By David Coulson
Executive Editor/Managing Partner
College Sports Journal
Editor’s note: This the first of a two-part series on the College Football Hall of Fame, which inducts its 2012 class this month in South Bend, IN. Somehow, for the second time in four years, no Football Championship Subdivision candidates were selected.
In part one, we examine this year’s ballot and in part two, we will look at changes that should be made in the voting process to keep the FCS from being snubbed again in the future.
PHILADELPHIA, PA. — One of my favorite benefits from being a member of the Football Writers Association of America is that I get a chance to vote each year for the candidates that appear on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot.
Once again in March, I received a ballot from the National Football Foundation chocked full of worthy candidates, particularly those who represented schools from the FCS.
This year, I checked off the names of McNeese State cornerback Leonard Smith and Villanova linebacker Curtis Eller on the FCS portion of my ballot and I added the names of Rudy Hubbard from Florida A&M and John Whitehead of Lehigh as my two divisional coaching candidates.
In addition, I voted for running backs Bobbie Hedrick of Elon and Louis Jackson of Cal Poly for the Division II portion, safety Chuck Downey of Stony Brook and running back Alonzo Patterson of Wagner among the Division III candidates and tight end Rich McGeorge of Elon and linebacker Sidney Williams of Southern from the NAIA ranks.
I’ll go into more details about each of these fine athletes later in this column.
There was room on my ballot for two influential, though sometimes overlooked Football Bowl Subdivision coaches, Darryl Rogers — who I grew up watching as a kid when he directed the fortunes of my hometown Fresno State Bulldogs — and the innovative developer of the wishbone offense, R.C. Slocum.
While all voters are limited to voting for 12 candidates on the other parts of the ballot, there is also the opportunity to select 11 players from the large, FBS portion of the ballot.
My vote this year for the more well-known candidates when to Purdue running back Otis Armstrong, Notre Dame tight end Dave Casper, UNLV quarterback and punter Randall Cunningham, Syracuse wide receiver Art Monk, UCLA tackle Jonathan Ogden, Ohio State fullback Jim Otis, South Carolina wide receiver Sterling Sharpe and Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas.
There was also room for me to vote for two other special players in the FBS section — athletes who made their marks for schools now belonging to the FCS ranks. I proudly gave a vote to Princeton kicker Charlie Gogolak and Yale running back Dick Jauron.
Gogolak and his brother Pete — a Cornell graduate — were quite literally the first proponents of soccer-style kicking in American football.
Their father, inspired by the great soccer teams of Hungary in the 1950s before the Soviet Union crushed Hungary’s bid for independence in 1956, encouraged his sons to take up soccer before they escaped to the west.
Their story is documented in Pete Gogolak’s enlightening 1973 book “Nothing To Kick About, The Autobiography of a Modern Immigrant.”
Charlie Gogolak (1963-65) set seven NCAA records for a Princeton team that went 8-1 in 1965, won All-American honors and still holds four school records. He was a first-round draft choice of the Washington Redskins — a first for a place kicker.
The two Gogolaks combined for one record in the NFL that is unlikely to ever be broken as they scored 14 extra points in a single game as Washington beat the New York Giants 72-41 in the highest scoring game in NFL history. It could have been one more, but Charlie actually missed one PAT in the game.
That miss shouldn’t keep Charlie out of the Hall of Fame.
Jauron rushed for 2,947 yards in the three years he was eligible for the Yale varsity (back in those ancient days of freshman ineligibility) from 1970-72 — a Bulldog career record that stood until 2000 and his mark of 16 consecutive 100-yard games was intact until Mike McLeod broke it in 2006.
This Eli standout won the Bulger Lowe Award, symbolic of the best college player in New England as a senior and was drafted in the fourth round, 91st overall, by the Detroit Lions in the NFL draft.
Jauron carved out an eight-year, All-Pro career with the Lions and the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL before making his mark as a head coach and one of the foremost defensive coordinators in pro football.
Unfortunately, neither Charlie Gogolak, or Jauron made the Hall of Fame this year — though that didn’t turn out to be the biggest surprise.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE FCS CANDIDATES?
To my shock, when the results of the College Football Hall of Fame voting came out later in May, the National Football Foundation failed to select a single player from the FCS ballot for the second time in four years — something that many media members that I have spoken to find absolutely deplorable.
When the College Football Hall of Fame holds it induction ceremony this month, here is the list of deserving candidates that will be honored, including one coach with a large influence on the FCS ranks that was voted in last year, but will make it to South Bend, IN. for induction this year.
