For Pete's Sake

By: Pete Fierle

Pete Fierle, Manager - Digital Media/Communications
Pete's familiarity with the game's history is a result of spending two decades surrounded by the world's largest collection of pro football information. His many duties include overseeing the Hall's website as well as the day-to-day operation of the Ralph Wilson, Jr. Pro Football Research and Preservation Center.

Best selection process in sports!

Feb 12, 2010

I may be biased but I don’t think so. I strongly feel that my organization has the finest selection process of any sports Hall of Fame.

The reason I write this is because of the extensive vetting process that takes place with our election. It’s nearly a year-round process and culminates with our 44-member Selection Committee being locked in a room for seven-plus hours. The commitment of these individuals is quite incredible. The amount of time spent in reviewing, studying, and preparing for the selection of our new class may be unprecedented when compared to other Halls of Fame. I’m not aware of too many sports Halls of Fame that have a large committee work throughout the year and then meet in person to argue the cases of each candidate.

PHOTO: Here's a photo I posted on Twitter just moments after the doors closed and our Selection Committee got to work on Saturday, Feb. 6 in the Ft. Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center. >>>

Nearly a week has passed from the meeting in South Florida that elected the Class of 2010 – Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, Dick LeBeau, Floyd Little, John Randle, Jerry Rice, and Emmitt Smith. Much of the media coverage and fan reaction just goes to prove how difficult of a process it is to elect someone to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

A good portion of the initial discussion after a new class is made focuses more on who didn’t make it than who did. This year was no different. Perhaps, the best thing about our process is that an individual never loses eligibility. Included in our bylaws is the inclusion of two senior nominees, players who finished their career more than 25 years ago. It really works in that there are those players who, for one reason or another, fell through the cracks over the years. This year, one of the NFL’s all-time great cornerbacks Dick LeBeau and one of finest all-around backs who also was a lethal return man, Floyd Little will enter the Hall thanks to the process that made sure their contributions to the game were not ignored.

The remainder of the class came from an initial list of 131 modern-era candidates. Our selection process did two prior cut downs to get to a list of finalists that were brought into the Super Bowl Media Center meeting room last weekend.

The Selection Committee thoroughly evaluated the merits of all of these great candidates. The committee reduced the 15 modern-era finalists to a list of 10 and then further trimmed it to five. From there, each of them had to receive 80% support of that room to be elected. As we learned when the Hall of Fame’s President/Executive Director Steve Perry opened the sealed envelope and announced on NFL Network and, all five received that vote and will have their bronze busts added to the Hall this summer.

The focus now turns to the great honor these seven greats of the Class of 2010 will receive in Canton in August.

For all of those fans and members of the media who are still talking about who didn’t make it , keep in mind that there’s been little argument that any of the 15 finalists in 2010 were not worthy of the Hall of Fame. Furthermore, history tells us that most of them will eventually earn a spot in the Hall one day.

Simple and to the point in 140 characters or less, a Twitter exchange this week sums it up. The NFL’s Senior Vice President Greg Aiello ( fired off a number tweets talking about who will become eligible in the upcoming years.

That drew this reaction from Dave Goldberg, a veteran member of our selection committee and long-time NFL writer for Associated Press who is now with AOL Fanhouse.

“@gregaiello Putting pressure on us already? we've already got a backlog and stirred-up fans ,” replied Goldberg via his Twitter page (davegoldberg84).

There’s no argument here that there’s great passion which NFL fans have for their teams and players. The same can be said for the dedicated members of our Selection Committee who also combine years of vast experience covering the game along with that passion.

Here in Canton, we’re all preparing for the 2010 Enshrinement Festival. Then, just a couple weeks later, we’ll get the process underway for electing the Class of 2011.

FYI, here is a list of some notable players who will become eligible for the first time next year: Jerome Bettis, Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin, and Willie Roaf.

Let the debate continue!