Considering that the sport has been played since shortly after the Civil War, the College Football Hall of Fame got a late start in honoring the greats of the game. However, the institution has made up for lost time by enshrining more than 1,000 players, coaches, and contributors since the National Football Foundation was created in 1947.
The College Football Hall of Fame started filling up in 1951
The first class of honorees was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951. With so many worthy candidates to consider, the selection committee picked 54 men for that first class, including Jim Thorpe, Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Sammy Baugh, and Knute Rockne.
The Hall of Fame was originally set to be placed on the campus of Rutgers University but never had a physical home until 1978 in Kings Mills, Ohio. It was relocated to South Bend, Indiana, and then to Atlanta in 1995.
The 95,000-square-foot Atlanta building currently honors 977 players and 211 coaches representing 314 schools. Hall officials estimate that nearly 5.4 million people have played or coached at the college level in the United States.
The next set of candidates will be revealed June 2 when the College Football Hall of Fame releases its 2021 ballot containing the names of 177 players and 40 coaches.
Notre Dame has the most players in the HOF
The first guess of even a casual football fan would be that Notre Dame has the most players inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. And, yes, that guess would be correct.
The Fighting Irish have 47 players inducted in the Hall to rank far ahead of Southern Cal and Michigan, which have 32 apiece. Ohio State (26) and Yale (24) round out the top five, with Army and Oklahoma close behind at 22 apiece.
It’s hardly a surprise that the skill positions dominate the selections for most schools represented in the shrine. Notre Dame is no exception, beginning with nine quarterbacks that include Johnny Lujack (the second-oldest living Hall of Fame player at 95 years old), Angelo Bertelli, Paul Hornung, John Huarte, and Joe Theismann. Interestingly, Theismann wrapped up his career in 1970 but is the most recent Fighting Irish signal-caller to have played.
Aside from the 47 players, Notre Dame also has six coaches who’ve been honored with inductions: Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Jesse Harper, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine, and Lou Holtz.
Did you know?
A few more facts about the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta:
- Four men are inducted as both a player and a coach: Bobby Dodd (played at Tennessee, coached at Georgia Tech); Steve Spurrier (played at Florida; coached at Duke, Florida, and South Carolina); Amos Alonzo Stagg (played at Yale; coached at Springfield, Mass., Chicago, and Pacific); and Bowden Wyatt (played at Tennessee; coached at Wyoming, Arkansas, and Tennessee.)
- The only father-and-son player combination is Archie Manning (Mississippi) and Peyton Manning (Tennessee). Lee Tressel and Jim Tressel form the only father-and-son coaching combination.
- Seven of the Hall’s eight Olympic medal winners reached the podium in track and field events. Jim Thorpe (Carlisle, pentathlon and decathlon) and James Bausch (Kansas, decathlon) were the only gold medalists.