Hampton Legendary Football Coach Gideon Smith on the 2025 College Football Hall of Fame Ballot

By Mike Ballweg, Sports Information Hampton University,

Legendary Hampton football coach Gideon Smith has been nominated for the College Football Hall of Fame.

Smith served as head football coach at Hampton from 1921-40 recording a 102-47-13 record. He led the Pirates to the 1922 Black College National Championship and four CIAA crown. His 1926 and 1931 teams were undefeated. The 1931 squad outscored their opponents 187-6. Known for their tough defense, the Pirates were ranked in the top 12 for fewest points allowed 10 times in Smith’s 20 seasons as head coach. He is the longest tenured and second-winningest football coach in Hampton history.

Smith became the first African-American athlete at Ferris State from 1910-12 before transferring to Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State). Smith was the first African-American to play any sport at Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State). When he showed up for the team’s first practice, Coach John Macklin turned him away and refused to issue him a uniform. Smith returned the next day wearing his high school uniform. Impressed with his strength of character, Macklin allowed him to join the Aggies squad where he was a standout lineman. Following graduation in 1916, Smith played briefly with the Canton Bulldogs where he played alongside Jim Thorpe.

He became a teacher at West Virginia Collegiate Institute (now West Virginia State) in 1916 before moving to Virginia State College for Negroes (now Virgnia State) in 1920.

In 1921, he was named head football coach at Hampton. He remained in the position for 20 years before retiring in 1940. Smith died on May 6, 1968 at the age of 78 at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Salem, Va. Smith was born in Northwest Norfolk County, Va., on July 13, 1889, just 24 years after the abolition of slavery.

Smith is one of 11 HBCU candidates on the 2025 ballot including Ashley Ambrose (Mississippi Valley State), Vincent Brown (Mississippi Valley State), Parnell Dickinson (Mississippi Valley State), William Dillon (Virginia Union), Carl Hairston (Maryland-Eastern Shore), Timmy Newsome (Winston-Salem State), Michael Strahan (Texas-Southern), Rod Broadway (North Carolina Central, Grambling State. North Carolina A&T), Bill Hayes (Winston-Salem State, North Carolina A&T), and Eddie Hurt (Virginia-Lynchburg).

Should Smith be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, he would be the second Hampton head football coach enshrined. Joe Taylor’s Hampton teams won five Black College National Championships (1994, 1997, 2004, 2005, and 2006) and eight conference titles in 16 seasons from 1992-07. His squads posted a 136-49-1 record with seven NCAA FCS Playoff appearances. Taylor was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2019.

Smith was inducted into the Hampton Athletics Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 2009 and the Michigan State’s inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame in 1994.

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A lifelong sports fan and follower of HBCUs, Willie Alexander Hines is an expert on any sport with tremendous recall of history and newsmakers.