HBCU Hall of Fame to announce first class Feb. 20
By Hal Lamar
Former Grambling State University and NFL quarterbacks Doug Williams and James “Shack” Harris say phone conversations between the two of them over several years led to the creation of the Black College Football Hall of Fame. The announcement was made officially October 9 amid the lavish surroundings of the Four Seasons Hotel in midtown Atlanta which announced that it had signed on as a platinum sponsor of the endeavor.
“James and I talk at least 10 times a week and we always found ourselves talking about football and one of things we always discussed was either a black college national championship game or either a black college football Hall of Fame,” said Williams. That’s how this came about.”
Williams and Harris have assembled an impressive group of former athletes, administrators, sportswriters and broadcasters to serve on the Hall’s selection committee. The list of notables include former Dallas Cowboy General Manager Gil Brandt, former Pittsburgh Steeler Executive Charles Bailey, ex-New York Giant General Manager Ernie Accorsi, veteran TV sportscaster Charlie Neal and Ty Miller, sports director of the Sheridan Broadcasting Network which annually names an SBN All America team.
“We want to make sure the selection process for the Hall was fair, ” said Harris. “We wanted to make sure that people had some knowledge of the players. The group we selected has written about them, some have scouted the players and so they are very familiar with black college football,”
The first inductees will be announced February 20 during black history month in promised elaborate ceremonies at the Four Seasons which will be chaired by former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, himself a former hurdler and swimmer at Howard University.
“Shack and I are not on the committee,” Williams emphasized. “We want to make that clear. This is near and dear to our hearts but I don’t think it would be fair for either one of us to be on the selection committee. They’ve had a conference call coming up soon. We won’t be anywhere near the call.”
The Hall will induct eight individuals into the inaugural class, seven players/and or coaches and one contributor. Initially, the home for the Hall will be the group’s web site blackcollegefootballhof.org.
Williams is not ruling out a “brick and mortar”: building to house the HOF at some point in the future. In the meantime, the College Hall of Fame, which is moving to Atlanta from South Bend Indiana, has already committed itself to devoting a wing to the exploits of HBCU athletes.
Harris said the Hall will prove educational for youngsters and adults who may not realize the struggles HBCU gridders faced while playing the game or their contributions to same.
” The history of the players who will be inducted in the Hall is interesting. The early athletes were the best in the country bar none but there were sacrifices that we had to make. For example, we had to sleep in the gym motel on cots. We had to ride the bus across country (many still do). There were four and five hour practices. So this wasn’t just a game for us. It was a way of life.”
A call for nominations will be announced in a few weeks, say organizers. Any member of the media, college or professional coaches and players and the general public can make a nomination. Nomination form will soon be available at blackcollegefootballhof.org.