staff last year. Joe quickly earned publishing rights before being promoted to an editor shortly after. He branched out to become a great podcast host and shocked us all after flying from Minnesota to Houston on his own dime to cover the Cougars’ spring game. Joe’s primary beat is the Houston Cougars but he helps out all over the site and does an awesome job covering the entire AAC.
Runner up (tie): Kyle Dubbels and Joe Serpico
The race for runner up was a dead tie as Kyle and Joe split the vote. One of our more experienced writers, Joe S. covers his alma mater Temple for us while also bringing his silky smooth bass voice to our AAC podcast. Joe also covers various sports in the Baltimore region and is a credentialed Baltimore Orioles reporter for 1340 AM FOX Sports.
Kyle is a college student at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota but he jumped at the opportunity to cover the New Mexico State Aggies for us. Drawn to rooting for the program thanks to their underdog status, Kyle covered the Aggie beat this year with incredible detail and care despite living 1,300 miles away from Las Cruces. Having him on the staff to document the Aggies’ miracle season was a blast for everyone involved with the site.
Also received votes: Adam Woodyard, Tanner Spearman, Chas Short, Adam Luckett, Jonathan Willis, Brian Stone, Joe Londergan
Ironman Award (hardest working staff member)
Winner: Adam Luckett
For whatever reason we have always had trouble filling out our writing roster for the Sun Belt. While we’ve certainly had some amazing writers covering Sun Belt teams for the site in the past, it always felt like our coverage for the league lagged a little bit behind C-USA and the AAC as a whole. That quickly changed once Adam joined the team. He’s been an absolute beast for us since joining the site and has elevated our site’s coverage of an entire conference to a whole new level between his game previews/recaps, power rankings, podcasts, and more.
Runner Up: Joe Serpico
Joe has been an absolute grinder for us over the past year. On top of his typical coverage responsibilities Joe is always available to help the managing and editorial staff with tough decisions when they come up. Joe’s experience in a press box has been a big influence on some of our younger writers and his insight into how sports work behind the scenes has been a major asset to the site as a whole.
Second Runner Up (tie): Tanner Spearman and Joe Broback
I’m not going to say I had to beg Tanner to join the site but it was close. Tanner first came onto our radar after posting several extremely high quality comments on a few of our C-USA articles. We needed a Louisiana Tech writer at the time and I could tell Tanner had a ton of potential as a writer. After twisting his arm a little bit to join the site, Tanner hit the ground running and quickly picked up the practice of writing professionally. He enjoyed it so much he decided to make a huge future career change and enrolled at Oklahoma State to pursue a degree in sports media.
While you’re already familiar with Joe B. after reading his previous mention, I have to brag on how hard of a worker he is. Any time breaking news hits Joe is on the spot ready to report. Oftentimes I’ll hit him up to ask him to write a story on a news bit and Joe is already 400 words deep into a draft moments after we catch wind of the news. Joe is a huge help to the site as an editor and always keeps us laughing with his wit and jokes in our Slack channel.
Also received votes: Chas Short, Luke Sarris, Jonathan Willis
Winner: Adam Luckett
While Adam is a terrific editor when it comes to grammar, punctuation, word usage, etc. he really excels in keeping all of us grounded and fair in our writing which is why I was thrilled to see our staff vote him as our best editor. Our Sun Belt readers are passionate and are never afraid to let us know when we’ve made an error or an unfair judgement. Adam’s leadership keeps us afloat and makes us all better as writers.
Runner up: Tanner Spearman
Tanner still has two years to go before he’s on the open market as a sports media graduate but I’ll go ahead and write his reference letter now. Tanner is an extremely sharp writer and editor and never lets typos or grammatical mistakes past him. Really impressive for a guy that had no plans of pursuing writing as a career just a year ago.
