Strange Decisions With Sports Hall Of Fame

Columnist Phillip Marshall sees problems with some prominent Auburn sports figures who are not part of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

I've had few prouder moments in my life than when, in 1985, I accepted my father's induction into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. It was an honor to represent him and my family. He would have been proud.

Let it be noted here than I am proud of my father's membership, proud as an Alabamian of many things the Hall of Fame stands for and, as an organization, has done. I have, in the past, been one of the voters who select the inductees each year. It should also be noted that the volunteers and employees who run the organization on a day-to-day basis have nothing to do with who is a member and who isn't.

But there have been some strange decisions in determining who goes on the final ballot and who is elected.

In doing research for a project, one I'll have more to say about in the near future, I spent a good bit of time poring over the ASHOF website. As I did that, one thing became increasingly obvious: The best way to get into our state's Hall of Fame is to be a standout athlete at the University of Alabama, particularly a football player.

By my quick count, probably off by a few one way or the other, 72 Hall of Famers have Alabama ties and 49 have Auburn ties. I don't question any member's qualifications. They were elected, and because they were elected, they deserve to be there.

But as I looked at the website, I wondered.

If Don Gambril, whose best finish as Alabama's swim coach was No. 2 in the NCAA, is in the Hall of Fame, how in the world is David Marsh, who has won seven swimming national championships at Auburn, not? If Sarah Patterson, who has won four gymnastics national championships at Alabama, is in the Hall of Fame, how can Marsh not be elected by acclamation?

As I read on, I wondered. How long would it take an Alabama quarterback who went 21-4 as a starter and won back to back SEC championships to be elected? I went back to the list of nominees looking for Auburn quarterback Reggie Slack, who played his last college season in 1989. Nope. He wasn't there.

Marsh should have already been elected. Slack could be considered. But right there with Marsh at the top of the jilted list is a football player who was as dominant as any in Auburn history.

Tracy Rocker is the only player in Southeastern Conference history to win both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award in the same season. He was among the more dominant defensive linemen in SEC history. He was named SEC Player of the Year in 1988.

He is in the College Football Hall of Fame. He is not in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Figure that one out.

I could make a long list of folks who deserve more Hall of Fame consideration than they seemingly get. But the absence of Marsh and Rocker is so glaring that it makes one wonder just what in the heck is going on. It's a situation that should be rectified. They should be on the next ballot, and they should be elected. It's as simple as that.


Ralph Jordan Jr. has a fascinating perspective on big-time college football in general and Auburn football in particular. The congenial son of Auburn's former football coach is troubled by the mounting pressure on modern-day coaches to win or else. He was outspoken in his criticism of those involved in last November's clandestine trip to interview Louisville coach Bobby Petrino.

Jordan saw his father go through good times and bad, but he says he never sensed he felt the kind of pressure coaches feel today.

"Pressure is going to continue to build on coaching staffs, not only to win but to make money," Jordan says. "That mentality leads to what happened last November and December. You get glimpses of the dark side. People lose all perspective. They forget their grounding and who they are."

Jordan, an influential member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, said he wants Auburn to be different. He says current Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville deserves support.

"The whole thing has changed, and I'll be the last person to admit that it's a good change," Jordan said from his Tennessee home. "I think Tommy Tuberville is a good man. I think he deserves every chance at Auburn. I hope Auburn people are willing to give him that chance and temper their expectations."

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