VETTEL: Emmitt's Big Day Obscured

What if three of the greatest figures in the history of college football in Florida entered the College Football Hall of Fame and no one seemed to notice? Well, as far as I'm concerned the inductions of Emmitt Smith, Bobby Bowden and Charley Ward did not get the attention these three icons had earned.

They were inducted into the College Football Hall on Saturday almost ten months after their selection was announced.

Part of the program is timing. The dead of summer is when both the Baseball and Pro Football Halls do their induction ceremonies. Thus that college football event will at best be the third most significant ceremony of its type. Moving it to earlier in the summer, maybe closer to the NFL draft might help a lot. Another issue is the size of the class. Each year the folks in Cooperstown welcome somewhere between one and five of baseball's greats to be enshrined. The NFL has between four and seven in Canton, Ohio. But Saturday, the College Football Hall of Fame welcomed 20 new members.

It's kind of like when everyone in the band gets an award at the end of the school year. The more people you honor, the less special it becomes. The College Hall would be well advised to cut the class to ten a year, or even fewer. Or, since they recognize inductees in all divisions, they could make the top level announcement/ceremony separate from the time at which they honor small college stars. That would certainly help. I would also like to see them push the announcement back to the college football bowl season, maybe even doing it at the BCS Championship Game to make it the major announcement it needs to be.

Giving Emmitt His Due

Now that I'm done ranting about the structure and timing of the event, let's take some time to salute arguably the greatest college football player in the history of the state of Florida. Emmitt Smith ran for over 3,900 yards in just three seasons in Gainesville despite playing on a trio of mediocre Gator teams. His breakout game against Alabama was one of the most memorable performances in school history. But that's just one example of his amazing career.

Five times in Gator history a running back has gained more than 200 yards. Three of those times it was Emmitt Smith. He had 23 100-yard games in his three seasons and his junior season total of 1,599 is more than 250 yards better than the next best Gator season. Yeah, Emmitt has the second best season too (1,341 in '87).

When the Florida Gators went on probation in the fall of '84, the Gators were hit with the most severe scholarship reductions the NCAA has ever (to this day) handed down. The sanctions were meant to cripple the Gator roster and force Florida to rebuild from the bottom of college football. And that just might have happened if not for the running back from Pensacola Escambia. It would be unfair to a number of other players to say Emmitt was the only reason the Gators never had a losing season in that difficult time ('87-'89) but he was the single biggest reason. He carried the Gators through probation and kept Florida respectable in the late eighties.

I often wonder what kind of year Emmitt would have had in 1990 in Steve Spurrier's offense. Errict Rhett and Willie McClendon combined for over 1,500 yards that year and I don't think it's outrageous to say Emmitt might have topped 1,800. He also would have caught a slew of passes and been drafted a helluvalot higher than number 17.

Still, life worked out well for Emmitt Smith. He set records at all three levels of competition and has entered every Hall of Fame he's ever been eligible for. He has one more still to go, and he'll certainly get his due then.

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