No College Hall of Fame for Ealey

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Joe Montana readies himself for a pass.

College sports support a College Football Hall of Fame to specifically recognize athletes who enjoyed accomplished college sports careers before going on to pursue professions in sports, or elsewhere.

Amazingly, a dream list of quarterbacks who played professionally — Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Brady Quinn, Tyrone Wheatley, Eli Manning, Bernie Kosar, and Drew Brees — as well as (perhaps lesser known) Chuck Ealey of Portsmouth, Ohio, have not been, and likely never will be, elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

One modified rule governing that exclusive club prevents these superb QBs from attaining college hall of fame status.

Undrafted and Unrecognized 

On January 6, 2011, Ealey turned 61, and the gridiron man referred to as “The Wizard of Oohs and Aahs” said goodbye to another year that would exclude him from the College Football Hall of Fame. The University of Toledo’s quarterback from 1969 through 1971, Ealey achieved a singular record of 53 straight wins and no defeats in high school and college combined. Yet the black athlete went undrafted by the National Football League, and he can’t get into the College Football Hall of Fame.

In the College Football Hall of Fame 

In the Hall are Chuck Ealey’s playing contemporaries: The Ohio State University’s Rex Kern (27-2, 1968-1970); Jim Plunkett of Stanford (22-8-2, 1968-1970); and Archie Manning (22-10-1; 1968-1970.)

The UT Rockets won three Mid-American Conference (MAC) championships and three bowl games in their three unbeaten seasons with Ealey at the quarterback position.

No Ballot, No Election 

Ealey couldn’t get on the ballot for election to the hall of fame because of a rule implemented long after he finished his college playing days. The standard says a player must have been “named an All-American by an accepted major organization”, according to a July, 2010 Toledo Blade (newspaper) report by Matt Markey entitled “Undefeated Quarterback Still Denied Final Victory.” The article also quoted Steve Hatchell, the President & Chief Executive Officer of the National Football Foundation and the College Football Hall of Fame.

At the time, Hatchell offered this observation for Markey’s article: “…I understand he (Ealey) was a terrific player… I was in college at the time… but these lines (rules) have been drawn up, and we have to be faithful to it.”

Ealey Was Named to No Avail 

Ealey actually was named a First Team All-American by The Football News. Unfortunately, the News was not an approved entity at the time. And, sadly enough, it was later recognized as such, too late for Ealey’s case.

Markey’s article related that many voices were heard on working out a fix for Ealey and others excluded from the College Football Hall of Fame. Some suggestions included:

A) How about allowing every quarterback who goes undefeated to be nominated for the hall? (This was the suggestion of Dr. Jack Taylor, Associate Professor Emeritus of Ethnic Studies at Bowling Green State University, Ohio.)

B) Why not allow anyone who makes the Top Ten Heisman Trophy nomination list eligible for the hall ballot? (Ealey finished eighth in Heisman voting in 1971.)

“If they can’t fix that, it’s a shame,” former Purdue University Head Football Coach and Toledo native Joe Tiller was quoted in Markey’s article.

Ealey Says Records Aren’t Heroic 

When interviewed for the Markey article, Ealey appeared at the age of 61 not to lend too much importance to his not being placed on the hall ballot.

He said he believed records are not heroic and that education is what allows one to be successful, according to statements in Markey’s article.

Ealey played in the Canadian Football League before becoming a regional director for an investing company in Ontario.

“The Wizard of Oohs and Aahs” graduated from Portsmouth, Ohio’s Notre Dame High School and attended UT on a sports scholarship. In 1972, he graduated UT with a degree in Business Administration and Business Economics.

Perhaps, as Ealey claimed, records are not heroic, but they do influence others on visceral levels. Nonetheless, Ealey’s example of a life lived with excellence and humbleness has its impact, as well.

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Credit:
Photo from the cover of the book “Not Till the Fat Lady Sings — The Most Dramatic Sports Finishes of All Time”, 2003, Triumph Books, Chicago, Illinois

 

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