By David Coulson
Executive Editor/Managing Partner
College Sporting News
PHILADELPHIA — When you have been writing about college football for as long as I have (at this point, I am looking forward to my 35th year of sharing my love of the sport), you inevitably are called upon to vote for various awards.
But never have I been as excited about receiving an awards ballot as I was last Saturday when I opened my mail box and found a magazine from the National Football Foundation.
Tucked inside this issue of Footballetter Magazine were biographies of the 173 players and 39 coaches who had been nominated for the College Football Hall of Fame.
As a member of the College Football Writer's Association, I was being asked to vote for the 2011 class of inductees.
While there were names of players and coaches who had earned fame from every level of college football, from NAIA to NCAA Division I, the names that caught my eye the most were those from the Football Championship Subdivision.
I felt the excitement of a child, reading the old Sears and Roebuck Christmas Wish catalog as I read the various biographies.
Since the 1993 season, I have concentrated my coverage of football primarily on the FCS level and it is an area that I feel passionate about.
For me, there is nothing that brings me back to the traditions of the great game of football like being in an FCS stadium on a Saturday afternoon, or evening.
It is college football in a pure form, largely untouched by the money-making machine that has so polluted the Football Bowl Subdivision and, in particular, the fraudulent Bowl Championship Series.
FEELING THE PRESSURE?
In recent years, I have called the National Football Foundation on the carpet, publicly, for the lack of a significant FCS presence in the Hall.
Two years ago, not one FCS player was selected for the Hall, even though such players as defensive end Charles Haley of James Madison, McNeese State cornerback Leonard Smith, Northern Arizona running back and Payton Award winner Archie Amerson were among those on the ballot.
Other significant FCS players on that ballot included running back Carl Boyd of Northern Iowa, Marshall receiver Troy Brown and running back Chris Parker, quarterback Tom Ehrhardt of Rhode Island, Delaware defensive end Michael Renna and Lafayette linebacker Joe Skladany.
But none received enough support to become Hall of Famers.
Marshall and Georgia coach Jim Donnan, who led the Thundering Herd to the 1992 national championship and guided that program to I-AA playoff berths four times in five years (1991-93 and 1995) was inducted, but the absence of any FCS players that years was tremendously startling.
I made it a point to corner several members of the National Football Foundation and the Football Writer's Association executive board at that year's CoSida (College Sports Information Department Association) convention in Tampa, Fl. to lobby them about my concerns.
This was part of what I wrote at the time:
"When you look at the previous group of 829 players and 178 coaches who have been inducted since the National Football Foundation established the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951, you see few FCS players or coaches.
Even though the I-AA subdivision has completed 31 seasons since its formation in 1978, there are just 11 FCS players on the Hall of Fame roster.
That list includes just two Payton Award winners, Idaho quarterback John Friesz (1989) and Colgate running back Kenny Gamble (1987), and one Eddie Robinson Award recipient, Nevada's Chris Ault (1991). Not one of the Buchanan Award winners has been selected to the Hall of Fame.
That meager roll call also includes Marshall tight end Mike Barber, running back Joe Delaney and defensive back Gary Reasons of Northwestern State, safety Kevin Dent of Jackson State, safety George Floyd of Eastern Kentucky, quarterback Tracy Ham of Georgia Southern, Nevada running back Frank Hawkins, all-around performer Gordie Lockbaum of Holy Cross and a pair of memorable quarterbacks — Neil Lomax of Portland State and Willie Totten of Mississippi Valley State.
FCS coaches are represented in the Hall of Fame by 13 members, including the newest inductee Donnan. Joining Ault and Donnan on this prestigious list are Earle Bruce, who had one year at Northern Iowa, Marino Casem of Alabama State, Alcorn State and Southern, Carmen Cozza of Yale, W.C. Gorden of Jackson State, Billy Joe of Florida A&M, Roy Kidd of Eastern Kentucky, John Merritt of Tennessee State, Darrell Mudra of Eastern Illinois and Northern Iowa, Doug Porter of Howard, Tubby Raymond of Delaware and Eddie Robinson of Grambling.
But even with this impressive group, it is important to note that one of the most successful coaches in FCS — Georgia Southern icon Erk Russell — hasn't been invited."
Here is a link to that original column, which appeared in The Sports Network:
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
I would like to think that some of my efforts paid off last year when the College Football Hall of Fame opened its doors to former Marshall and Lees-McRae College receiver Troy Brown, one of 23 new members to be inducted.
That group also included legendary South Carolina State, Howard and Wichita State coach Willie Jeffries.
I had the chance to meet the delightful Jeffries down at Dawson Stadium in Orangeburg, S.C. last season and I could tell he was honored and humbled by his induction.
There has also been pressure from several sides to reconsider Russell's candidacy, which falls beneath the radar due to the requirement that coaches have 10 years as a head coach.
