By Sarah Sign
Steve Richardson, affectionately called ‘Tiger’ by most in the football industry, is the executive director of the Football Writers Association. He loves the arts; and finds sports journalism a work of art in itself. Through his work as a director, he preserves integrity and promotes the industry of football writing.
His path to success started when he joined his high school newspaper. He wrote the sports column. He was not athletically gifted, and strived to be a part of football in a different way. Though he could not elegantly throw a touchdown pass or ruggedly sack the quarterback, his words painted a picture of the game.
He attended college at the University of Missouri, where he worked on the school paper and graduated with a degree in journalism. Fresh out of college, he began working for the Kansas City Star with Dennis Dodd, who, down the line, became a longtime journalist for CBS sports. And, 40 years later, the two are still close friends.
“Working together with Tiger at the Kansas City Star was my first week in town. He has been a force of nature and a mentor,” said Dodd.
Tiger, then known as Steve Richardson, soon ran into a problem at the Kansas City Star he was one of two interns, both named Steve. He could not be called Richardson, either, as there was already a Richardson in the office.
“My boss just ended up saying that the other Steve would be called ‘Jayhawk’, since he went to Kansas, and I would be called ‘Tiger’ since I went to Mizzou,” Richardson said.
Little did he know that nickname would last well over 30 years.
“I finally realized that the nickname was sticking around when the A.D. of Florida called me Tiger. I had never even met the guy before. At that point, I realized resistance was futile.” As Tiger moved up the ranks, he influenced the lives of many people.
“Tiger has been a passionate advocate for sportswriters. I can remember calling him about some slight in the press box and he had fired off a letter to the offending school by the time the phone call ended,” said Dodd.
Tiger is, indeed, passionate about press box etiquette. He is a champion of writer’s rights. After all, a writer’s experience in the press box reflects the respect the university has for them. Since sports journalism does so much to benefit the schools, he believes they should be treated as such.
His top concerns include leaving the press box open after games, having a quiet environment to work in (no cheering in the box!), and of course, good air conditioning. And don’t get him started on parking passes. To Tiger, without a good parking pass, there really isn’t even a point in showing up.
Tiger takes journalism, particularly football journalism, very seriously. Kevin Trainor, senior associate athletics director at the University of Arkansas, is grateful to Tiger- both for his many years of friendship and his pioneering in the industry.
“For nearly 30 years, I have had the pleasure of calling Steve ‘Tiger’ Richardson a friend and a colleague. He has been a tireless advocate not only for the journalists that cover college sports, but also the communications professionals who work for schools and conference offices around the country. On many occasions, Tiger has facilitated conversation and fostered better understanding on challenging issues that has proven beneficial for both journalists and communications professionals alike. He has been a true difference maker in our profession,” said Trainor.
Richardson’s work with the Football Writers Association also includes his promotion and dedication to the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award. Eddie Robinson III, grandson of the late great Eddie Robinson, greatly appreciates and respects what Tiger has done for his grandfather’s legacy.
“The Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award has become one of the most recognizable and coveted awards in college football, thanks in part to the relentless leadership and stewardship of Steve ‘Tiger’ Richardson. The Robinson Family is grateful to Tiger for the partnership with the FWAA and his willingness to protect and enhance Coach Robinson’s legacy,” said Eddie Robinson III.
Beyond his great legacy in the world of sports journalism, Tiger makes a great impact in the arts. He attends the ballet, opera, and art shows quite often. He is just as well known in the arts world as he is in the football world.
“Sometimes I’ll ask Tiger to dinner and he’ll be like ‘No, I’m going to the art gallery with a ballerina’ or ‘I can’t that night, I have tickets to the opera.’ He’s not a one-dimensional guy, that’s for sure,” said Kevin Trainor.
Yet, his love of the arts go hand in hand with his love for journalism. Both tell a story that needs to be told. Instead of painting that story with a brush or singing it with his voice, he writes it. And when you read it, it feels just like you were there too.