Behind the HOF's New Contributor Committee
A little inside football this morning. Tonight in Washington D.C., nine members of the new Pro Football Hall of Fame Contributor Selection Committee will gather at a hotel. On Wednesday, they will meet to select two candidates for the Hall’s Class of 2015.
It’s a new world for the Hall of Fame. The contributor category was founded this year to address the logjam of quality candidates who couldn’t get into the Hall because the 46 voters traditionally favor players and coaches over off-field candidates like general managers, scouts, owners and commissioners. Over the next five years, the Hall will advance eight candidates for entry, and those candidates—two each in 2015, 2017 and 2019, one in 2016 and 2018—will have their cases heard by the full quorum of voters each winter on the traditional voting day, the Saturday before the Super Bowl.
Whenever I write about the Hall of Fame, it brings out tremendous passion from fans. I wanted to tell you about this development, because later this week, when the Hall announces the two Contributor nominees for entry into Canton, you’ll wonder what it means.
First, the list of voters, a sub-committee of the complete voter group, who will choose the two candidates. The panel includes nine veteran pro football media people with more than 225 years of combined experience covering pro football: Howard Balzer, Jarrett Bell, John Clayton, Rick Gosselin, Clark Judge, Peter King, Sal Paolantonio, Jim Trotter and Charean Williams. The panel also will have a group of veteran pro football consultants, with experience knowing the best candidates for selection, to advise them on the candidate group.
The voters were each asked to cut a list of 40 nominees down to 10 by voting for their top 10. The votes were compiled—there was a tie for 10th place—and so the cases of 11 important contributors to pro football will be heard Wednesday. Discussion and debate will ensue, and by the end of the day we’ll have narrowed the list to two.
The Hall has asked us to not share the names of the 11 semifinalists, and so I won’t. But they are bedrock, important architects of pro football, and I’m thrilled we’ll finally have a place for vital contributors to the history of the game.
I’m sure you’ll have a lot of questions about the process and the finalists, and I’ll be writing about it again once the two nominees have been chosen. But for now, I thought I’d address a few points about the process:
This doesn’t affect how many players will gain entry each year. There are five spots for modern players and coaches, as was the case in past years.
The Seniors and Contributors will alternate between two and one nominees over the next five years. Two seniors will be advanced in 2016 and 2018, and one senior candidate in each of the other three years. The opposite will be the case for contributors, as I explained above.
Why is there a separate category for the Contributors? In the past, I’ve complained that important forces in pro football history—veteran personnel men Ron Wolf and Gil Brandt, owners who made an impact, scouts and even on-field officials like Art McNally and Jerry Markbreit—can’t get their cases heard in the room before the 46 voters for the Hall. One year, Wolf didn’t even make the cut to 25, despite helping build the great Raiders as a personnel man under Al Davis, and despite trading for Brett Favre, hiring Mike Holmgren and luring Reggie White to Green Bay in free agency. But it’s not just Wolf—there are so many others who helped build the NFL into greatness.
Some of you think we’re watering down the Hall. Last year, the max class was seven—five modern-era candidates and two Senior nominees. Now the class could number eight—five modern-era guys, two Contributors and one Senior. I don’t think at all that we’re watering it down. Rather, I think we’re adding some men who could never get to first base. They still will have to get 80 percent positive votes to gain entry to the Hall, so it’s not automatic. But I have always hoped the Contributors could get their day in front of the full committee, and now, in three months, two of them will.
I appreciate the Hall being flexible and seeing a problem and fixing it. There is no perfect fix, of course, because the Senior group now will have three fewer men up for election over the next five years. But this allows some important architects to finally have a fair shake.
Let me know what you think, and come back to The MMQB later in the week to read about the cutdown to two.
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