Russell's best chance might ultimately lie with the veteran's committee, but we will continue to press for his election.
THIS YEAR'S BALLOT
So, with the latest ballot in hand, the National Football Foundation has a chance to keep the momentum alive in 2011.
Due to the screwy way the NFF constructs that ballot, there were 28 names among the 38 players in the FCS section who actually played during the I-AA/FCS era.
Nine players competed for teams that are currently in FCS, but who's careers spanned either the old College Division or Division II eras.
Another, defensive back Billy Thompson of Maryland-Eastern Shore (1965-69), played for a team that no longer fields a football team, but whose athletic affiliation is the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).
Freddie Thomas (Troy State, defensive back, 1984-87) competed for a Trojans' program that won Division II national titles in 1984 and 1987 before moving to what was then called I-AA, but for some reason he appears on the FCS ballot.
One more oddity on the ballot is that defensive back Terry Schmidt of Ball State (1971-73) is listed in the FCS section. Ball State is a Mid-American Conference team in FBS, now directed by former Lehigh and Elon coach Pete Lembo.
I'm sure that long-time fans from various schools will remember names like Don Hass (Montana State, running back, 1965-67), Conway Hayman (Delaware, guard, 1967-70), John Hill (Lehigh, center, 1969-71), John Huard (Maine, linebacker, 1964-66), Robert Morris (Georgetown, defensive end, 1971-74), John Ogles (Austin Peay, fullback, 1963-66), Larry Schreiber (Tennessee Tech, running back, 1966-69), Steve Schubert (Massachusetts, receiver, 1969-72) and Lee White (Weber State, fullback, 1965-67).
The 26 FCS players on this year's list are an impressive group, with players such as Amerson, Boyd, Erhardt, Haley, Parker, Renna, Skladany and Smith still on the ballot with some other big names.
Appearing on the ballot for a second time is 1992 Payton Award winning quarterback Michael Payton of Marshall, who directed the Thundering Herd to back-to-back championship game appearances against Youngstown State in 1991-92.
Payton, a two-time All-American, came up short of a championship in 1991, but led Marshall to its first title in the final seconds in 1992.
Others include Rennie Benn (Lehigh, receiver, 1982-85), Joe Campbell (Middle Tennessee State, running back, 1988-91), Bruce Collie (Texas-Arlington, tackle, 1980-84), Case deBruijn (Idaho State, punter, 1978-81), John Dorsey (Connecticut, linebacker, 1980-83), Curtis Eller (Villanova, linebacker, 1989-92), Richard Erenberg (Colgate, running back, 1980-83), Don Griffin (Middle Tennessee State, safety, 1982-85) and Garry Kuhlman (Delaware, tackle, 1979-81).
Also on the list are Steve McAdoo (Middle Tennessee State, offensive lineman, 1989-92), Bill McGovern (Holy Cross, defensive back, 1981-84), Martin Peterson (Penn, tackle, 1984-86), Charlie Pierce (Central Florida, punter-place kicker, 1993-96), Kirk Roach (Western Carolina, place kicker, 1984-87), Tom Stenglein (Colgate, receiver, 1983-85) and John Zanieski (Yale, middle guard, 1982-84).
Probably no name on the FCS portion of the ballot stands taller than former Appalachian State linebacker Dexter Coakley. Coakley, who played from 1993-96, is the only two-time winner of the prestigious Buck Buchanan Award.
Coakley was a three-time All-American and the only player to earn Southern Conference defensive player of the year honors three times. He recorded 616 tackles — the most in FCS history — with 46 tackles for loss and 13 sacks before moving to the NFL and becoming a three-time Pro Bowler with the Dallas Cowboys.
The small (5-9, 220 pounds), but speedy Coakley spent 10 years in the NFL, closing out his career with the St. Louis Rams in 2005-06. He was nominated for the College Football Hall of Fame ballot in his first year of eligibility.
Ironically, my first game as a beat writer for Appalachian State in 1993 was the initial game of Coakley's college career. He made an immediate impression on a rainy day at North Carolina A&T and kept on catching my eye from there as I watched nearly every game of his college career.
Many observers consider Coakley to be the greatest defensive player in FCS history, so it was an easy decision to list him as one of the two FCS performers I could vote for on my Hall of Fame ballot.
My other pick for this year went to Haley, who ranked as the leading tackler in James Madison storied history with 506 stops and was a first-team All-American in 1985, a season where he was also named the Roanoke Times and World News Virginia defensive player of the year as a linebacker.
Haley went on to an illustrious NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, earning five Pro Bowl selections and winning five Super Bowl rings. He redefined the defensive end position in the NFL, with 100.5 sacks in 14 years.
It is a shame that we are only allowed to vote for two players per section in the non-FBS portion of the ballot, for I truly believe that players such as Smith, Amerson, Payton, Ehrhardt and Parker, to name just a few, are deserving.
