Within minutes of posting the story yesterday about Jim Donnan’s election to the College Football Hall of Fame, I got e-mails from a couple of readers pointing out who’s not in the Hall:
How could that be, you ask, given Russell’s legendary career as defensive coordinator at Georgia and amazing accomplishments in resurrecting the football program at Georgia Southern?
Seems the Hall of Fame has a rule requiring that one be a head coach for at least 10 years to be eligible for election.
Russell, who died in 2006, was Georgia Southern’s head coach for eight seasons (1982-89).
In that time, he compiled an 83-22-1 record and won three Division I-AA national titles.
All of that at a school that hadn’t fielded a football team in 40 years.
All of that after 17 inspiring years of coaching Georgia’s “Junkyard Dawgs” defense.
And Erk Russell is not in the Hall of Fame because he wasn’t a head coach long enough?
As one of my e-mails said yesterday, that is a rule crying out for an exception to be made.
You gotta be happy for Donnan. He was a head coach for 11 seasons — six at Marshall and five at Georgia — after a superb stretch as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator under Barry Switzer. It’s nice that the final chapter of Donnan’s coaching career will be this summer’s Hall of Fame induction, rather than his 2000 firing by UGA.
Donnan considered getting back into coaching after that, but never did. Now 64 and still living in Athens, he does some radio (680 The Fan) and television (ESPN) work. But “I’m really just kind of Mr. Retired,” he said Tuesday.
He sounded happy and appreciative about the Hall of Fame election, calling it “one of the biggest thrills I’ve ever had in coaching.”
He will go into the Hall of Fame as a member of its 2009 “divisional” class, which includes players and coaches from NCAA divisions I-AA (now called the Football Championship Subdivision), II and III and the NAIA. Donnan was considered in that class because he was head coach at Marshall, I-AA at the time, longer than at I-A Georgia.
As the Hall of Fame pointed out in yesterday’s announcement, Donnan won more than 70 percent of his games as a head coach: He was 64-21 at Marshall, including 15-4 in playoff games, and 40-19 at Georgia. He took Marshall to four I-AA title games and one national championship.