HU's first Hall of Fame class isn't complete enough

Hampton University finally decided to get into the athletic hall of fame business, and frankly, it's surprising that it took this long. Prestigious school, rich athletic tradition, the whole nine yards.

Normally, these sorts of honors and announcements barely move the needle for anyone outside a university community. Their criteria, their ceremonies. Some inductees you've heard of, many not.

In HU's case, however, the inaugural class is curiously typical. Or typically curious. Or, if you've paid any attention to Pirate athletics through the years, maybe neither.

The 15-member class includes the fifth- and sixth-leading career scorers in men's basketball, but not the most successful football coach in school history.

The Nos. 2 and 3 career rushers in football are in, but not the leader. He wasn't nominated. The third-leading scorer in women's hoops is in, but not the NCAA sprint champion or the track coach who had a slew of individual NCAA champions and dozens of All-Americans. He wasn't nominated, either.

Oh, and in a stunning upset, the school prez made the cut.

Dr. Charles Wooding, the chairman of the hall's Board of Directors, called it "a class of distinction."

Which it is, but not as distinctive as it could be, and should be.

By definition, an inaugural hall of fame class ought to be the crème de la crème. You have a school's or an organization's entire history from which to draw.

All participants, all eras. A nod to history, a nod to excellence. The inaugural class is bigger than successive classes, too, because you want to make a splash, and because you have some catching up to do.

HU had history covered with Gideon Smith, the very successful football coach from 1921-40, and with Thomas R. Casey, a multi-sport star from the 1940s who later played professional football.

There's no arguing with Jackie Dolberry or Robert Screen or Rick Mahorn or Hank Ford or Reginald Doss, either. All occupied the top rung of achievement at HU and made plenty of conference, and national, noise.

That's why the absence of Joe Taylor from HU's first class is so striking.

All Taylor did was win more football games for Hampton than anyone ever, by a country mile. He coached the Pirates to seven NCAA playoff berths in 16 years. Four times his teams were crowned black-college national champs.

Taylor shepherded the football program from Division II to Division I-AA, when HU athletics transitioned to Division I in the mid-1990s.

As traditional HBCU powers Grambling and Florida A&M fell on leaner times, Hampton under Taylor fielded the nation's premier black-college program.

He also did the school a favor when he doubled as football coach and athletic director for two years after Zeke Avery stepped down in 2005.

In short, Taylor's accomplishments at least equal and probably surpass nearly anyone else on HU's short list.

So why didn't he make the cut for the inaugural class?

Featured Stories



Top Trending Videos