On Nov. 19, the new College Basketball Hall of Fame and the College Basketball Experience in Kansas City will induct its inaugural class of Dr. James Naismith, John Wooden, Dean Smith, Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson. In addition, all members of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., will be grandfathered into the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
The College Basketball Hall of Fame needs to add two more names, and it needs to do it sooner rather than later. Those names are Dick Vitale and Billy Packer.
Vitale has been on the ballot twice for the Naismith Hall of Fame, and twice has fallen short of the votes necessary to make the great Hall. I find that incredible. Legendary broadcaster Chick Hearn is in the Naismith Hall of Fame, and there is no reasonable person who can argue with a straight face that Vitale's contributions to the game have not at least equaled those of Hearn.
Similarly, Hubie Brown is in the Hall as a contributor, and deservedly so. However, I believe that Vitale has been at least as influential in the game as has Brown. That is not to take anything away from Hearn, Brown or any other Hall of Famer. It is to illustrate how illogical it is that Vitale is not in the Hall of Fame.
The same argument applies for Billy Packer, who has been a sage voice in the game of basketball for over 30 years. Packer is vastly different from Vitale in personality, but they share the same in passion and enthusiasm for the game. Packer was an All-ACC player at Wake Forest, leading the Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, and was an assistant coach to Bones McKinney, as well. He knows of what he speaks and has spoken out on some of the biggest issues facing the game. In many ways, Vitale and Packer have been the faces and voices of college basketball during the game's largest growth period, and we need to recognize that with something concrete, like in the halls of fame.
To me (and I speak for countless of the game's greatest coaches and administrators), it is a no-brainer that Vitale should be in the Hall of Fame, and the College Basketball Hall of Fame has the chance to get out front and do it first. It should.
What Howard Cosell was over a generation ago to sports, Dick Vitale is to college basketball. He is an original and has served as one of the best ambassadors of the game that basketball has ever known. He never scored a point, grabbed a rebound or cut down a net, but Vitale is a Hall of Famer every bit as much as Wooden, Smith, Russell or Robertson.
I don't know why Vitale was unable to garner the votes necessary to get into the Hall on his two ballots. I do know that leaving him out is a mistake.
The College Basketball Hall of Fame is just getting going, and it is a wonderful project. It can be a leader by inducting Vitale and Packer into its Hall, while the Naismith Hall of Fame is still trying to figure it out.