Robinson Voted Into Hall Of Fame
April 30, 2009
LAS VEGAS - Former UNLV head football coach and athletics director John Robinson has become the first player or head coach from the Rebel program to be voted into the prestigious College Football Hall of Fame.
The announcement of the 2009 College Football Hall of Fame bowl subdivision inductees was made Thursday live on ESPNEWS from the NASDAQ Marketsite at Times Square in New York City. Robinson is part of a class of 16 players and two coaches that was selected by the National Football Foundation's 13-member Honors Court, which considers voting results from the 12,000 members of the NFF.
The finalist ballot consisted of 76 All-America players and six elite former coaches. The 2009 class will be inducted as part of the NFF's Annual Awards Dinner scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 8, at New York City's Waldorf-Astoria. The class will then be officially enshrined during summer 2010 ceremonies at the Hall of Fame, which is located in South Bend, Ind.
"I'm very excited about the honor," Robinson said. "It's times like these that you start thinking about all of the people you owe thanks to through the years. All of the assistant coaches - I had so many good ones that went on to great careers - and of course the players. Not necessarily the big stars, but also the guys who just played football for you and may have benefited from the experience. When I am out and some guys comes up and says he was our third-string center 30 years ago, those kind of things are even more meaningful now. From your own coaches when you were a kid on the playground to all of the people who helped along the way during your career, it's a nice feeling to take some time and look back and be thankful."
This was Robinson's second time on the finalist ballot. To be eligible, coaches must have coached a minimum of 10 years and 100 games, won at least 60 percent of their games and be retired from coaching for at least three years or be active coaches and at least 75 years old.
Robinson turned in a legendary career coaching at the University of Southern California (1976-82), for the NFL's Los Angeles Rams (1983-91), back to USC (1993-97) and then finally at UNLV (1999-2004) where he brought the Rebels their most recent bowl-game appearance.
Robinson was hired as the eighth head coach in UNLV history on Dec. 3, 1998 -- a position he served for six seasons, compiling a record of 28-42. In his final year leading the Rebels, Robinson became the school's all-time second-winningest coach and tied Tony Knap (1976-81) for longest-serving UNLV head man at six seasons each.
The man who succeeded Robinson in Las Vegas said his former college mentor was richly deserving of a place in the hall of fame.
"It is a great honor to have played for Coach Robinson when he was an assistant and then the head coach at USC," said UNLV head coach Mike Sanford. "He actually gave me my start in this profession as a graduate assistant and then I had the privilege of being on his staff at USC. He is very deserving of this honor and I congratulate him."
Bringing instant credibility to a program that was staring at a move into the newly formed Mountain West Conference, Robinson came to town as one of college football's most successful and recognizable figures. Just during his time at UNLV, he earned three nationally recognized honors as he was voted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame, served as head coach of the famed East-West Shrine Game in San Francisco and was selected to speak at the 2004 Heisman Trophy presentation ceremonies in New York.
Robinson got the Rebels serious about winning in a hurry while leading the program from zero wins to eight in just his first two seasons. In fact, UNLV won five more games in his first 24 games as coach than the team's previous four seasons combined. On Oct. 5, 2002, the Rebels' 21-17 victory over rival Nevada, Reno gave Robinson his 200th win as a head coach in pro and college football.
Finishing 2004 as the nation's 18th-winningest active coach with a career record of 132-77-4 (.629), Robinson's 31-14 Las Vegas Bowl victory over Arkansas in 2000 tied him with Pat Dye for the 11th-most wins after 14 seasons in the history of major college football. In addition, his 8-1 bowl record gave him a higher winning percentage in the postseason (.889) than any college coach in history with a minimum of eight games.
After quickly turning around the program's fortunes on the field, Robinson added the duties of director of athletics for UNLV on Jan. 1, 2002, and successfully served in the dual role for 17 months until stepping down as AD on May 20, 2003. After retiring from coaching, Robinson entered a career as a radio analyst and highly sought-after speaker.
Robinson, who earned his 100th career college victory at USC in 1997 with a win, ironically, vs. UNLV, had two stints with the Trojans. He first became head coach in 1976 and spent seven years leading Troy. His teams won 82 percent of their games (67-14-2) in his original run, averaging nearly 10 victories a year. In fact, Robinson tied a NCAA record for most wins by a first-year head coach after his team went 11-1 and earned a Rose Bowl berth.
He won the 1978 national championship with a 12-1 mark (USC was ranked No. 2 in both 1976 and '79), led the Trojans to three Pac-10 titles and guided Troy to five postseason bowls. Also, from 1978 through 1980, USC posted a school-record 28-game unbeaten streak.
After spending four months as USC's senior vice president for university relations, Robinson headed to the NFL. His stint in pro ball produced the most victories (79) in Rams history. During his nine years with the club (1983-91), he reached the playoffs six times and twice advanced to the NFC championship game (1985 & '89).
He spent 1992 as a television analyst before returning to USC for the 1993 season. His second term at Troy lasted until 1997 and featured three more bowl victories, including the Rose Bowl title over Northwestern following the 1995 season that improved his career record in the "Grand Daddy of Them All" to a sparkling 4-0.
Robinson began his coaching career as an assistant at his alma mater, the University of Oregon, for 12 seasons (1960-71). He moved to USC to direct the school's offense for three years (1972-74) before serving as the backfield coach for the NFL's Oakland Raiders in 1975 under childhood friend John Madden. Overall, Robinson tutored 24 first team All-Americans, 22 NFL first-round selections and a total of 91 NFL draft picks, including seven while at UNLV.
Born on July 25, 1935, Robinson grew up in Daly City, Calif., and starred in football and baseball at Serra High School San Mateo. He then lettered as an end for Oregon when the Ducks won the 1957 Pacific Coast Conference title and played in the Rose Bowl. He received his bachelor's degree in education in 1958.
Robinson is the author of two books: "Coach to Coach: Business Lessons from the Locker Room," which is geared toward business executives and football fans, and "Conquest," which is about USC's football heritage.
2009 COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME CLASS