This morning, the 2010 divisional class of inductees into the College Football Hall of Fame was announced. Four players and two coaches made the cut, including one coach chosen by the Veterans Committee, but Erskine Russell was not among the honorees.
The two coaches selected were Willie Jeffries, who compiled a 179-132-6 record as the head coach at Howard (1984-88), Wichita State (1979-83), and South Carolina State (1973-78, 1989-2001), and Ted Kessinger, who went 219-57-1 at Bethany (Kan.) between 1976 and 2003. Coach Jeffries was chosen by the Veterans Committee. This year's class brings to 124 the total number of players and coaches from outside the Division I-A ranks to be enshrined in the Hall. That number should be 125.
While I do not question the qualifications of Coaches Jeffries and Kessinger, the omission of Coach Russell was a travesty. The Veterans Committee, the composition of which is kept secret to prevent its members from being bombarded with letter-writing campaigns by boosters of would-be inductees into the Hall, played an active role in choosing this year's class, as one of the two coaches being enshrined was a Veterans Committee selection. Why, then, was Erk's candidacy found wanting?
I do not believe a sufficient justification for his omission may be offered; the only explanation (and the reason he had to go before the Veterans Committee rather than appear on the ballot) is that the well-intended but ill-considered ten-year minimum for head coaches barred Coach Russell's entry.
This is a setback, but it is only a setback. If the rule keeps the deserving out, the rule needs to be changed, if only to create an exception for special cases such as this. I would have preferred to have gone about this the easy way, but, as Coach Russell spent his life and career teaching, few things that are worthwhile ever came easy.
It is time to regroup and evaluate how best to go about changing the rule from within the system, so that Coach Russell may be considered on his merits rather than excluded on a technicality.
Stay tuned. . . .