Former Washington State offensive lineman Mike Utley, who suffered a spinal cord injury during an NFL game and was paralyzed, is one of 14 players to be selected for induction for the College Football Hall of Fame.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Former Washington State offensive lineman Mike Utley, who suffered a spinal-cord injury during an NFL game and was paralyzed, is one of 14 players to be selected for induction for the College Football Hall of Fame.
The latest group, which will be inducted in December, was announced Friday by the National Football Foundation.
Utley was a three-time all-conference selection and an All-American with the Cougars in 1988. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1989.
On Nov. 17, 1991, he fractured three vertebrae during a game against the Los Angeles Rams at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich. As he was taken off the field on a stretcher, Utley famously flashed a thumbs-up to the crowd. The injury left him paralyzed from the chest down and he remains in a wheelchair.
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Utley will be the fourth Cougars player to be inducted into the Hall, joining Glen “Turk” Edwards, Mel Hein and Rueben Mayes.
Edwards, Hein and Utley played on the offensive line, while Mayes was a running back.
“This is very overwhelming,” Utley said in a news release. “Washington State University and head coach Jim Walden gave me an opportunity and I told him I would give 100 percent of myself. Playing for the Cougars was a wonderful experience, and hopefully I’ve been able to pay it forward.”
Utley formed the Mike Utley Foundation to financially support function-restoring treatment for spinal-cord injuries and to help educate those who suffer from such injuries about rehabilitative techniques and lifestyles.
WSU coaches Orin “Babe” Hollingbery, Forest “Evy” Evashevski and William “Lone Star” Dietz are also in the Hall.
Other players in the class: Florida State’s Derrick Brooks, Iowa State’s Troy Davis, Purdue’s Rod Woodson, Louisiana State’s Bert Jones, UNLV’s Randall Cunningham, Ohio State’s Tom Cousineau, North Carolina’s William Fuller, Wisconsin’s Tim Krumrie, Harvard’s Pat McInally, Colorado’s Herb Orvis, Georgia’s Scott Woerner, Ashland’s Bill Royce and Nebraska-Omaha’s Marlin Briscoe.
The two new Hall of Fame coaches are Bill Bowes of New Hampshire and Frank Girardi of Lycoming in Pennsylvania.
• USC described former coach Steve Sarkisian’s lawsuit against the school as “full of half truths” and “outright falsehoods” in a filing in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The 14-page motion to send the case to arbitration pushed back against several claims in the lawsuit Sarkisian — previously coach of the Washington Huskies — filed last month that alleged breach of contract and discrimination on the basis of disability.
In the suit, Sarkisian accused USC athletic director Pat Haden of abruptly firing him in October instead of allowing him to seek treatment for alcoholism.
“It is absolutely false that Sarkisian ever admitted to having a drinking problem, to being an alcoholic or needing to seek treatment,” the USC filing said. “The truth is he denied ever having a drinking problem, but blamed his inability to perform the essential functions of his job on marital stress, lack of sleep and anxiety for which he was taking medication.”
The filing said that Sarkisian’s five-year contract with USC included a clause allowing the school to fire him for several reasons, including “using alcohol or any substance which adversely affects Sarkisian’s ability to effectively perform his duties as head coach.”
USC contends it fired Sarkisian, 41, with cause. He is seeking the $12.6 million remaining on his deal plus unspecified damages.
Sarkisian’s Dallas-based attorney, Alan Loewinsohn, denounced the USC response.
• A group representing minority coaches is calling on the NCAA to adopt a rule that would require its member schools to interview a candidate of color for all head-coaching and leadership vacancies.
The National Association for Coaching Equity and Development is joining longtime equality crusader Richard Lapchick in lobbying for an “Eddie Robinson Rule,” which would be college athletics’ version of the NFL’s Rooney Rule requiring interviews of minority candidates for coach and some other high-profile positions.