Among the players I voted for in the non-Division I sections were three 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.
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.
The two sections of the ballot honoring coaches had several names with rich FCS backgrounds.
Fisher DeBerry is known for his 169-109-1 record (a .608 winning percentage) at the Air Force Academy, but a lot of people don't realize he got his coaching start with under-appreciated innovator Jim Brakefield at his alma-mater Wofford and then Appalachian State.
The Terriers and the Mountaineers ran one of the most heady versions of the wishbone back in those days and DeBerry quickly became a sought-after clinic speaker.
DeBerry and Darryl Rogers (Arizona State, Michigan State, San Jose State, Fresno State, Cal State-Hayward and the Detroit Lions) received my votes in the FBS category.
There were several interesting FCS names on the Divisional Coaches portion of the ballot.
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).
Rudy 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.
Mike Kelly left his mark as a classic gentleman and a great coach during his head coaching career from 1981-2007 at Dayton. Kelly took the Flyers to an NCAA Division III crown in 1979 and won Sports Network Cups as the top mid-major team in FCS in 2002 and 2007. He previously served as the Flyers' defensive coordinator for four years.
He ranks first at Dayton with a 246-54-1 record and a staggering .819 win percentage (fourth-best all-time). After experiencing a shocking 3-7 record in 2006, Kelly showed his flexibility by installing a spread offense and leading the Flyers to an 11-1 mark in his 27th and final season.
Bill Manlove earned most of his notoriety by leading Division III Widener to a pair of national championships, his success at Delaware Valley and his 212 victories (seventh all-time in D-III), but he also should be recognized for his efforts in resurrecting the football program at LaSalle from 1997-2001.
John 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.
Two other names of notes on the ballot are 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.
If the rules allowed, I would have voted for Bowes, Hubbard, Kelly and Whitehead, but with just two selections allowed, I settled for Kelly and Hubbard. Hopefully, I can vote for Bowes and Whitehead in 2012 and Manlove in the future.
SETTING THE TABLE
One of the things to remember about the schools of the FCS, as pointed out above, is that many of these teams have rich histories that far outdate their years in this subdivision.
With that in mind, I would be negligent if I didn't mention several other players on the ballot from schools that now play at the FCS level.
Peter Catan (1978-80), a two-time All-American, helped Eastern Illinois to its 1978 NCAA Division II national championship. He holds school records for sacks in a game (six), season (21) and a career (47).
Mike Favor (1985-88) was one of the greatest players in North Dakota State's impeccable history as a two-time All-American and three-time Division II national championship at center.
In an early era, Jim Ferge (1966-68) made almost as big an impact for the Bison as a linebacker and defensive tackle. Ferge was a two-time All-American.
Darwin Gonnerman (1965-68) won back-to-back All-American honors during his South Dakota State career as a running back and set 13 school records for the Jackrabbits.
Don Greco (1977-80) was one of the top offensive linemen of his era at Western Illinois, earning All-American honors in 1980 at guard.
Pat Hauser (1980-83) had a similar career at Cal State-Northridge, earning back-to-back All-American recognition as a tackle.
Bobby Hedrick (1977-80) of Elon won All-American honors in 1980 and finished his career second in all-division career rushing yards (5,604), trailing only Pittsburgh's legendary Tony Dorsett.
Gary Puetz (1970-72) of Valparaiso was a two-time All-American as a tackle and showed his versatility by winning all-conference honors as a place kicker as well in 1972.
Alonzo Patterson (1979-82) was an All-American at Wagner, who led Division III and finished fourth in all divisions in rushing with 1,487 yards in 1982. He also was a three-time ECAC player of the year.
THE REST OF THE STORY
If you think voting on the FCS, Division II and III and NAIA candidates is tough, try completing the FBS side of the ballot.
There were only 11 votes allowed and twice as many worthy candidates among the 79 players on this part of the ballot. I settled on the following candidates after much sweat and tears.
1. Dave Casper, tight end, Notre Dame
2. Randall Cunningham, quarterback/punter, UNLV
3. Eddie George, running back, Ohio State
4. Charlie Gogolak, kicker, Princeton
5. Kirk Gibson, receiver, Michigan State
6. Dick Jauron, defensive back, Yale
7. Russell Maryland, defensive lineman, Miami (Fla.)
8. Art Monk, receiver, Syracuse
9. Jim Otis, fullback, Ohio State
10. Willie Roaf, tackle, Louisiana Tech
11. Deion Sanders, cornerback/returnman, Florida State
Considering that Charlie Gogolak is an alumnus of a current FCS team, Princeton, I'll go into a little more detail on this revolutionary player, who maybe unrecognized and unappreciated by the younger generation.
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.
I didn't hold it against him.
And hopefully, the other voters won't keep the ranks of FCS players from swelling in this year's College Football Hall of Fame class, which will be announced in the next couple of months.