Second runner up: Adam Woodyard
Our newest editor, Adam has made a huge impact with his ability to ask and answer tough questions when it comes to coverage and editorial decisions. Whether it’s referencing a style guide to explain proper sentence structure or pushing our staff to seek clarification on a topic before publishing, Adam keeps us honest in our coverage which is a huge asset to the site.
Also received votes: Joe Serpico, Joe Broback
Winner: An oral history of the biggest upset in college football history: Appalachian State 34 Michigan 32 - Cyrus Smith
One of the most thoroughly-researched articles to ever be published here, this article was cooking in the oven for months before it reached the internet. Cyrus led the charge with transcribing and editing help from Jared Kalmus and Joe Serpico. It was a colossal undertaking and I think I speak for all of us when I say I’m extremely proud of how the piece turned out after pouring so many hours of work into it.
Runner Up: Tie
An open letter to Scott Frost from a UCF fan - Luke Sarris
While we certainly aim to keep our coverage as professional and unbiased as possible, at the end of the day most of us are still fans and alumni of the teams we cover. Luke’s open letter to Scott Frost following the Knights’ national championship really resonated with me as well as the UCF community at large as it was one of the most-shared articles of the year for the site.
Watching App State beat Michigan from the front row - Cyrus Smith
We knew we wanted to make a splash on the 10 year anniversary of the largest upset ever pulled off by a team that we covered. This article gave an awesome insight into what it was like to be an App State fan in the stands on the day that the Mountaineers shocked the world.
Also received votes: Various
Alabama’s Win Helps UCF’s National Championship Claim - Luke Sarris
Alternative scenarios to the College Football Playoff system - Nick Armstrong
Chipotle Should Endorse Adam Shaheen - Clinton Schooler
UCF Knights: Undefeated National Champions? - Luke Sarris
Best Podcast Host
Winner: Aikman Chambers
Surprise, the professional radio host won our vote for our best podcast host! Aikman is embedded deep within the Appalachian State community and has a natural gift for podcasting after spending years talking sports on his radio show and broadcasting sports on the air. His in-depth knowledge of the Fun Belt is the cherry on top as Aikman and Adam keep our podcast rich in Sun Belt goodness.
Runner Up: Joe Serpico
Another guy with radio experience and great comfort on the microphone, Joe does an excellent job of keeping #JoeTalk a fun listen alongside Joe B. Their podcasts are always rich in insight into the AAC and Joe’s ability to keep the conversation flowing makes it an engaging listen for our subscribers.
Also received votes: Joe Broback, Adam Luckett, Joe Londergan, Satchel Ziffer
Best/Most Engaged Fan Base of the Year
Winner: UCF Knights
Yet another championship for Knights fans! The UCF family supported us in a major way this year by reading and sharing our work all throughout the season, even before the Knights appeared to be in play for a national championship claim.
Runner Up (tie): UNT, Southern Miss, Georgia Southern, Louisiana-Lafayette
UNT: There’s no doubt that we ranked North Texas waaay too low to start the season. We were also too slow to bump them up in the C-USA power rankings as the Mean Green started to prove they were legit. UNT fans made sure to let us know that we were making a mistake. Satchel and Joe made fun of UNT on the C-USA pawdcast all season long and listeners like Austin were great sports and played along with the joke.
Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles have some of the most passionate fans not just in the G5 but in the entire nation. I’m constantly blown away by the knowledge of their fan base. Even though we didn’t have a dedicated USM beat writer this year Southern Miss fans were still constantly reading our articles and interacting with us on social media.
Georgia Southern: We felt a certain camaraderie with Eagles fans this year as we suffered through an awful GS season right alongside their fans. Our Georgia Southern coverage constantly tops our page view rankings and are terrific on Twitter and we owe the Eagles fans a major show of appreciation.
Louisiana-Lafayette: These guys absolutely hate us for refusing to call them “Louisiana” but we still respect their intense passion even if we had to use the block function on our Twitter account for the first time after receiving repeat threats of violence from a Cajuns fan.
Also received votes: La Tech, NMSU, App State, Troy