The College Football Hall of Fame: An ode to those heroic men not (yet) nominated
The College Football Hall of Fame announced its enormous list of nominees on Thursday, but one thing stuck out: To even be considered for a spot, players are required to have previously been named a first-team All-America. According to National Football Foundation president and CEO Steven J. Hatchell, that slices the pool down from a hair under five million people to just around 1,500.
A smaller group of candidates makes it a lot easier to actually settle on who belongs in the hall and who doesn't. Without some kind of qualifiers, the NFF would have too many candidates to sort through, and the hall would probably be empty. (Have you ever seen five people try to decide where to go to lunch? It takes like an hour). But, as a result, the hall is missing those elite bastions of statistical outliers. The people who made the game truly incredible. The forgotten heroes.
I brought on college football historian and sandwich artist Celebrity Hot Tub to help discuss five players who (probably) won't ever make the College Football Hall of Fame (as well as one bonus coaching candidate), but have earned a place in the Super Official People's Hall. (There are plenty more, but hey, we have to start somewhere. No one enjoys reading a list of 100 names all at once. That app that lets you read books super fast isn't available to everyone yet.)
VMI punter Jim Bailey
Martin Rickman: Bailey holds the NCAA record for punts in a season, with 101 in 1969. (The record was tied in 2013 by Tony Epperson of Weber State). VMI played 10 games that year and went 0-10. It scored 78 total points, with 32 coming in one game (against Boston College!). Bailey was the unsung star. He had to have been.
Celebrity Hot Tub: Here's how amazing Bailey's 1969 was: He nearly had as many punts as VMI had completed passes (107). Every offensive drive is an opportunity to pass the ball successfully three times, at a minimum. Those same drives can only lead to one punt. Do you know how many punts Auburn and Florida State had all season in '13? Including the conference championship games? And the national title game? NINETY-EIGHT COMBINED.
MR: How many possessions do you average per game? Eleven, maybe? So, on average, there were one or two times per game when a VMI offensive drive didn't end in Bailey punting it away. If anything, VMI wasn't turning it over all that much, right?
CHT: That's a great point. We're praising Bailey, but you don't get to 101 punts in a season without teammates who know how to play poorly but not TOO poorly.
MR: VMI wasn't scoring and wasn't turning it over. It was maximizing punt use. Are we absolutely sure Kirk Ferentz wasn't coaching VMI in 1969?
CHT: Ferentz would have been 14 years old at the time. So, no, we're not sure.
MR: In 1970, Bailey punted 93 times. He had an outside shot of breaking his own record. Also, he was a two-time Southern Conference champion wrestler at 190 pounds. This dude could hold his own.
CHT: If you don't put him in the hall, just admit that you're never going to let any punters in. Then look into the eyes of a tiny orphan punter (all punters are orphans) and see how you feel.
MR: Prindle has three FBS records all from the same day, Sept. 29, 1984. He's tied with Nebraska's Dale Klein for the most made field goals (7) in a single game. He attempted a record nine field goals on the day. And he had 24 points in Western Michigan's 42-7 win over Marshall. This is, presumably, the best single kicking day ever.
CHT: How much do you think the two misses haunt him? Wouldn't a 30-point day have set the college football world on fire? College kickers, man.
MR: The coach of that team was Jack Harbaugh, obviously. About Prindle's performance, Harbaugh said: “It’s the only time I know of that we had to ice the kicker’s leg instead of the quarterback’s arm."
CHT: They didn't, of course. You don't become Harbaugh tough with "ice" and "proper medical treatment" and "supportive words."
MR: Prindle was in the NFL for three games, as a replacement player for the Detroit Lions during the strike season of 1987. His career points total? 24.
CHT: (gasp) It's the best promo for a Kiefer Sutherland project EVER.
MR: Prindle was interviewed about his time in the NFL, and in an article he said that he wasn't sure how he would be treated at a Lions alumni event. He said, “I remember Tim Pendell calling me the first time. I wasn’t too sure about going, since I had been a replacement player. He interrupted me and told me: ‘No, you’re a Lion. Once you’re a Lion, you’re always a Lion.’ That put me at ease." Once you're a Lion, you're always a Lion. That sounds a bit like a threat to me.
CHT: It's not a threat so much as it is disclosure of how viruses live in your body forever. The Lions: football shingles. But this is not the Hall of Never Played For The Lions, now is it?
MR: Nope, this is the Super Official People's Hall. I've got to believe Mike Prindle earned his place.
Florida quarterback John Reaves
CHT: There's a lot you can't do when you're 19 years old. You can't buy beer. You can't rent a car in most places. You can't run for the House of Representatives. But, when he was 19, John Reaves didn't want to do any of those things. He just had two goals: to play quarterback for the Florida Gators and to throw a crazy number of interceptions in one game.
MR: Nine, to be exact. On Nov. 1, 1969. In a 38-12 loss to Auburn. That takes commitment. Drive. The kind of sheer dedication one can only summon when throwing the ball 66 times in one game, when almost 14 percent of those attempts are caught by members of the opposing team. This is the same player, mind you, who was a part of the infamous "Gator Flop" so he could get a then-NCAA record for passing yards against Miami in '71.
