2024 Fellowship Profile: Mark Schlabach (ABJ ’96)

A headshot of Mark, along with text that introduces him as a 2024 Fellowship inductee.
Mark Schlabach will be recognized as a new member of the Grady Fellowship on April 26, 2024. The recognition takes place during the Grady Salutes luncheon at Grady College. (Photos: Submitted by Mark Schlabach)

2024 Fellowship Profile: Mark Schlabach (ABJ ’96)

March 19, 2024

Mark Schlabach is a senior writer and reporter for ESPN, covering college football and golf. He has worked at the Worldwide Leader in Sports for nearly 18 years, after having previously written for The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Athens Banner-Herald. Schlabach is the author or co-author of more than two dozen books, including six New York Times bestsellers.

Schlabach has been honored multiple times by Associated Press Sports Editors, Golf Writers Association of America, Investigative Reporters and Editors and Football Writers Association of America. He and his wife, Heather, live in Madison, Georgia. They are the proud parents of Caroline, a 2023 Grady College graduate, Jane, a junior at Grady College, and Jack, a freshman at Morgan County High School.

Below is an interview with Schlabach.

Grady College: How has mentorship helped you through your career?

Mark Schlabach: There were so many great sportswriters who took me under their wing early in my career, including Joe Drape, Scott M. Reid and Plott Brice at the AJC. Tony Barnhart hired me as a part-time stringer while I was still in school at UGA, then handed over the Bulldogs beat to me when I was finishing my senior year. He later hired me full-time. Tony has been a tremendous friend, mentor and colleague over the years. Chip Towers is a great friend and showed me the ropes while he was writing at the Athens Banner-Herald when I was in school.

GC: How did your time at Grady College shape where you are today?

MS: Along with working at The Red & Black, my time at Grady College was the perfect environment to pursue a career in sports journalism. Of course, no one had a greater impact on my career as a student than the late Conrad Fink. He was critical and supportive of my work, while encouraging me to develop as a writer and take chances. I’m not sure that there was a more influential person in my career than Fink.

Schlabach on ESPN’S “College Football Live”

GC: What advice do you have for today’s Grady College students?

MS: I’ve always encouraged anyone wanting to pursue a career in journalism to constantly read anything produced by the great writers. The industry has changed quite a bit from when I was at Grady College, so I’d recommend gaining experience in all facets of media–writing, reporting, TV, podcasts, etc. You have to be a multi-tooled journalist to survive in today’s media.

GC: Are there any books or podcasts that you would recommend to students?

MS: For aspiring sportswriters, I’d go back and read anything written by David Halberstam, Frank Deford, Jim Murray and Dan Jenkins. I loved reading books written by Michael Lewis, Halberstam and others. “The Boys In the Boat” by Daniel James Brown was probably my most recent favorite. I’m a true-crime podcast fan. I just love to hear a good story.

Schlabach wins a first-place award for his ESPN piece “Examining the future of LIV Golf as its polarizing inaugural season comes to a close.”

GC: What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

MS: You don’t know everything! I remember bumping into former Georgia football coach Ray Goff outside a restaurant a few years ago. He asked me how old I was when I was covering his team full-time for the AJC. I was probably 22. “Not ready for the job,” I told him. Goff’s response: “That makes two of us.” Learning your beat, developing sources, talking to as many people as possible and not being shy would probably be the most important lessons I’d give my 20-year-old self.

GC: What does this recognition mean to you?

MS: It means a lot, and it’s a tremendous honor because of the people who were honored before me, including Tony Barnhart, Furman Bisher, Ernie Johnson, Edwin Pope, Claude Felton and so many others. I’m truly humbled to be mentioned.

GC: What motivates you?

MS: I’ve been doing this for more than thirty years, but I’m happy to wake up each day knowing that I have one of the best jobs in the world, covering college football and golf for ESPN. It’s a job that I don’t take for granted and truly love. I’m just trying to write and report stories that matter and resonate with readers.

The Fellows will be inducted and recognized along with the 2024 Alumni Award recipients during the annual Grady Salutes event. This year’s Grady Salutes will be a luncheon on Friday, April 26. Details about sponsorship information and reservations will be coming soon to the Grady Salutes webpage.

Editor: Jackson Schroeder, Jackson.Schroeder@uga.edu