At one time, Fisher DeBerry was the heart of Air Force football, a man so dedicated to his players and the academy that nobody could think of one without the other.
That he was able to do as much as he did at a place as unique as Air Force is a testament to him. So it was little surprise to hear that DeBerry had been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot. DeBerry spent 23 seasons at Air Force, going 169-109-1 before retiring following the 2006 season.
His Falcons teams had winning records in 17 of his 23 seasons at Air Force, won the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy 14 times and went to 12 bowl games.
DeBerry also coached the Falcons to three conference championships: a share of the WAC in 1985 and 1995. The Falcons won their first outright title WAC title in 1998 with a win over BYU in the title game in Las Vegas. He was named WAC Coach of the Year for the third time in his career for his efforts. His team went 12-1 that year, the first back-to-back 10-win seasons in school history. The 1998 squad finished the season ranked No. 10.
His final few years at Air Force were a struggle. DeBerry closed his career with three straight losing seasons, and there was speculation that he was forced out because he did not want to make changes to his coaching staff. He also took criticism for two off the field incidents: in 2004, he had to remove a banner from the locker room that said, "I am a Christian first and last ... I am a member of Team Jesus Christ." Then in 2005, he publicly apologized for saying the team didn't have enough "Afro-American" players, citing their running ability.
Once DeBerry retired, Air Force hired Troy Calhoun (who played quarterback for DeBerry) and the Falcons have gone back to winning. They just won the CIC Trophy in 2010 for the first time in eight seasons. But DeBerry laid much of the groundwork for the success of the program.