The official policy of the College Football Hall of Fame requires a coach log at least 100 games as the head man and win at least 60 percent of his games. Coaches must also be at least three years removed from his last game, or be at least 70 years old. Active coaches must be at least 75 years old to receive consideration.
But Josh Heupel, the 41-year-old heading into his second season as a head coach at UCF, has found a loophole: Put together a Hall of Fame-worthy playing career.
Heupel was one of 76 FBS players included in the 2020 College Football Hall of Fame ballot, released by the National Football Foundation on Monday.
A native of Aberdeen, S.D., Heupel signed with Weber State out of high school, suffered an ACL tear that pushed him to Snow College in the JuCo ranks, then caught the eye of newly-hired Oklahoma offensive coordinator Mike Leach, who beat out Utah State for Heupel’s services.
Running the revolutionary Air Raid offense, Heupel threw for 3,460 yards and 30 touchdowns as a junior in 1999, leading Oklahoma to a 7-5 record. The Sooners caught fire in 2000, going 13-0 en route to the school’s seventh national championship. Though his numbers were largely the same as the year before — he threw for 3,606 yards and 20 touchdowns — Heupel was named a consensus First Team All-American, the Walter Camp Offensive Player of the Year, the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, and finished second to Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke in the Heisman Trophy voting.
That was enough to get Heupel on the 2020 ballot, alongside another record-setting Leach quarterback in Kentucky’s Tim Couch, 2001 Heisman winner Eric Crouch of Nebraska, 2002 Heisman winner Carson Palmer of USC, among others.
Other notables among the 177 FBS and divisional players included on the 2020 ballot are Miami linebacker Ray Lewis, LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, North Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers, Clemson running back CJ Spiller, Eastern Illinois quarterback Tony Romo and California linebacker Ron Rivera, now the head coach of the Carolina Panthers.
Five coaches are up for vote for their work on the sidelines:
Larry Blakeney-Troy (1991-2014)-All-time winningest coach in Sun Belt Conference history…Four-time conference Coach of the Year who led the Trojans to eight conference titles (5 – Sun Belt, 3 – Southland) and seven FCS playoff appearances in eight seasons…Led Troy to four bowl games, including wins at the 2006 and 2010 New Orleans Bowl.
Jim Carlen-West Virginia (1966-69), Texas Tech (1970-74), South Carolina (1975-81)-Led teams to eight bowl games and 13 winning seasons in 16 years as head coach…1973 National Coach of the Year…Three-time Southwest Conference Coach of the Year… Coached Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers at South Carolina.
Pete Cawthon Sr.-Austin College [Texas] (1923-27), Texas Tech (1930-40)-Led Tech to four Border Conference titles in 11 seasons at the helm…Led 1938 team to 10-0 regular season and the school’s first-ever Cotton Bowl appearance…Boasts highest win percentage (69.3) among Tech coaches with terms of three years or more.
Billy Jack Murphy-Memphis (1958-71)-Winningest coach in Memphis history, including an unbeaten season in 1963…Named National Coach of the Year in 1963 by the Detroit News and Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year three-of-four seasons from 1968-71…Took Memphis to its first-ever bowl game and is a member of the Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Memphis halls of fame.
Darryl Rogers-Cal State East Bay [formerly Cal State Hayward] (1965), Fresno State (1966-72), San Jose State (1973-75), Michigan State (1976-79), Arizona State (1980-84)-Took Fresno State to two bowl games…Achieved an unprecedented national ranking at San Jose State…Named Big Ten Coach of the Year in 1977 and National Coach of the Year by Sporting News in 1978…Won the Big Ten title in 1978.
The 2020 ballot will be voted on by active Hall of Famers and the NFF’s 12,000-strong membership. Those votes will be tabulated by NFF staff for consideration by the NFF’s Honors Court, chaired by Hall of Famer and two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin, who selects each Hall of Fame class.
The 2020 class will be announced as part of the College Football Playoff’s national championship ceremonies in New Orleans this January, and inducted into the Hall at the NFF Awards Dinner on Dec. 8, 2020 in New York.