Air Force’s legendary coach Fisher DeBerry, who played at FCS member Wofford and was hugely influential as an assistant at his alma mater and Appalachian State as a member of Jim Brakefield’s staffs, will get his well-deserved recognition a year removed from being voted into the Hall of Fame by myself and others.
You can read more about DeBerry’s contributions to FCS in three articles on the College Sports Journal web site with the following links:
Joining DeBerry at this weekend’s ceremonies will be the following deserving players and coaches:
- CARLOS ALVAREZ – WR, Florida (1969-71)
- CHRIS BISAILLON – WR, Illinois Wesleyan, WR (1989-92)
- DOUG ENGLISH – DT, Texas (1972-74)
- BILL ENYART – FB, Oregon State (1966-68)
- EDDIE GEORGE – RB, Ohio State (1992-95)
- JIM HOLDER – RB, Oklahoma Panhandle State (1961-63)
- MARTY LYONS – DT, Alabama (1975-78)
- RUSSELL MARYLAND – DT, Miami, Fla. (1986-90)
- RICHARD McGEORGE – TE, Elon (1966-69)
- REX MIRICH – OT/DG, Northern Arizona (1960-63)
- DEION SANDERS – DB, Florida State (1985-88)
- JAKE SCOTT – DB, Georgia (1967-68)
- WILL SHIELDS – OG, Nebraska (1989-92)
- SANDY STEPHENS – QB, Minnesota (1959-61)
- DARRYL TALLEY – LB, West Virginia (1979-82)
- CLENDON THOMAS – HB, Oklahoma (1955-57)
- ROB WALDROP – DL, Arizona (1990-93)
- GENE WASHINGTON -WR, Michigan State (1964-66)
- LLOYD CARR: 122-40-0 (75.3%); Michigan (1995-2007)
- GENE CARPENTER*: 220-96-6 (69.3%); Adams State [Colo.] (1968), Millersville [Pa.] (1970-2000)
- WILLIAM “LONE STAR” DIETZ*: 96-62-7 (60.3%); Washington State (1915-17), Purdue (1921), Louisiana Tech (1922-23), Wyoming (1924-26), Haskell Indian Institute [Kan.] (1929-32), Albright [Pa.] (1937-42)
- RON HARMS: 218-117-4 (64.9%); Concordia [Neb.] (1962-69), Adams State [Colo.] (1970-73), Texas A&M – Kingsville (1979-99)
But the above list includes none of the 38 players that were up for elections from the FCS.
That’s right, not one of a list of candidates that include Walter Payton Award winners and other athletes who are arguably among the best at their positions in the 35-year history of what was once called Division I-AA and now FCS was deemed worthy of selection into the College Football Hall of Fame.
There are others who are remembered as some of the best players ever to grace a gridiron at their respective schools.
And Rodney Dangerfield thought he didn’t get ant respect.
MY FCS VOTES
Let’s take a look at my two picks first.
Leonard Smith played during a time when McNeese State, from 1979-82 was transitioning from a squad that was making appearances in the Independence Bowl to one that would become a power in the FCS ranks.
Before being selected with the 17th overall pick of the first round of the 1983 NFL draft, Smith was a first-team All-American, the Louisiana and the Southland Conference defensive player of the year in 1982. He was a two-time all-conference selection and was named McNeese State most valuable player.
Playing six years for the St. Louis and Phoenix Cardinals and the Buffalo Bills, Smith became one of the top strong safeties in pro football, earning All-Pro honors in 1986 and finishing his career in 1991 with 14 interceptions and 14 sacks.
But in the college ranks, you could make a case that Smith is possibly the best cornerback in FCS history. And he will get my vote yearly for the College Football Hall of Fame until he is voted in.
I am still learning about the career of Curtis Eller, which like Smith’s ended before I had begun covering FCS. But I had seen enough to cast my other FCS vote for this Villanova defensive star.
As Andy Talley began to rebuild Villanova’s fortunes after the decision to restart the Wildcat program, Eller became one of the leaders of Talley’s first great squads from 1989-92.
Eller became Villanova’s first two-time All-American (1991-92) and — in the days before the Buchanan Award — won an equivalent trophy as The Sporting News national defensive player of the year in 1992. He would eventually have his number retired by the Wildcats.
This hard-hitting 6–foot-tall, 220-pound linebacker was Connecticut’s prep defensive player of the year as a senior and it didn’t take the three-year starter long to make a mark on the Main Line.
