With the national championship of college football decided Monday night, only one big honor is left to wrap up the 2014 season: the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award presented by the American Heart Association.
Gary Patterson of TCU already has picked up several other prestigious coach of the year awards, making him the favorite going into the ceremony in Houston on Wednesday night. Over its history, the award ceremony — which is sponsored by Marathon Oil Corporation — has raised more than $5 million to help fight cardiovascular diseases and stroke, the No. 1 and No. 5 killers of Americans.
While it may seem strange for a voluntary health organization to honor college football coaches, the connection is pretty simple.
Bryant was among the legends of his profession when he died following a massive heart attack in 1983. This Coach of the Year award was established in his honor and has been given annually since 1986, with the twist of this being the only such prize that also factors in a bowl game.
Patterson has filled his trophy case with awards for TCU’s 12-1 campaign, which included a dominating bowl victory and a No. 3 finish in the final Associated Press poll. The AP and the Football Writers’ Association of America were among the organizations who’ve honored him as the nation’s top coach.
Other finalists are Jimbo Fisher of Florida State, Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss and Bryan Harsin of Boise State. Alabama’s Nick Saban previously was announced as a finalist, but withdrew from consideration by virtue of being unable to attend the ceremony.
The event also will include the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Jimmy Johnson. Now a Fox analyst, Johnson was the first coach to win a national championship in college football (at Miami) and the Super Bowl (with the Dallas Cowboys). His honor was announced in September.