|Fans campaign for Toledo's perfect quarterback to be in College Football Hall of Fame|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 04 December 2007 13:53|
Playing for Toledo from 1969-71, Ealey set a record that still stands, finishing his career 35-0 as a starter.
Yet ``The Wizard of Oohs and Ahs'' as he was nicknamed, has been mostly forgotten outside northwest Ohio, despite three Mid-American Conference player of the year awards and three bowl victories.
His accomplishments, though, won't qualify for a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame because Ealey was never selected to a first-team All-America list recognized by the National Football Foundation.
Now his fans are pushing the foundation to change those rules so that players who starred at mid-major schools have a better chance of getting in the hall.
It's not just Ealey, now 57, who's left out by the foundation's rules.
Quarterbacks Joe Montana, who played at Notre Dame, and Syracuse's Donovan McNabb aren't eligible. Former Miami, Ohio star Ben Roethlisberger and Marshall's Chad Pennington won't be eligible either.
``There's a lot of names people would be very surprised about,'' said Ealey, who didn't know about the Hall of Fame's requirements until two years ago.
He's clearly uncomfortable about being the face of the campaign to change the rules. He has never worried about whether he'll get in the Hall of Fame.
``Even if they change the rule they might not choose me to be there,'' he said. ``So be it.''
The rules punish players at low-profile schools who are less likely to make first-team All-America over a player at a bigger school, said Rick Longenecker, one of two Toledo graduates pushing to get Ealey in the hall of fame.
He wants the National Football Foundation to change its criteria so that a player who finished in the top 10 in Heisman voting would have a chance at the hall.
That would give players at schools in conferences such as the Mid-American and Western Athletic a better chance at the hall of fame, Longenecker said.
The football foundation did expand the election process in 1996 to include players and coaches from NCAA Divisions I-AA, II and III, and NAIA.
Players and coaches who meet the requirements must go through a screening process. Members of the football foundation vote on the finalists, but the final decision rests with a select committee called the honors court.
A message seeking comment about the requirements was left with the football foundation.
The hall of fame will induct 14 new members on Tuesday, including 1984 Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie.
It has never been Ealey's style to draw attention to himself.
Or complain about a slight.
He didn't do that when other colleges recruiting him insisted that he play defensive back. Bo Schembechler wanted him to do that at Miami in Oxford.
Few schools showed interest even though his high school team went 18-0 with Ealey at quarterback in Portsmouth, in southern Ohio along the Ohio River.
Toledo was the only school that saw him as a quarterback.
The Rockets stumbled through a 5-4-1 season when Ealey arrived on campus in 1968. Freshmen weren't eligible to play their first year then.
The next season, the scrambling, strong-armed quarterback led the Rockets to their first undefeated season and first bowl game.
As the winning streak continued over the next two seasons, people nationwide took notice. Toledo climbed as high as No. 12 in The Associated Press Top 20.
Still, the Rockets were playing at a time when few games were televised and they still were in the shadows of Ohio State, which won two Big Ten titles at the time.
Ealey maintained he never felt pressure to keep the streak going or feared losing.
``I lost at basketball, I lost at baseball, I lost track,'' he said. ``I lost other sports so I knew what it was like to lose.''
In the last few years, Southern California's Matt Leinart and Miami's Ken Dorsey came close to matching the record, winning 34 straight.
Ealey finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1971 and was named to the third team on The Associated Press' All-America list that year.
He was selected a first-team All-American by the Football News, but the college Hall of Fame did not recognize that list at the time.
Some have suggested that race may have been the reason why Ealey, the first black quarterback to start for Toledo, didn't receive more attention. Not Ealey.
``I don't think that played into the postseason honors at all,'' he said. ``It had more to do with playing at a smaller school during an era when few college games were on television.''
Ealey wasn't drafted by any NFL teams after his senior year. He sent a letter to the teams, telling them he wanted to play quarterback. They wanted him to play defensive back or wide receiver.
Instead, he played six seasons at quarterback in the Canadian Football League, winning the league's rookie of the year and the Grey Cup in the same season.
Ealey still lives in Canada and is a financial adviser near Toronto where he and his wife are enjoying their grandkids - and not worrying about how he's remembered.
Getting into the hall of fame would mean more to his teammates or his school, he said.
``Life is good,'' Ealey said.
On the Net:
National Football Foundation: http://www.footballfoundation.com/
Campaign for Chuck Ealey: http://www.inductchuck.com/