College hall opens doors for Paterno, Bowden


NEW YORK (AP) – Since Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden failed to meet the qualifications for induction into the college football Hall of Fame, the folks who run the hall simply changed the rules.

Instead of requiring a coach be retired, the National Football Foundation decided to make any active coach over 75 eligible for induction.

With the red tape cut, the winningest coaches in Division I-A were elected Tuesday and can now be called Hall of Famers.

“I wasn’t expecting it because I thought you had to die first – and I didn’t want to volunteer for that,” Bowden said during a conference call.

“They might have changed the rules to get me and Joe in. But I’m very excited about it.”

Paterno, who will turn 80 in December, has won 354 games and two national championships in 40 seasons as Penn State’s head coach.

No one has ever coached longer and won more games at one Division I-A school.

The 76-year-old Bowden leads major college football with 359 victories, 286 – and two national titles – since taking over at Florida State in 1976.

“I look forward to being in New York with my good friend Bobby Bowden and am delighted that we are going into the Hall of Fame together,” Paterno said in a statement released by Penn State. “Hopefully, I deserve it.”

Tinkering with the rules to admit Bowden and Paterno made complete sense to NFF president Steven Hatchell.

“Their legacies are intact,” he said at a news conference.

Joining Paterno and Bowden are 13 players, including Heisman Trophy winners Mike Rozier of Nebraska and Florida State’s Charlie Ward, who helped Bowden win his first national title in 1993.

“I think anytime a person is inducted into any kind of hall of fame, the people that are going in with him, surrounding him, is kind of a personal thing,” Bowden said. “To be going in with Charlie is very good, I love that.”

Florida’s Emmitt Smith, who became the NFL’s career rushing leader, and Virginia Tech’s Bruce Smith, the NFL’s all-time sacks leader, are both going into the college Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.

The rest of the class is Colorado running back Bobby Anderson, Miami safety Bennie Blades, Minnesota defensive tackle Carl Eller, Washington defensive lineman Steve Emtman, Baylor safety Thomas Everett, Air Force defensive lineman Chad Hennings, Tennessee guard Chip Kell, Purdue quarterback Mike Phipps and Stanford linebacker Jeff Siemon.

They will be inducted in New York in December and enshrined at the Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., in the summer of 2007.

Paterno took over at Penn State in 1966 after 16 years as an assistant with the Nittany Lions. The kid from Brooklyn with the thick black-framed glasses and high-water pant cuffs went on to build one of the country’s most successful programs.

He won national titles in 82 and 86, and led his teams to five undefeated seasons. His program fell on hard times with four losing seasons from 2000-04, but he orchestrated a remarkable turnaround last year.

Penn State won the Big Ten for the second time and finished 11-1 and ranked No. 3 in the nation. Paterno won AP coach of the year, and the Nittany Lions completed their revival with a triple-overtime victory over Bowden and Florida State in the Orange Bowl.

Bowden began his head coaching career at Samford in 1959 and took over at West Virginia in 1970 before moving on to Florida State.

Before he arrived in Tallahassee, the Seminoles had won four games in the previous three seasons. He turned them into a powerhouse by never shying away from the best teams, even if it meant playing on them road.

Bowden led the Seminoles to national titles in 93 and 99, during an unprecedented streak of 14 consecutive seasons finishing in The Associated Press top five.

Ward might have been his best player. An elusive runner and accurate passer, he won the Heisman in 93. A two-sport star, Ward was a first-round draft pick by the New York Knicks and played 11 seasons in the NBA.

Ward, who attended the news conference with fellow inductees Bruce Smith and Hennings, said Bowden taught him about leadership.

“It’s all about knowing who you are and what you do and getting people your trust around you,” said Ward, now working in player development with the Houston Rockets.

Rozier became the second player to run for more than 2,000 yards when he won the Heisman in 1983 and ran for 2,148 yards.

AP-ES-05-16-06 1613EDT