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Charged with the vital task of continuing to be certain that new enshrinees are the finest the game has produced is the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 46-person Selection Committee. [Pro Football Hall of Fame's Selection Process/List of Selection Committee members>>>]
The Selection Committee consists of one media representative from each geographical area with a current NFL franchise. If a geographical area has more than one franchise (such as New York City) there shall be a selector for each franchise. A 33rd member is a representative of the Pro Football Writers of America and there are 13 at-large delegates.
The Selection Committee meets annually at the time of the Super Bowl to elect new members to the Hall of Fame. There is no set number of new enshrinees, but the Committee’s current ground rules do stipulate that between four and eight new members will be selected each year. Every candidate is carefully scrutinized and must receive at least 80 percent approval of the Committee at the annual meeting before he can be elected.
Any fan may nominate any player, coach or contributor who has been connected with pro football simply by writing to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The only restriction is that a player and coach must have been retired at least five years before he can be considered. There is no mandatory retirement period for a contributor before he may be considered. Every nomination of an eligible candidate received will be processed and forwarded to the Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee.
Each year, the Selection Committee will be polled three times before the Final List of Preliminary Nominees is determined. The Initial Preliminary List of nominations is compiled and sent to the Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee by March 1. The list is provided so that the selectors can study the nominees and then request the addition of any other candidates that may have been overlooked. Included on this list are first-time eligible candidates who have strong enough credentials to give them even a remote chance of eventual Hall of Fame election. Also included are all other eligible candidates nominated by any person. Additionally, those modern-era nominees from the previous year’s final preliminary list who received at least four votes in the balloting to determine the modern-era finalists are automatically included on this preliminary list.
The Second Preliminary List is sent to the selectors during the month of September that includes all the nominees named on the earlier list plus any additional nominations received from any source since the first list was compiled.
The Third Preliminary List of eligible candidates is sent to the Selection Committee during the month of October for the purpose of the selection of the Modern Era semi-finalists for election. From the Third Preliminary List the Selection Committee is asked to vote for 25 Modern Era Semifinalists.
The Final Preliminary List of 25 modern-era candidates will be distributed to the Selection Committee during the month of November for the purpose of the selection of 15 Modern Era Nominees. The 16th, 17th, and 18th finalists are the recommended candidates of the Seniors Committee.
In advance of the Hall of Fame Selection Meeting in February, the selectors are provided detailed biographies on each of the 18 finalist candidates. At the annual meeting, each of the nominees is thoroughly discussed by the committee before a series of reduction votes are taken. First, the senior candidate(s) and Contributor candidate(s) are discussed and voted on for election. They must receive the same 80 percent affirmative vote as the modern-era candidates. Next, there is a vote that reduces the modern-era finalists list from 15 to 10. Following that, a vote is taken to reduce the list from 10 to 5 names. The five remaining candidates for Hall of Fame election are then voted on individually (yes or no) for membership.
In order to be elected a finalist must receive a minimum of 80% of the vote. All ballots are collected and counted by the firm Deloitte & Touche. No vote totals are announced – only the winners of the various reduction ballots are revealed to the selectors and the Hall’s representatives.
To assure that older players, whose active careers have been completed at least 25 years, as well as those individuals who contributed to the game in ways other than playing and coaching will be considered along with the Modern Era players, a Seniors Committee and a Contributors Committee, each made up of nine veteran members of the overall Selection Committee, have been established.
Like the full Committee, the members of the Seniors Committee are provided a preliminary list of eligible nominees. The list, which is compiled and mailed to the selectors by June 1, includes carry-over nominations from the previous year, first-time eligible candidates, and nominations from any outside source. By way of a mail ballot the Committee members reduce the list to 15 Senior Nominee finalists. Five members of the nine-man Committee, selected on a rotating basis, are designated to attend the annual Seniors Committee meeting held in Canton, where they are charged with the responsibility of nominating candidate(s) from that list to be among the 18 finalists for Hall of Fame election. In advance of the meeting, each selector is provided with detailed biographical information on the candidates.
Senior Committee members are assisted during their annual meeting by two Hall of Fame consultants, chosen by the Hall’s president, who were contemporaries of the majority of the nominees. The consultants offer only their opinions and are not entitled to vote. After each candidate is discussed thoroughly, the consultants are excused from the meeting. Additional discussion is conducted followed by a series of reduction votes that results in the naming of Senior Nominee(s).
Although the Senior Nominee(s) and Contributor Nominee(s) will be presented to the full Selection Committee as a finalist, their election to the Hall of Fame is not automatic. The Senior Nominee(s) and Contributor Nominee(s) must receive the same minimum 80% of the vote as a Modern Era candidate to be elected.
Bylaw changes instituted beginning with the Class of 2015 added the Contributor finalist who will be voted on independent of the other nominees. Like all other finalists, a Contributor nominee needs to receive an eighty percent positive vote for election by the 46-member Selection Committee.
Contributors have previously been part of the modern-era nomination list that included coaches and players. The result has been that since 1963, when the Hall of Fame first opened, only 19 Contributors have been elected and 10 of those were elected in the first five Hall of Fame classes, including six as Charter Members.
In an effort to address the backlog of deserving Contributor candidates, also approved in the change to the selection process is a temporary measure allowing for two Contributor finalists in years one (starting in 2015), three and five, of the next five years. In years two and four of that same period, there will be just one Contributor finalist. At the end of the five-year period, the number of Contributor finalists going forward will be one per year.
To keep the maximum number of nominees elected at no more than eight per year, the Senior finalists will be reduced from two to one per year in years one, three and five of the same five-year period. In years two and four and each year thereafter, there will be two Senior finalists, as is now the practice.
The Contributor finalists will be selected annually, by five members, on a rotational basis, of a nine-member subcommittee of the Selection Committee.
Obviously, teams take great pride in the accomplishments of individuals who have been a part of their organization. Often individual teams and even the Hall of Fame will list enshrinees according to the team or teams on which they spent a significant period of time. An enshrinee, however, is not asked to “declare,” nor does the Hall of Fame “choose” a team under which a new member is enshrined. When elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, an individual is recognized for his accomplishments as a player, coach, or contributor.