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It’s time to scrap the Senior Selection Committee

2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony Getty Images

In lieu of continuing to complain about the Hall of Fame voting process, it’s time to begin offering concrete recommendations for improving it.

Here’s the first one:  As mentioned last night on NBC SportsTalk, the Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees should disband the Senior Selection Committee.

This subset of the 44-person Hall of Fame voting group identifies two players who, for whatever reason, failed to achieve enshrinement when competing against their peers.  And so, each year, up to two players of whom most casual (and many hardcore) fans have never heard are given equal billing with up to five men whose names instantly resonate with modern followers of football.

Needless to say, it makes little sense.  If guys like Jack Butler couldn’t get into the Hall of Fame when considered with the men who played in the same era, why are they getting a spot that could go to an Andre Reed or a Charles Haley or a Cris Carter or a Bill Parcells?

That’s not a knock on Butler or any of the other 36 men who have been inducted via the Senior Selection Committee.  It’s a broader observation that guys who didn’t get in through the front door shouldn’t be given a side entrance, either.

The mere fact that the Hall of Fame feels compelled to have a “clean up” process that accounts for up to 28.5 percent of the annual slate of inductees represents an implicit admission that, traditionally, the process as constituted has made significant mistakes.  But instead of implementing radical change aimed at ensuring that the best decisions are made going forward, the Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees seems to be content to keep using the Senior Selection Committee as a perpetual mop bucket to give spots in Canton to men whom the voters failed to properly include far earlier.

One of the loudest arguments for maintaining the current by laws and procedures is that it wouldn’t be fair to change rules that applied to so many other players for so many years.  That’s a cop out.  Any institution that wants to avoid change for the sake of avoiding change could make a similar point, opting for consistent flaws out of deference to the past in lieu of a future that carries the promise of doing things the best way possible.

For the Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees to do things the best way possible, the Senior Selection Committee needs to go, and those two extra spots per year should be devoted not to enshrining those who slipped through the net but making a better net for the men currently under consideration.

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32 Responses to “It’s time to scrap the Senior Selection Committee”
  1. painterdude says: Feb 11, 2012 11:42 AM

    I disagree, some of these guys need that side entrance because not all of them had a good relationship with the media members who have a vote to put them. To many of the media votes are affected by biasedness. In my opinion that’s why a guy like C. Haley isn’t in already.

  2. purplengold says: Feb 11, 2012 11:42 AM

    leave the front door open always. if consideration is due, then give it; end the mandatory considerations segregated by era. players can still be judged against their peers of their era.

  3. FinFan68 says: Feb 11, 2012 11:43 AM

    well written post

  4. nomoreseasontix says: Feb 11, 2012 11:45 AM

    The fact is, if you’re a player with HOF aspirations, your first step should be to make sure you have a couple of good seasons playing for an east coast team.

    The criteria seems to be: 1) Location. 2) Name recognition. 3) Stats and performance.
    In that order.

  5. AlanSaysYo says: Feb 11, 2012 12:02 PM

    “The mere fact that the Hall of Fame feels compelled to have a “clean up” process that accounts for up to 28.5 percent of the annual slate of inductees represents an implicit admission that, traditionally, the process as constituted has made significant mistakes.”

    This is true. But the Senior Selection Committee should be disbanded AFTER the process is fixed, not before. And if the process is fixed, say, next year, that doesn’t mean that suddenly all the guys who should be in the hall are in the hall. The “mop-up” will need to continue for a few years after the new process is put into place.

  6. roseann894 says: Feb 11, 2012 12:05 PM

    Agree with this post 100%. Senior nominees like Floyd Little, Charlie Sanders and Gene Hickerson were were good players in their time and in many cases very fine individuals. Charlie Sanders was a personal favorite of mine, being from the same hometown. But in no way did they seem like hall of famers to older fans such as myself who remember when they were active. The contortions made by Floyd Little supporters when he was up for election were laughable, e.g. “well, when he retired he was the 7th leading career rusher,” a distinction he probably held for all of 15 minutes.

