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Jeff Kolpack, Published June 09 2013

Kolpack: Bison Hall of Fame committee should show some forgiveness

FARGO - Phrases like “the people’s president” continue to follow the legacy of Bill Clinton. There are those who label greatness with his two terms as the nation’s leader.

And, oh by the way, he was the only sitting president to testify before a grand jury investigating his conduct. That’s the thing about Americans: We’re a pretty forgiving people.

There are 251 members of the Bison Athletic Hall of Fame, and perhaps it’s time that the decision makers show a level of forgiveness. Yes, there are a couple of deserving members who are tied to some bad things in our society.

The Hall cites “athletics accomplishments and contributions to society after college” as considerations for induction. Athletics accomplishments a no-brainer; if you don’t have performance excellence, forget it. End of story.

The second is where it gets to be a little iffy. Besides All-American running back Paul Hatchett, that would presumably include one of the all-time greatest linebackers in Bison football history: Jim Dick.

Dick is also not in the Hall of Fame. The former All-American linebacker and the all-time program leader in tackles was charged in a much-publicized shoplifting scheme at a suburban Twin Cities department store in 1996.

Certainly, induction is not meant for somebody going through the middle of a criminal trial. There also certainly needs to be a cooling off period – at least several years – after any illegal activity.

But is it so bad to give somebody their due recognition once their debts to society are paid? It’s the American way. The Bison Hall of Fame is not Augusta National.

It’s been 17 years since an undercover sting nabbed the Dick family. Jim Dick, by the way, had his charges dropped during the trial, so let’s call it like it is: He’s innocent. Testimony pointed to his mother as the ringleader of the scheme, according to the Star Tribune newspaper.

It’s been long enough. If Dick would consider acceptance into the Hall of Fame, he should be in.

Hatchett is a tougher sell.

I don’t want to reiterate all of the dirty laundry that was laid out in the wake of his death last week. It was a tough life of homelessness and drug use, and for that, he only has himself to blame. He served six months in a Georgia state prison for possession of cocaine, but was released on good behavior in 2001.

His last known offense was in 2004 when he was charged with misdemeanor moving vehicle from parked position and failure to exercise due caution.

That was nine years ago.

Hatchett was a record-setting running back who was a monumental part of two national football titles. That large banner in the Fargodome with “1968” and “1969” under it has his footprint on it.

What we don’t know, and may never know, is if he was sorry for all of his actions. What if in the last nine years, he expressed regret for his drug use? Maybe he went through treatment?

If the people have generally forgiven Bill Clinton, then surely the Bison Hall of Fame can show some forgiveness, too.

It’s been long enough.


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia