Last week, as reported by the mothership, the College Football Hall of Fame released its ballot for the 2014 class. Included among the nominees are six MAC players and coaches -- well, not really MAC players and coaches, because these six nominees predate their schools' time in the MAC by decades, in some cases. But we cover hockey even though it isn't a MAC sport, so here's a look at the MAC's sort-of-nominees for this year. We'll start by providing the official ballot biography for each, then provide some more context.
Steve Cockerham, Akron (LB)
Two-time First Team All-America selection (1976-77)...Concluded career as the school's all-time leader in tackles with 715...Led Akron to 1976 Division II Championship Game.
In addition to these accomplishments, Cockerham holds Akron's single-season record for solo tackles (107 in 1975), career record for solo tackles (373), was an Honorable Mention All-American in 1975, won the Fred Sefton Award (for outstanding overall Akron football player) three times, won the Harry "Doc" Smith Award (for outstanding Akron football player in each class) four times, and won the James Horrigan Award (for outstanding Akron male athlete) twice. Long story short, he's the most decorated player in Akron history, even if he isn't the most famous.
Howard Fletcher, Northern Illinois (Coach)
Coached unbeaten NCAA College Division and NAIA National Championship team in 1963...Led NIU to three conference titles (1963-65)...Inducted into the NIU Athletic Hall of Fame...Was the runner-up as Kodak College Division Coach of the Year in 1963...Made three appearances in the Mineral Water Bowl.
Fletcher coached at NIU from 1956 to 1968, compiling a record of 74-48-1. As the Chicago Tribune put it in his obituary, Fletcher "led NIU football to the big time." George Bork, the quarterback of the 1963 championship team, noted that Fletcher was ahead of his time, running an offense that threw the ball over sixty times a game. Bork, a College Football Hall of Fame inductee himself, benefited tremendously from Fletcher's innovative offense (the kind that would probably infuriate Bret Bielema and Nick Saban today): the super-fast, pass-happy scheme installed by Fletcher left Bork with all-time college records in attempts, completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns when he graduated, though he's since been eclipsed. But he can always say this: thanks to Howard Fletcher, he was the first player ever to throw for 3,000 yards in a season.
Rene Ingoglia, Massachusetts (RB)
Finished career ranked second all-time in FCS history in TDs (54) and as school's all-time leader in rushing (4,624) and carries (905) among others...First UMass player to average more than 100 ypg rushing in career.
Ingoglia shouldn't have gone to UMass, although it worked out brilliantly for him. He was a highly recruited prospect in high school, with offers from the likes of Wisconsin (when they were starting their rise under Barry Alvarez) and Syracuse (when they were still quite good). But he blew out his knee in high school, and every scholarship offer was pulled. Syracuse coach George McPherson, though, saw that he had potential, and recommended him to UMass coach Jim Reid, who offered based solely on McPherson's word. Ingoglia went on to be one of the best running backs UMass has ever seen. In addition to leading the school in rushing yards and attempts (marks since surpassed), he was a First Team All-American in 1995 and Second Team All-American in 1994, as well as the Yankee Conference Rookie of the Year in 1992 and a member of that erstwhile league's 50th Anniversary team. After a brief stint in the NFL, he has transitioned to broadcasting, working for ESPN.
Gerry Quinlivan, Buffalo (LB)
Named First Team All-America in 1984...Two-time First Team ECAC Upstate New York selection and team captain (1983-84)...Four-year starter and letterman...Two-time Most Outstanding Linebacker (1983-84).
Our friends at UB Bull Run have already done a good job giving further detail to Quinlivan's accomplishments. Here's a snippet, but we recommend you read the whole thing. Seems Gerry was a turnover machine:
Terry Schmidt, Ball State (DB)
Named First Team All-America in 1973 when he set a single-season school record with 13 interceptions...Team MVP as a senior...Played in the Coaches All-America Game and the East-West Shrine Game.
The only nominee to have actually spent time in the MAC, Schmidt's senior season in 1973 was Ball State's first in the Mid-American Conference. In addition to his All-American award, he was named a Second Team Academic All-American in 1973, received an All-Academic MAC award in 1973, and still holds the single-season record for interceptions. Schmidt went on to an eleven-year NFL career with the Saints and Bears, retiring the season before the Bears' famous win in Super Bowl XX. After retiring, he went to dental school, and he has devoted his career to serving the nation's veterans by providing dental care at VA hospitals.
Steve Schubert, Massachusetts (WR)
Named First Team All-America in 1972...Averaged 81.9 yards receiving per game in 1972, which ranks fourth on the school record list...Holds school record for average yards per catch in a season in with 20.1 in 1972.
Schubert is another player whose records have held up well over time. He's still #3 in single-season yards per catch (20.1 in 1972, as noted above) and in career yards per catch (17.7). He also excelled on special teams, where his single-season and career punt return yardage averages (16.8 in 1972, 12.2 for the career) remain #2 in school history. Schubert went on to play six years in the NFL, mostly with the Bears, where he was a teammate of Terry Schmidt for a short time. After retiring, Schubert found great success in the investment banking world. But, staying true to his roots, he still lives in his hometown of Manchester, New Hampshire, where he owns an arena football team.
A Final Note
Each of the six MAC and MAC-adjacent nominees on the ballot would be richly deserving inductees to the College Football Hall of Fame, and we here at Hustle Belt wish them all the best of luck in the voting process. But I (and here I'm speaking just for me, not for the blog, though I'm sure others agree with me) have to comment on a glaring omission made yet again on this year's ballot: the omission of Toledo quarterback Chuck Ealey.
You may not have heard of Chuck Ealey, but you certainly should have. All he ever did was win. He never lost in high school, leading Portsmouth (OH) Notre Dame to repeated undefeated seasons. Believing in his talent, he turned down an offer from Bo Schembechler to the the third-string quarterback at Miami in favor of Frank Lauterbur's giving him the chance to start at Toledo -- and he made the most of that chance. In his three years of eligibility for the Rockets, he started thirty-five games and led them to thirty-five wins and three consecutive top-20 finishes. His 35-0 record still stands (and probably will for quite some time) as the longest winning streak by a quarterback in collegiate history. But Ealey never played a down in the NFL. He insisted on playing quarterback in the league at a time when black men simply weren't allowed to play the position. (Miami's Sherman Smith, who played quarterback just after Ealey graduated from Toledo, was converted to a running back in the NFL.) So Ealey went undrafted and made his way to Canada, where he played for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and was named CFL Rookie of the Year in 1972, when he led his team to the Grey Cup in his first professional season. Unfortunately, Ealey's pro career was cut short by a collapsed lung, but he remains beloved in Canada.
Chuck Ealey, though, is not a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. This is a travesty, a sham, a mockery, and a traveshamockery. And it makes no sense that he's not in: sure, he didn't have a standout NFL career, but most of the people in the College Hall never did. And sure, he didn't play for a traditional power like Notre Dame or Alabama, but most of the people in the College Hall never did. All Chuck Ealey did was quarterback thirty-five wins in a row, something no one in the College Hall ever did, but he's stuck on the outside looking in.