  7. stull60060 says: Feb 11, 2012 12:12 PM

    The HOF selectors are corrupted. The like having power over others like the government. The power to allow or deny. They buy and sell favors. There are players in the HOF that should not be. There are players not in the HOF that should be. How does this happen? Personal biases for or against a player. Not the players performances on the field. Another point. You can not compare the greatness of players from different eras. Why? The rules were different and the league was different. A receiver who played in the 70′s had a lot tougher time getting open and catching the ball then someone from today. Why? Because during the 70′s the defenders could do what ever they wanted to you until the ball was in the air. That means forearm to the face, head slap, poke to the eye, etc. etc. Yet the great ones still managed to get open and catch the ball. Today’s receiver are allowed to run free and unmolested even when the ball is not in the air. Your comparing apples and oranges. With that said, Ken Stabler should have been in the HOF along time ago.

  8. melikefootball says: Feb 11, 2012 12:37 PM

    Because Butler was a better palyer than C.C. He played both ways , set a record for int for the time. Do you think C.C. would be hapy to know that he would not be considered after this year becauise of time. Oh I can hear the brothers on ESPN NFL pregsme show all over that.

  9. jrodz19 says: Feb 11, 2012 12:37 PM

    Your argument is weak. The fact remains that the two players getting in each year by the Senior Committee, were at one time the Andre Reed, Charles Haley, Cris Carter and Bill Parcells of their era. The HOF selections are as much for the fans of these players as the players themselves. You can also make the argument to expand the number of selections each year, but that still doesn’t guarantee some of these current or older era players getting in. Sure the process is flawed, but I’m guessing they don’t want to stretch it into 3 days of acceptance speeches either.

    The problem isn’t the side door, it’s the number of players in the waiting room. When your favorites continue to get passed over year after year like the Randy Gradishar’s of the world, you’ll can only hope to find the side door someday. I’m sure they have seats for Reed & Carter already waiting.

  10. ncsteeler says: Feb 11, 2012 12:41 PM

    I don’t object to a senior committee providing a side door into the final 15 or so. At that point they sould be considered vs. recent players and 7 slots should be available be they seniors or recent players.

  11. psdaleno says: Feb 11, 2012 12:45 PM

    I know one reason to keep the committee. Jim Plunkett!

  12. buffalomafia says: Feb 11, 2012 12:52 PM

    Andre Reed should have been selected by now!

  13. swervinmervin says: Feb 11, 2012 12:56 PM

    You cant get rid of the senior selection. Because the voters are so corrupt, MANY deserving players have been passed by over the years. The senior selection is the only way in for many of those guys.

    Ken Stabler and Cliff Branch are two guys that have shouldve been in years ago. Compare Branch’s numbers to those of Lynn Swann. Branch destroy Swann’s numbers. And Branch only has one less ring (3 to 4). Makes no sense that he isnt in.

    Same with Stabler. His number compare to those of Griese, Namath, Dawson and other QBs of that era. And he played some of the NFL’s most memorable games. Makes no sense he isnt in.

    Ray Guy. Guy passes the eye ball test to many voters as the best punter of all time but since many dont want a punter in, Guy gets the shaft. Makes no sense.

    Tom Flores and Jim Plunkett. When it is all said and done, Flores and PLunkett will be the only coach/QB combo who have at least TWO Super Bowl rings and are NOT in the HoF. Parcells will get in soon enough. Shannahan will be in one day. Same with Bellicheck. Listening to the media, Eli and Coughlin will be in soon too. Yet Flores and Plunkett dont make it. MAkes no sense.

    These are all reasons why the senior selection is needed. Its the best chance to get in for many deserving players who have been snubbed by crooked voters.

