If Hall of Fame eligibility requirements were video games, the College Football Hall of Fame would be Excitebike on a black-and-white television.
The 2014 class will introduce new members in December, one of which is the late Derrick Thomas of Alabama, who played for the Crimson Tide from 1985-88. Thomas was a two-time All-SEC team member and a consensus All-American in 1988. That same year, he won the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker, finished 10th in Heisman Trophy voting and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Later, he was named the SEC’s All-Decade Team for the 1980s.
Statistically, Thomas was unbelievable. The man had 52 sacks in his career and 27 in his senior season alone. Both would be NCAA records, but official defensive statistics were not recorded until 2000. He still holds Alabama school records for blocked kicks, tackles for loss and forced fumbles. Nick Saban has brought a wealth of linebacker talent to the Capstone in recent years, yet none can match Thomas.
Thomas’ pro career is a laundry list of accolades. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler, holds the NFL single-game sack record, had his number retired by the Kansas City Chiefs and still holds six team defensive records, 15 years after he left the game. He was also voted a member of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team. For these accomplishments, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
According to the National Football Foundation, to be eligible for the College Hall of Fame, a player must:
1.) Received major first team All-America recognition.
2.) Be out of the college game for at least 10 years.
Then, the Foundation analyzes the player’s post-football career to ensure that he was a “good citizen.” Thomas started the Third and Long Foundation in 1990 to help urban children in Kansas City obtain a better education and life outside of the dangers of the streets. “Sacking illiteracy” is the motto and this foundation still thrives 24 years later. I’m not sure why this matters, but Thomas seems to cover this requirement too.
How does a man like this get inducted to the Pro Hall of Fame before the College HOF? How does he sit for 15 years without getting the nod? How do people like Tommie Frazier get in before Thomas? Apparently, Alabama did not nominate him until 2011, which really makes no sense at all. Disregarding that, the Foundation Honors Court snubbing him after he was eligible is a real head-scratcher. Further, the Hall has a policy of not voting in players from the same school in the same year, which caused Thomas’ snub in 2012. Really?
Players like Thomas deserve their due immediately. The Hall finally got it right, but these archaic policies need to go. When looking at the inductees over the years, the shortage of players from the SEC and other southern conferences is glaring. Alabama has 55 consensus All-Americans in their history and claims 15 national championships. Yet, Alabama only has 18 players in the College Football Hall of Fame. Princeton has 21.
You do the math. It ain’t right. I’m glad Thomas finally got his due, but this one was ridiculous.