His Wildcat teams went 33-14 (.702 winning percentage) overall, 24-8 in the Yankee Conference and made three NCAA appearances, losing to Youngstown State squads in hard-fought quarterfinals that won the 1991 national championship and finished as a runner-up to Marshall in 1992.
Eller, who was a three-time All-Yankee Conference performer and the league’s defensive player of the year in 1991 and 1992, graduated as Villanova’s all-time leading tackler and still ranks No. 2 all-time. He was also picked up All-ECAC honors after guiding the Wildcats to a 10-2 mark in 1991 and 9-3 in 1992 — a year where Villanova won the Lambert Cup, symbolizing football supremacy in its classification in the East.
“I think if he’d been an inch or two taller, he probably would have been at Penn State (known as Linebacker U. back then),” Talley told writer Mike Jensen in 1992.
Eller doesn’t need to be an inch or two taller to deserve to be in the College Football Hall of Fame.
OTHER WORTHY CANDIDATES WERE ALSO SNUBBED
Smith and Eller were not the only deserving candidates on the FCS ballot. It would have been easy for me to cast a vote for Northern Arizona running back Archie Amerson, or Marshall quarterback Michael Payton, who won Payton Awards in 1996 and 1992 respectively.
Others up for consideration included Lehigh receiver Rennie Benn, running back Carl Boyd of Northern Iowa, Middle Tennessee running back Joe Campbell, punter Case deBruijn of Idaho State’s 1981 national championship team, Connecticut linebacker John Dorsey, Rhode Island quarterback Tom Ehrhardt, running back Richard Erenberg of Colgate and Middle Tennessee State safety Don Griffin.
Also on the ballot were Massachusetts running back Rene Ingogla, Delaware tackle Gary Kuhlman, Middle Tennessee State offensive lineman Steve McAdoo, Holy Cross defensive back Bill McGovern, Marshall running back Chris Parker, Penn tackle Martin Peterson, Central Florida kicker Charlie Pierce and Delaware defensive end Michael Renna.
Completing the list of players who performed in FCS Western Carolina kicker Kirk Roach, Lafayette linebacker Joe Skladany, Colgate receiver Tom Stenglein, Eastern Kentucky running back Marcus Thomas, Yale middle guard John Zanieski.
Several players who played in the 1960s and 70s were misplaced in this writer’s view in the FCS section, even though they were standout performers for schools that are now FCS.
Among those athletes were halfback Don Hass of Montana State, guard Conway Hayman of Delaware, center John Hill of Lehigh, linebacker John Huard of Maine, defensive end Robert Morris of Georgetown, fullback John Ogles of Austin Peay, and Lee White of Weber State.
Defensive back Freddie Thomas of former FCS program Troy State was also on this list, even though he helped the Trojans to a Division II title in 1987 and was a two-time Division II All-American.
Tackle Bruce Collie of Texas-Arlington, a school that dropped football but is looking at a possible return to the sport, was also on the FCS list. Collie was an All-American in 1984 and helped UTA win the Southland title in 1981 before moving on to an NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles.
Another special circumstance involved defensive back Billy Thompson of Maryland-Eastern Shore, another small school that has dropped football. This 1968 All-American has as solid of a resume as almost anyone on the ballot for his college play and his NFL career with the Denver Broncos, but really shouldn’t be listed with FCS players.
As anyone who knows even a little bit about FCS history can see, it was a loaded ballot, leaving no excuse for this category to be overlooked in the final assessment.
COACHES WHO WERE OVERLOOKED
It was a difficult assignment to select coaches at any level this year, but there were three worthy candidates among the FCS field and I could only vote for two of them this year.
Bill Bowes, Rudy Hubbard and John Whitehead were all legendary coaches at the FCS level and all three deserve to walk through those Hall of Fame induction gates someday.
It is a shame that none of them will be getting that honor this month.
For the second straight year, I cast one of my votes for Hubbard.
Hubbard had the difficult task of replacing legendary Hall of Famer Jake Gaither at Florida A&M and took the Rattlers to the 1977 NCAA Division II title under Hubbard before winning the very first I-AA championship with a 35-28 victory over UMass in 1978.
Hubbard also directed a memorable victory over Miami in 1979, one of the biggest FCS upsets of all-time and finished his career with a 83-48-3 record (.631) during his tenure from 1974-85.
My other vote went to Whitehead.
Whitehead is a legendary figure at Lehigh with a 73-38-2 record (.661 winning percentage) from 1976-86 as he helped the Engineers make the move from the Division II to I-AA ranks.