  14. stairwayto7 says: Feb 11, 2012 2:31 PM

    There is an easy way for all Hall OF Fames…Once you retire after 5 years you get 1 shot yes or no, and then its over! If not a HOF on then1 st ballot, then not a HOF! You can have 1 or 10 in HOF any given year like MLB does…

  15. patpatriot7 says: Feb 11, 2012 2:43 PM

    Some compelling posts on the subject with most having one thing in common. The process is flawed and needs to be corrected.
    I’d like to add that the names of the voters, their qualifications for voting and their actual ballot selections should be made public.

  16. gallopingfar says: Feb 11, 2012 2:44 PM

    There an East Coast bias. If you are a network talker or announcer, you’re in. keep the Senior process intact, otherwise CC, Andre and company may never get in. Jack Tatum and George Atkinson should be in. Anyone who played against them in their would tell you so.
    I am in no way a Raider fan. You can’t have Steeler defenders in and keep Tatum and Atkinson out.

  17. eaglesnoles05 says: Feb 11, 2012 3:22 PM

    1) Build a bigger Building.
    2) Stop clowning around and let all these players/coaches in. CRIS CARTER. BILL PARCELLS. Come on.

    Again, gotta plug RANDALL CUNNINGHAM too. IMO, if you win 2 NFL MVPs, your peers obviously consider you great.

  18. nightrain42 says: Feb 11, 2012 3:59 PM

    Keep the senior selection. There is too much bias, espc position bias. LeBeau was a absolute beast as a db, in a era where throwing the ball wasn’t as much as today, yet still put up great int numbers. Check the facts. Bob Hayes shld hve been in. Parcell people shld stop. Harry Carson was a gift, no way he belongs. LCD Greenwood, the Steeler sack leader b4 porter broke it and his 4 rings are still waiting. Andre reed doesn’t belong. Hoops numbers in a scheme offense, no rep as a big time catch wr. CC shld be in. Haley not yet, a one dimensional player. Senior gives a chance to correct bias mistakes.

  19. rajbais says: Feb 11, 2012 4:02 PM

    As a compromise the traditional Hall of Fame candidacy term should be longer than it is right now. It should be increased by another 5 to 10 years.

  20. stavreafavre says: Feb 11, 2012 4:13 PM

    Probably true, but first they need to right the most egregious wrong and put Jerry Kramer in the HoF.

  21. Deb says: Feb 11, 2012 4:39 PM

    You’re right–the current system doesn’t work. It’s absurd these decisions are made by a handful of reporters–some of whom don’t have a thimble’s worth of knowledge about football history.

    But … as long as you have men who deserve to be in the Hall, put them in the Hall. Assemble a Blue Ribbon panel of sports historians, Hall of Fame coaches and players, some current voters, whatever, and have them select a one-time class of the 50-100 best senior players overlooked by the Hall since its inception. Give those men their due in one big ceremony separate from the usual HoF presentation. Then proceed forward with the new, corrected voting system as you’ve suggested.

    After the 2000 election debacle, Fla. dumped all its voting machines. It was difficult and expensive to change, but we’ll have no more hanging chads. If we can rework our voting procedures in a hot minute, so can the Hall.

  22. bunjy96 says: Feb 11, 2012 5:12 PM

    The whole system needs an overhaul, not just the seniors

    There needs to be an established criteria which should meet before any player gets in.

    Present system stinks.

  23. riverhorsey says: Feb 11, 2012 5:19 PM

    Take the voting away from the media they always have an axe to grind.

    Let former head coaches be the ones to decide. Media jocks should out.

  24. cobrala2 says: Feb 11, 2012 5:23 PM

    I agree about the Senior Committee but you’re too big for your britches. You have this attitude that everything YOU see wrong SHOULD change, and that EVERYONE ELSE has it all wrong because they don’t want change. Not sure why you’re so special to the NFL lately.

