The summer of 2009 was a special college football time for West Virginians. The 2009 College Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in South Bend, Indiana, featured a strong Mountain State flavor.
Among the members of the 2009 induction class were former WVU quarterback Major Harris, former Marshall wide receiver Troy Brown and former Pineville High School running back Curt Warner.
Harris was a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist for the Mountaineers (1988, 1989). Brown led the Thundering Herd to a I-AA national championship in 1992. Warner led Penn State to a national championship in 1982 over Herschel Walker and Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
Harris led West Virginia to a national championship Fiesta Bowl match-up with Notre Dame after the 1988 season and a Gator Bowl game against Clemson after the 1989 season. Many Mountaineers fans may not remember that Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator in 1988 was Barry Alvarez, who would go on to be a Hall of Fame coach at Wisconsin.
When Brown led Marshall to a I-AA national title in 1992, the opponent was Youngstown State. The Penguins were coached by future Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. An assistant on Tressel’s staff was former Marshall player and future Marshall head coach Mark Snyder. Tressel would win a I-AA national title the next two seasons in Huntington in 1993 and 1994.
Our state loves college football. Much of the country has a passion for the college game. However, that has never really translated into sustained success for the College Football Hall of Fame.
The College Football Hall of Fame has had three homes.
From 1976-92, it was in Mason, Ohio, next to Kings Island. It was thought that visitors to the amusement park might also visit the Hall, but that was not the case.
It turns out more people were more interested in riding “The Beast” and going to Hanna-Barbera Land than seeing a plaque of former Stanford quarterback Jim Plunkett. Attendance had been projected to be 300,00 per year in football-crazy Ohio, but it peaked at only 80,000 per year and dwindled to 30,000.
The Hall then moved to South Bend, Indiana from 1995-2012. Again, attendance and a lack of corporate sponsorship was an issue. The facility was hopeful of averaging 150,000 visitors a year, and it did attract 115,00 the first year, but it fell off to 80,000 after that.
In August of 2014, the College Football Hall of Fame moved to Atlanta. It’s a beautiful facility with many interactive exhibits.
If WVU and Florida State actually play in Atlanta on Sept. 5 as scheduled, Mountaineer fans should add a trip to the Hall of Fame to their itinerary that weekend.