CHT: Anyone who watched the Denard Robinson era knows that throwing interceptions isn't hard. What's difficult is throwing so many without being benched, or being told to hand off, or being smothered with a rag of formaldehyde. Fortunately for Reaves, Florida coach Ray Graves had left his formaldehyde rag in his other pants.
MR: What's the amount where you just say to yourself, Yup, today is not my day? After about four or five? If I'm waiting tables and I break like five plates, I'm probably just going to go home or cry somewhere. But there has to be a sense of pride in throwing that many picks. Like, Oh you don't think I can throw another one? Well watch this! And this wasn't a Mike Leach throw-the-ball-70-times-no-matter-what offense. This was 1969 Florida. I think what stands out most is that Reaves wasn't a bad quarterback who had no talent around him. He was a first-round NFL draft pick! His best receiver, Carlos Alvarez, is already in the College Football Hall of Fame. That season, the Gators beat the Playboy preseason No. 1 team (now those are the rankings that matter) Houston. The loss to Auburn was their only one of the season. What's the old saying about bad things coming in threes? I guess it just came in three multiples of three on that day.
CHT: Nine interceptions. This might actually belong in some sort of Museum of Medical Oddities instead.
Nevada punter Pat Brady
MR: Everyone likes reading old oral histories. What we really need is an oral history of Brady's 99-yard punt against Loyola Marymount in 1950. It's a record that will never be broken.
CHT: How demoralizing must it be to give up a 99-yard punt? Players on defense hate you because you've wasted all their good work. Players on offense hate you because you've put them in an impossible position. And you hate yourself because, come on, 99-yard punt???
MR: What's worse is this came after a goal-line stand. So, Loyola got to the one-yard line. Didn't score. And Nevada quick-kicked it. Just read this from Harry Spencer of The Daily Sparks Tribune, written shortly after Brady's death in 2009: "After a goal-line stand against Loyola that gave Nevada the ball just inches from their own goal line, Brady, who was quarterback as well as punter, lined up in coach Joe Sheeketski’s T formation and quickly dropped back for the most famous “quick kick” in NCAA history. The ball sailed off Brady’s left foot and spiraled high and long, some 70 yards, it hit the uneven turf of old Mackay and took on a life of its own, bounding and rolling along until it stopped some two feet short of the Loyola goal line — an amazing 99-yarder!"
CHT: Well, now I don't know how I feel about this punt. This is a record built on trickery and deceit, not fair play. That's not what the Hall of Fame is ab(notices Barry Switzer bust) -- never mind. It's cool.
MR: Deceit didn't get Nevada very far, anyway. It lost the game 34-7.
Kansas running back Tony Sands
CHT: SANDS! (That's Mr. Sands to you, suckas.)
MR: Sands was just 5-foot-6 and the Lawrence Journal-World's Chuck Woodling once said, "Tony Sands was not big. He was not fast. And he really didn't have good hands. And yet, he just ran, ran, ran." Ran he did. FIFTY-EIGHT TIMES in a single game against Missouri on Nov. 23, 1991 for a then-record 396 yards. (It has since been broken a few times. The Division I record is now 406 yards, held by LaDanian Tomlinson, and the all-division record is 465 yards, held by Heidelberg's Cartel Brooks).
CHT: (the quick beat of a high hat and a funky bass groove) SANDS!
MR: The hall has to let this guy in. He was nicknamed "Tuxedo Tony" because he would wear a tux on game days. From a Frank Lidz story for SI in 1991:
Tony Sands doesn't just dress for games; he dresses up for them. As a freshman, Sands, a senior tailback at Kansas, earned the nickname Tuxedo Tony after showing up for a game in homemade formal attire. In his sophomore year, Sands moved on to a dinner jacket with a red bow tie and matching cummerbund. Soon he had his own home-and-away wardrobe: He would wear black in Lawrence, white on the road. This year Sands had abandoned the formal wear until last Saturday, when he showed up for the Jayhawks' 41-0 defeat of Iowa State looking tony again. "It was homecoming," he said. "It was time."
The induction ceremony would be a treat. And Sands is a dude my height who got the ball 58 freaking times. Fifty-eight! On about the 35th carry, a 5-6 dude who is 185 pounds is supposed to just collapse in on himself.
CHT: (trumpets join in, followed by a single flute) DANG RIGHT I SAID SANDS!
MR: Now he's a personal trainer. His website is GetSandsational.com. He uses a Rick Ross song in his promo video. You don't let Tony Sands into the College Football Hall of Fame. Tony Sands lets himself in.
Northwestern coach Rick Venturi
MR: Despite a long, successful tenure in the NFL, Venturi went 1-31-1 in three seasons at Northwestern. (The tie came in a 0-0 game against Illinois in the first week of the 1978 season). 1-31-1. After getting smoked 63-20 by Ohio State in '78, Venturi once said, "The only difference between me and General Custer is that I had to watch the films on Sunday."
CHT: The case for Rick Venturi is simple: Give him this, because the man barely got anything else in his collegiate head coaching career.
MR: For you, Rick.