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Ambitious if Imperfect...The College Football Hall of Fame

Last week, while on a Southern three-day speaking swing, there was some free time in Atlanta. Because both BBQ and football rank high with me, lunch was a savory pulled pork sandwich at Fox Brothers Bar-B-Q, followed by a visit to the College Football Hall of Fame. (The trip included a stop in Columbia, SC—Maurice’s has phenomenal BBQ with their regional mustard-based sauce)

The last time I’d visited the College Hall of Fame it was still in South Bend, Indiana. Part of this visit was to see the new Hall and the enshrinement of two Hall of Fame Coaches I’d worked for plus teammates who’d been inducted and favorite players from childhood.

In what is a sign of the times, the Hall now has virtual computer displays to honor those enshrined. The College Hall of Fame once had individual physical markers (like the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, OH), now they have a room of screens you search. It provides more information and video but the lack of something concrete seems a bit anti-climactic.

There were also some historical mistakes. In the rivalry section it has a number of opponents for each school. For Penn State it listed historical rivals Pitt and Syracuse and current conference foes Ohio State and Michigan State. The display gave incorrect series records for OSU and MSU. Under Conference Championships, it also failed to list Penn State’s 2008 Big Ten Title.

Despite some imperfections, the Hall of Fame was interactive and fun. It is an ambitious undertaking to celebrate the combined history of so many diverse teams across the country. The Hall of Fame will score with fans looking for more than just a staid display of the game’s greats. The “field pass” you get entering the hall contains a strip coded with your favorite team. As you approach the computer interactive displays, they welcome you by name and are automatically tailored specifically to your team.

The Game Day experience movie was ten minutes of high-intensity footage putting the viewer on the field—including some phenomenal snowy shots from the Army-Navy game. There is also an indoor field where kids were running, throwing and catching.

Although the first College Football game was played between Princeton and Rutgers in New Jersey the Hall’s latest relocation seems to have given it the best chance to have success. Being in Atlanta, a great college football market, will certainly boost the numbers of Hall of Fame visitors.

In data done by the New York Times, Atlanta ranked first among the nation’s top 25 TV Markets with 41% of the population closely following college football (Tampa-St Petersburg was second at 30%). The Hall is also located in a destination city’s core that includes Centennial Park, the aquarium and other attractions.

Ultimately the College Football Hall of Fame has found a worthy home to present the most uniquely American game’s history in a way that honors the past while promoting the present and the future.

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