Vol. 45, No. 4 May 2008 .pdf version
Dick Jerardi: Oscar! Oscar!
Joe Mitch: Breakfast another huge success
Bryan Burwell: Should USBWA question HOF choices?
Steve Carp: Try taking a break this summer
Men's Final Four sportswriting seminar winner
Writing contest deadline: June 15

Bryan Burwell

Should USBWA use its voice to question Hall of Fame choices?

By BRYAN BURWELL / St. Louis Post-Dispatch

One of the best times and greatest mysteries of Final Four weekend is the annual Monday morning of the induction announcements for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Usually, the USBWA breakfast is in a small ballroom next to the Hall of Fame breakfast and news conference, so in the hallway outside the ballrooms, we get the chance to mingle with some of the legendary former players and coaches we have covered throughout the years.

That's the best time. Now for the mystery. How does the Naismith Hall of Fame select its members? I ask that question every year, and every year I get a lot of shoulder shrugs, rolling eyes and confusing explanations. The truth is, whoever knows isn't telling, and whoever doesn't know isn't likely to find out any time soon. But the more I watch the Hall of Fame announcements, the more I begin to ask the same question:

Has Springfield's Hall of Fame stopped being the "basketball" Hall of Fame and steadily become the professional basketball Hall of Fame?

Since the USBWA is an organization that covers and cares about the college game, this bothers me. As an officer and board member, I keep wondering if we should address this on an organizational level. I don't know if the rest of the organization thinks this is an issue worth sticking our noses into, but it bothers me when I see this steady shift in Springfield. I love that the Hall has done a much better job of including worthy inductees to honor the women's game, and how they carefully ensure than worthy contributors get the call. I think it's a nice touch that international players and coaches are being honored, but I wonder if that is more of a marketing ploy to continue to spread our American hoop obsession globally.

But I get angry that some of this is coming at the expense of the college game. Off the top of my head, I will offer three names that have been overlooked:

Ralph Sampson, Jim Phelan and Glenn (not that one) Robinson.

Over the last 30 years, no one has been as dominant a name in the college game than Sampson, the 7-foot-4 giant from the University of Virginia.

If you are a three-time national college player of the year, you could do nothing at all the rest of your basketball life and still deserve to be in the Hall. In football, this would never happen, because they have separate halls for the college and pro game. Sampson belongs in Springfield.

Jim Phelan, who won more than 800 games as coach of Mount St. Mary's, is not in the Naismith Hall of Fame. Phelan, who coached more games than anyone in the history of the college game (more than 1,300), is the one of only six men to have at least 800 coaching victories. He was just inducted into the NABC Hall of Fame, but he also belongs in the Springfield Hall.

And if the Naismith Hall's hoop scholars can ferret out some legendary coach from the I talian pro leagues, why hasn't it unearthed the successful career of a Division I legend such as Franklin & M arshall men's coach Glenn Robinson, who is the winningest coach in Division II?

Robinson, who holds a 730-284 record at Franklin & Marshall in 37 seasons, became the 25th coach in NCAA history and the 10th active coach to win 700 career games. His winning percentage of .720 ranks among the top 10 all time. Robinson, who is still coaching at F&M, led the Diplomats to 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, 11 trips to the Division III Sweet 16, five to the Elite Eight and four Final Fours, plus 15 conference titles in his 37 years at the school.

That is a Hall of Fame resume. Yet Springfield has never bothered to call.

Why is this going on, and to whom do we complain?

Because the Naismith Hall is so royally cloaked in mystery, from the process of election to the people who do the voting, it's difficult to figure out how someone gains entry.

Springfield should be a Hall of Fame for all of the game. Yet, the Hall of Fame in Springfield has slowly but surely turned into a Hall of Fame that is most closely associated with the professional game and the international game.

I don't know if it should be the business of our organization to be fighting to change that perception, but I'd at least like to loudly raise the question. Excellence in the college game should not count any less if that star begins to fade or never gets the opportunity to shine at the pro level.

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