Whitehead was named Division II coach of the year in 1977 and the I-AA coach of the year in 1979. His 1979 Lehigh team advanced to the national title game before losing to Hall of Fame coach Roy Kidd and Eastern Kentucky 30-7.
The Engineers lost to EKU again in the 1980 semifinals, 23-20. His Lehigh team was one of only four private schools in FCS to ever reach a championship game, along with Furman, Richmond and Villanova.
Bill Bowes coached at New Hampshire from 1972-98, winning more games than any coach in Yankee Conference history, capturing 11 league titles and earning numerous District 1 coach of the year honors.
Bowes (175-106-5, .621) was the recipient of a Distinguished Contribution to Football Award from the New Hampshire chapter of the NFF and you can still see his influences in the careers of current UNH coach Sean McDonnell and Oregon coach Chip Kelly (a former UNH offensive coordinator).
If the rules allowed, I would have voted for all three and it was difficult to distinguish between Whitehead and Bowes in particular.
Two other names of notes that were on last year’s ballot, but were missing this year were Charles Murphy of Middle Tennessee State (1947-68, 155-63-8, .704) and Clyde Starbeck of Northern Iowa (1936-42/1945-57, 95-58-10, .613), pioneers in the winning traditions at future FCS schools.
THE ROOTS OF FCS
Among the players I voted for in the non-Division I sections were several stars from the pioneering days of now-FCS programs.
Louis Jackson was a star player at Roosevelt High School in my hometown of Fresno, Ca. just after I finished up high school. He went on to lead Cal Poly to a remarkable NCAA Division II championship run in 1980 that included a regular-season win over 1980 I-AA champion Boise State.
I watched first hand in 1979 when Jackson and the Mustangs rolled to a stunning 26-0 rout of I-A Fresno State, one of the most lopsided victories ever by a non-FBS squad over an upper-subdivision team. Such success by the two-time All-American helped propel Cal Poly into the FCS ranks.
Even with all of the great players Cal Poly has attracted in recent years, Jackson is the record-holder for the Mustangs in career (3,444 yards), single-season (1,463) and single-game rushing (267).
Chuck Downey was a standout safety and returnman with Stony Brook during its NCAA Division III days, earning All-American status in 1987 and finishing with 239 tackles and 13 interceptions.
Downey was the first player in Division III history to go over the 1,000-yard mark for a career in both kickoff and punt returns. He currently holds 12 Division III and 23 school records.
Alonzo Patterson was a terrific running back for Wagner back in the Seahawks’ NAIA days, earning first-team All-American honors in 1981 and 1982.
Patterson was fourth on the NCAA all-division rushing list and first in Divison III with 1,487 in 1981 and was the ECAC player of the year three times from 1980-82.
Sidney Williams of Southern was one of those stars who came out of the SWAC in the 1960s.
Williams was an NAIA All-American in 1963 as an aggressive, hard-tackling linebacker and went on to a six-year career in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Long before making the move to FCS, Elon was an NAIA powerhouse and one of the greatest players for the Fighting Christians in that era was tight end Richard McGeorge.
McGeorge was a two-time All-American in 1968-69 and piled up school records for career (3,486) and single-season (1,061) receiving yards before going on to a nine-year career in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers.
Bobbie Hedrick finished his career at Elon as the second-leading, all-division rusher in NCAA history, his 5,604 yards ranking only behind Tony Dorsett of Pittsburgh. He also had 60 career touchdowns
Hedrick was a two-time All-American (1978 and 1980) and led Elon to the 1980 NAIA national championship with 186 yards rushing in the title game against Northeastern Oklahoma.
While the others were overlooked again this year, at least the prolific McGeorge will finally be getting his due this weekend.
Joining McGeorge as an NAIA inductee is Rex Mirich, an offensive tackle and defensive nose guard, who starred for now-FCS Northern Arizona from 1960-63. The two-time All-American was the Lumberjacks team captain as a senior.
Other candidates from the lower levels whose performances helped teams eventually move to FCS included Eastern Illinois defensive end Peter Catan, North Dakota State defensive tackle and linebacker Jim Ferge, South Dakota State running back Darwin Gonnerman, Western Illinois guard Don Greco, and Valparaiso tackle Gary Puetz.
Three other players representing teams that are no longer in FCS, but were at one time were also listed in the Division II portion of this convoluted ballot, receiver Bernard Ford and kicker Ed O’Brien of Central Florida, and tackle Pat Hauser of Cal State-Northridge.
I guess it is easy to see how players who should be voted into the Hall of Fame get overlooked when they are placed in the wrong parts of the ballot, but that is a subject for part two of this series next week.