Urban Meyer‘s decision to step down as the coach of the Florida Gators on Saturday night citing health reasons at age 45 has sent a few shockwaves through the college football world.
But it also prompted this writer to do a little research on college football coaches and their trading cards, which led to another shocking discovery — their near-complete lack of cards — despite there being a constant flow of cards showing athletes in their NCAA uniforms.
It seems that all of the major football card manufacturers — and all of the smaller ones, too — have dabbled with players in college uniforms in their sets, but very few have dabbled with the idea of getting the most famous names in college football (the coaches) in their sets. Or if they have, they’ve chosen not to as they’ve also failed to sit them down with a pen to sign a few cards that can be placed into packs (certified autographs for the non-collector).
In fact, it appears that among college coaching’s elite names only Florida State’s Bobby Bowden and Nebraska’s Tom Osborne have signed for a card company.
And the game’s biggest college coaching legends? If they have any autographed cards at all, they’re immensely rare cut autographs where the signatures were cut from documents and matted into the card.
Let’s start with Meyer. Zero certified autographs — in fact no cards listed in the Beckett.com database at all. (Surely there are school-issued cards out there? C’mon, Gators … ) With Upper Deck promising big things with its Collegiate Licensing Company exclusive that starts in 2010, could a Meyer-Tim Tebow dual autograph be in play? (We’ll have to wait and see…)
How about the BCS title game coaches?
Alabama coach Nick Saban has zero certified autographs, though he does appear on 10 total football cards after his foray into the NFL as coach of the Miami Dolphins. Go figure, that’s almost as many cards as he had wins …
Texas coach Mack Brown has zero certified autographs, though he does appear on a dozen regular cards — most of them released on campus — in the ol’ database. (Proof there’s at least one Longhorns fan working at Beckett.)
Or how about other current coaches with records similar to Meyer?
USC’s Pete Carroll has just one football card in the Beckett database, but this writer swears he had a card at one of his NFL stops …
Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops has just two football cards — just school issues. About the same for Georgia’s Mark Richt.
What about the all-time greats?
Penn State’s Joe Paterno appears on One certified autograph card — a cut autograph (three copies made) in 2009 Donruss Classics Classic Cuts — and little more than a dozen other regular cards. When you consider he started his college football career in the 1940s (as a player), that’s a ridiculously low number of cards.
Florida State’s Bobby Bowden is the winner here as he has appeared on more than 50 football cards and has signed four different certified autographs — all for Press Pass.
How about Alabama’s Paul “Bear” Bryant? The guy that many of the legends here idolized appears on 33 football cards — just a few short of his 323 wins — and has a pair of cut autograph cards still waiting to be found in 2009 sets. He has one cut autograph in the 2009 Donruss Classics Classic Cuts set and two in the 2009 UD Black Cut Autographs set.
Grambling’s Eddie Robinson appears on just one card in the Beckett database — and he shares it with a few other coaches. He does appear on a handful of cut autographs found in 2009 Donruss Classics.
How about Amos Alonzo Stagg? While the coaching legend has a half-dozen football cards — including an RC in the memorable 1955 Topps All-American set — four of those are cut autographs, all with fewer than three copies made.
And Pop Warner? Just nine cards total — three of them are cut autographs.
And Knute Rockne? More than 80 cards, but again just two cut autographs.
There’s no doubting the appeal that would come with products that include notable college coaches’ autographs inside. However, there’s no doubt that a product probably couldn’t be built around coaches alone. And there are likely logistical challenges to getting current college coaches to sign cards — and perhaps costs that aren’t worth their inclusion, too. (Perhaps we’ll check with a few companies next week; this is being written in the wake of Meyer’s announcement Saturday night.)
And there aren’t many sets that have included deep crops of college coaches’ autographs, though the 2007 Donruss Elite Extra Edition set did include several college coaches from several sports. It included the likes of Tom Osborne, Steve Spurrier, Jerry Tarkanian, Rick Majerus, Rollie Massimino, Dale Brown, Dean Smith and Eddie Sutton, among others. Many of those coaches did sign for the product, though it wasn’t heavily focused on football.
One recent football card set was going to focus on college coaches, but plans changed. On its preliminary autograph checklist, Topps‘ popular Mayo set from last year had a host of college coaches — none of whom made the final cut for the product. Originally planned as signers were Paterno, Ohio State’s Jim Tressel, Meyer, Brown, Stoops and former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville.
Mayo’s cut autograph checklist was set to include Rockne, Stagg, Walter Camp and Warner but only Stagg and Warner made the final cut.
Those inclusions could have been a serious coup and had a serious place in the football card world, but we’re left to wonder — what could have been during, say, a national championship run or with news like Meyer’s tonight what kind of market there would be for the certified authentic autographs of notable coaches.
Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Graded Card Investor. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an e-mail to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.