By Ralph D. Russo
AP College Football Writer
The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Thursday it will create a permanent home on its campus for the Black College Football Hall of Fame.
The Black College Football Hall of Fame, which honors those who played and coached at historically black colleges and universities, will be part of the Hall of Fame Village in Canton, Ohio, a $500 million development that is scheduled to be completed in 2019.
The organizations have partnered to create a Black College Football Hall of Fame exhibit that will be on display at Canton this year, said Pro Football Hall of Fame president and executive director David Baker.
There are also plans for a traveling exhibit displayed at historically black colleges and universities around the country.
“We feel that it is a very critical part of the history of the NFL,” Baker said Thursday. “There was a time when great African-American players could not play at some institutions. They were coming up in the NFL, which in some respects was ahead of the civil rights curve.”
Hall of Fame Village will become the site for the Black College Football Hall of Fame’s annual induction ceremony, and a game between historically black colleges will be played at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, potentially as soon as 2017.
The halls of fame also will create a paid post-graduate internship for a student at a historically black college or university.
The Black College Football Hall of Fame was founded in 2009 by former NFL quarterbacks Doug Williams and James Harris, who both played at historically black colleges. It’s held induction dinners and golf tournaments in the Atlanta area and inducted 64 players, coaches and contributors since 2010.
“All of us associated with the Black College Football Hall of Fame look forward to working with the team at the Pro Football Hall of Fame to elevate the story of great African-American players and coaches who persevered and overcame great obstacles to achieve their dreams,” Harris said in a statement.
The first class of inductees included Jerry Rice, who played at Mississippi Valley State, Walter Payton, who played at Jackson State, and late Grambling coach Eddie Robinson.
Twenty-nine of the 266 players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame played at historically black colleges and universities, including Black College Football Hall of Fame board of trustees Mel Blount, Willie Lanier and Art Shell.