And as we start another season in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, the 33rd season of what began as I-AA football, I am experiencing a homecoming of my own, minus any tornadoes, or other weather-related catastrophes.
I am returning to the College Sporting News after three years away as FCS Executive Director for The Sports Network. This is my 34th season of covering college football and my 18th year following FCS.
Growing up in Fresno, Calif., I cut my teeth watching the weekly ABC broadcasts of college football with Chris Schenkel and for Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson calling the action and following the exploits of the Fresno State Battling Bulldogs every Saturday night on the radio.
I began my college football writing career watching the Fresno City College Rams back in California, a program that under veteran coach Claire Slaughter had won several state championships among the top junior college competition in the land.
The next few years took me to Fresno State, where I earned a degree in journalism and studied under one of the greatest writing teachers anyone could ever have, former United Press International vice president and editor in chief Roger Tatarian.
From there, I covered teams all the way from tiny West Hills College to USC and UCLA.
But in 1993, I found a brand of football to cover that was like none other. It combined the passion of the college football factories with the purity of the game I grew up loving. The players and the coaches were involved with the sport for most of the right reasons, not to make million-dollar salaries, or be slipped an envelope of money from some alumnus for their Saturday's performance.
I was covering Appalachian State and I-AA for the Charlotte Observer and the Watauga Democrat. Later on, newspapers such as the Greensboro News and Record, the Asheville Citizen-Times and the Lenoir News-Topic began to use my I-AA writing on a regular basis.
In 1999, a former Delaware Blue Hens player named Otto Fad invited me to contribute my work to a website and news service he was constructing, and I began to expand my I-AA horizons to more of a national front.
In the next couple of years, Fad joined with a man named Ralph Wallace, who had a vision of making I-AA more relevant on the national level by tirelessly promoting the passion and purity of this unique form of football.
Wallace had the crazy idea that fans in Missoula, Mont., and Statesboro, Ga., might enjoy discussing their teams with each other and established the College Sporting News news service and website and the Any Given Saturday message board as a means to give I-AA a bigger canvas.
I was there at ground zero, working as a national columnist and executive editor of CSN and writing pieces for such companies as College Sports Television as we watched I-AA change into FCS and grow and thrive into the brand of football that it has become today.
I learned a lot, saw a lot of new FCS venues and grew as a writer and editor after being asked to run the Walter Payton, Eddie Robinson and Buck Buchanan awards and administer one of the national polls for The Sports Network in the past three years.
I've seen FCS carve out an impressive niche in the competitive sports world.
But now, there are other boundaries to widen as those of us who love FCS push the limits and look to make this terrific brand even stronger. In the months ahead, CSN will have major announcements on its own national awards, on books and magazines and even a comprehensive FCS encyclopedia to be released by a major publisher.
At the same time, we will watch as FCS expands this year to a 20-team playoff with an additional round of postseason games, culminating with a championship game at a new venue, Frisco, Texas.
The 2010 FCS season, which begins Thursday, shapes up as one of the more fascinating ones in the subdivision's 33-year history, with plenty of story lines.
Will Villanova repeat as FCS champions, with the return of playoff MVP Matt Szczur?
Can Appalachian State remain as one of the contenders as it tries to replace quarterback Armanti Edwards, one of the players for the ages?
Can Montana continue its string of NCAA playoff berths and Big Sky Conference championships as new coach Robin Pflugrad replaces the irrepresable Bobby Hauck?
How will the Big South and Northeast conferences do in their first year with automatic bids to the playoffs?
What will the MEAC decide about its future? Will it continue to send teams to the playoffs with an auto bid, or will it join with the SWAC in the Legacy Bowl?
Will the national championship game continue the growth it exhibited in Chattanooga, Tenn., as it moves to Frisco, Texas?
Those will be some of the stories we will watch as the new season progresses and your's truly will be here to share that journey with you.
And just like Dorothy Gale, I'm glad to be home.