NFF waiver a possible path for Erk into the CFB Hall of Fame
ATLANTA – You won’t get a lot of argument over whether or not former Georgia defensive coordinator and Georgia Southern head coach Erk Russell belongs in the College Football Hall of Fame.
The problem is, he’s not eligible.
Under current rules, a coach must have been a head coach for 10 years to be nominated for the hall.
Following a storied 17-year career as the defensive coordinator for the “Junkyard Dawgs” defense, Russell was lured to Georgia Southern in May of 1981 to restart the Eagles’ long-dormant football program.
Although he was only on the sidelines in Statesboro for eight years, Russell coached Georgia Southern to a record of 83-22-1, including a trio of I-AA national championships in 1985-1986 and his final season in 1989.
However, because he does not meet the 10-year requirement, the legendary coach has been left on the outside looking in.
But perhaps there is a way to finally make it happen.
In an interview with UGASports at SEC Media Days being held at the College Football of Fame, National Football Foundation Chief Operating Officer Matthew Sign acknowledged there is a process in place to request a waiver that could potentially get Russell admitted.
The NFF handles all aspects of the nomination and selection process for the College Football Hall of Fame.
“Erk has always been that unique candidate in that, he obviously meets all the criteria as a coach, except for the 10-year mark,” Sign said. “It has been a discussion over the years.”
According to Sign, the following would need to happen for a waiver to occur.
“On top of the Honors Court, we have an Awards Committee. That would be something the Awards Committee would take up and something they would have to approve,” Sign said. “It would also have to get approval from the board of trustees.”
For a waiver to potentially occur, per Sign, it would need to be brought up for recommendation by a member of the NFF board.
ESPN’s Paul Finebaum says there absolutely no question that Russell belongs in the hall.
“It’s criminal that Erk Russell is not in the Hall of Fame. He’s one of the most important people that’s ever coached in the South and one of the finest people,” Finebaum said. “They (the Hall of Fame) do that a lot; they’ve left a lot of people out. I knew Erk, covered him, and got to know him, and it’s beyond outrageous. It’s quite frankly disgraceful.”
Russell isn’t the only “unique” coach deserving consideration for the hall.
Former Marshall head coach Bob Pruett posted a record of 94-23 in nine years with the Thundering Herd, including six conference championships and the 1996 I-AA national crown.
“Those two are the most unique candidates because of the amount of success that they had,” Sign said.
Along with his coaching credentials, Russell was also Auburn’s last four-sport letterman, lettering in football, baseball, basketball, and tennis.
“He’s certainly a wonderful candidate at this point,” Sign said. “He’s not eligible, but he makes a strong argument.”