Erk Russell is not eligible for the College Football Hall of Fame. Howard Schnellenberger is not eligible for the College Football Hall of Fame. Neither are:
Among several others. Does this seem strange to you? It should. Some of these guys have already had 30 for 30 documentaries made about them. The College Football Hall of Fame is supposed to be a living novel about the history of college football. Instead, it is a novel that is missing some really important characters due to an obtuse set of rules:
Hall of Fame Criteria:
FIRST AND FOREMOST, A PLAYER MUST HAVE RECEIVED FIRST-TEAM ALL-AMERICA RECOGNITION BY A SELECTOR RECOGNIZED BY THE NCAA AND UTILIZED TO COMPRISE THEIR CONSENSUS ALL-AMERICA TEAMS.
A player becomes eligible for consideration by the NFF’s Honors Court 10 years after his last year of intercollegiate football played.
While each nominee’s football achievements in college are of prime consideration, his post-football record as a citizen is also weighed. He must have proven himself worthy as a citizen, carrying the ideals of football forward into his relations with his community and fellow man. Consideration may also be given for academic honors and whether or not the candidate earned a college degree.
Players must have played their last year of intercollegiate football within the last 50 years*. For example, to be eligible for the 2017 ballot, the player must have played his last year in 1967 or thereafter. In addition, players who are playing professionally and coaches who are coaching on the professional level are not eligible until after they retire.
A coach becomes eligible three years after retirement or immediately following retirement provided he is at least 70 years old. Active coaches become eligible at 75 years of age. He must have been a head coach for a minimum of 10 years and coached at least 100 games with a .600 winning percentage.
I refuse to go to the College Football Hall of Fame, even though I live in Atlanta. If Erk Russell isn’t in there, I’m not interested. I know Tracy Ham, and Adrian Peterson are, but what good is that when the man who started it all isn’t?
How could you seriously call yourself the Hall of Fame without Erk Russell? You can’t go five feet in Statesboro without seeing a highway, a park, or a sandwich named after the man. He has a bust AND a statue at Paulson Stadium (where his name is on the press box), located inside Erk Russell Athletic Complex. That’s meta man.
A whole school’s identity revolves around the mystique of the late, great Erskine Russell. Everything from Beautiful Eagle Creek to G.A.T.A. was his brainchild. He practically built the Georgia Southern football program with his bare hands and won three national titles in the process. But he isn’t eligible because he didn’t coach for ten years.
Similar can be said of Howard Schnellenberger. Miami nearly dropped their football program before he showed up. Louisville was playing in a minor league baseball park pre-Schnelly. The complex where Papa John’s Stadium stands is called the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex. Florida Atlantic’s football program would not exist without him.
His impact on college football history is palpable, but he is not eligible because his winning percentage is 51%. Nevermind the fact that he resurrected two programs and built a third one from scratch.
Nick Chubb is the SEC’s 2nd all-time leading rusher. Pat White is the first QB ever to win four bowl games. Case Keenum is the NCAA’s all-time leader in passing yards, TDs, and completions. The frigging Boz is not in there!
None of these legends will ever get to take their rightful place in the Hall. Why? It’s because of the All-American Rule, which for some reason is listed in all-caps on the National Football Foundation’s website. Someone seems a little touchy.
To sum it up, a player has to have been selected First-Team All-American to be eligible. This is discriminatory against quarterbacks, tight ends, and centers (only one per team) while you can have two running backs, wide receivers, tackles, guards, defensive ends…you get the picture.
No matter how many records Case Keenum set at Houston, he wasn’t named First-Team All-American, so, therefore, kick rocks buddy. I respect having a high threshold for inclusion. That’s why Cooperstown and Canton are well-respected institutions while The Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield is less-so (I’m an Orlando Magic fan, and even I think Tracy McGrady making it into the Hall is a joke). But the College Football Hall of Fame is so exclusionary that it borders on mania.
The whole purpose of a Hall of Fame is to celebrate history; they are mainly sports museums. Excluding Erk Russell from the Hall of Fame is akin to keeping George Washington out of an American History museum because he never fought in more than 100 battles. It’s asinine.
Toss the rules out. When men that are plastered across the NCAA’s record books can’t even get a sniff at the Hall, you know it’s broken. The Baseball Hall of Fame has no set of rules, but the baseball writers generally agree on a few thresholds that should get you in (300 wins, 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, no PEDs). Cooperstown is seen as the most exclusionary Hall in pro-sports without creating artificial barriers. Why can’t the National Football Foundation do the same?
You can’t seriously call yourself a Hall of Fame without Erk Russell, or Howard Schnellenberger, or Pete Carroll, or Pat White, or Nick Chubb. It’s a shame because I would like to visit it one day. It’s only a fifteen minute drive from my house. I’ve heard excellent things about it. But until that day comes, I will continue my personal boycott. History matters to me, but I’m not sure I can say the same of the National Football Foundation.