The Pro Football Hall of Fame has proposed a plan that has a “blue-ribbon panel” produce a list of 10 seniors, three contributors and two coaches for its Centennial Class of 2020 … then pass it on to the Hall’s board of 48 selectors for approval.
OK, so we know, and it doesn’t exactly sound complicated.
Well, it could be, and here’s why: The entire slate of 15 candidates the panel proposes is to be considered as one, with each selector approving or disapproving of the entire group with a single vote. Translated: You either like the list in its entirety or you don’t … and you cast your vote accordingly.
And that’s where the problem lies.
Because what if you don’t? OK, then, you vote it down. Easy enough. But what if 10 of the 48 voters reject it? Well, then we have a problem. Because to gain approval the list must be accepted by 80 percent of the voters, and 10 nays would sabotage it.
And then? Well, then we have more than a problem. We have a public-relations nightmare. Because there is no plan to go forward if the slate is rejected.
Granted, that may be a remote possibility, but it’s a possibility nevertheless. And, as I’ve pointed out before, a candidate such as former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue could cause that possibility to become a reality.
Tagliabue is Hall-of-Fame worthy, but he’s also a polarizing figure to Hall voters. Four times he’s been a finalist, and four times he’s been voted down – including two years ago when he became the only contributor nominee in the five-year history of the category not to make it.
But he’s not alone. There are others voters have rejected as finalists who could cause them to block approval.
The solution? A couple of selectors have one, and the Hall should consider it: Instead of having the board of 48 selectors approve the entire slate, leave that job to the panel that chooses the group. In other words, make that body the beginning and end of the slate and simply have it approve the plan it has chosen. That way there's no possibility of a last-minute veto.
The panel simply chooses its 15 candidates, and the list is approved.
Look, I don’t know who comprises this "blue-ribbon panel," when it is chosen, how it is chosen or who does the choosing. But I do know that it is supposed to include Hall voters, Hall of Famers and football historians, which means the list it produces should be as comprehensive as it is thoroughly researched.
The panel will comb through pre-modern-era names like Duke Slater, Al Wistert, Ox Emerson, Verne Lewellen, Bruno Banducci and Lavvie Dilweg – candidates that some … if not most … of the Hall’s 48 selectors either don’t know or haven’t studied. So why give those voters ultimate authority? Leave that job to the experts, which would be a panel formed expressly for this job.
Yes, it would be unprecedented to take the final approval away from the board. But this is an unprecedented class, a one-time-only procedure. So make this a one-time-only procedure, too.
Otherwise, the Hall runs the risk of its board of selectors striking down the entire Centennial Class of seniors, contributors and coaches because it doesn’t support individual candidates. And that's a risk it dare not take.
So find a way to fix this … now before it’s too late.
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