  25. dontouchmyjunk says: Feb 11, 2012 6:09 PM

    The problem is who selects the players for HOF induction. Members of the media? How did that happen? Members of the media have no business selecting anybody for anything. I’m hard pressed to think of a more worthless profession in our culture than “journalist”. There was a time when journalism was honorable. Now, they hack people’s phones and tell stories with no substance.

  26. commandercornpone says: Feb 11, 2012 6:15 PM

    the star system has driven a lot of the stats accumulation.

    so, i say, keep the senior selection committee.

    a lot of these guys with massive stats today, especially in the passing game, wouldnt have done jack in the old days.

    a bill james style of approach needs to be undertaken to assess the value of differing players / styles across the different ages.

    scrapping the senior committee basically enshrines the idea that current players are so much better than previous players. and that idea is massive bs.

    and then when u consider the obvious character flaws of a lot of modern players, including some stats-rackers… divas… why should they get into any hof?

  27. twincitiesvideo says: Feb 11, 2012 6:46 PM

    I think you can easily look at every team and make a claim on several players in each decade. For me Mick Timglehoff and Jim Marshall not in is a shame….. Cliff Branch should be in there…..

  28. Deb says: Feb 11, 2012 6:54 PM

    Academy Award nominees are chosen by people in the same category. Actors only vote for actors, directors for directors, etc. Once nominees are selected, the whole membership votes for each winner.

    In similar fashion, HoF nominees should be chosen by those who competed and defended against them. So receivers would be nominated only by the receivers, defensive backs, and coaches who were in the league when they played. After nominees are selected, all coaches, players, and execs of their era vote for the inductees.

    Only those who competed in the same era know the best of their time. You cannot compare Baugh to Namath to Montana to Rodgers. The game has changed too much through the decades. That’s why setting some arbitrary stat requirement won’t work. Players know who dominated when they played.

  29. yahmule says: Feb 12, 2012 2:29 AM

    The Veterans Committee in both the NFL and MLB exist so they can induct players to their respective HOFs one year after the athlete in question dies. MLB is doing it with Ron Santo. The NFL waited until Marshall Goldberg passed away in his 80s to induct him one year later.

  30. yahmule says: Feb 12, 2012 2:31 AM

    “Probably true, but first they need to right the most egregious wrong and put Jerry Kramer in the HoF.”

    Keeping that self promoting clown out is one of the things they’ve gotten right.

  31. bachslunch says: Feb 13, 2012 8:46 AM

    Lots of problems with this article, and with the idea of eliminating the Seniors process altogether:

    –please not well : Seniors do NOT take away a space from modern era players. They are nominated separately and voted on separately. Jack Butler’s being elected this time around did not prevent a modern era candidate from being voted in.

    –whether the casual fan has ever heard of the Senior nominee or not is irrelevant. I say casual fans should broaden their knowledge more — I did, and in doing so I learned a lot about the process and how to identify potentially deserving Senior candidates.

    –many of the Seniors, among them Butler and Chris Hanburger and Les Richter and Benny Friedman and Fritz Pollard and Nick Buoniconti and Dave Wilcox and Billy Shaw and Stan Jones and Bill Willis, were HoF deserving and never even got a chance to have their cases heard except via this route. They all got in, and rightly so. And there are scads more — Lavvie Dilweg, Verne Lewellen, Al Wistert, Mick Tingelhoff, Walt Sweeney, Dick Schafrath, Bobby Dillon, Jimmy Patton, Kenny Easley, Billy Howton, Billy Wilson, Del Shofner, Harold Carmichael, Harold Jackson, Drew Pearson, Cliff Branch, Pete Retzlaff, Maxie Baughan, Robert Brazile, Chuck Howley, Joe Fortunato, Larry Grantham, Dave Grayson, Lemar Parrish, Tommy Davis, and more.

    –a few of the Seniors who were finalists before and were voted down were in my opinion wrongly turned out — Dick Stanfel and Claude Humphrey are the recent examples, but there have been others such as Mac Speedie and Jerry Kramer. And a few have gotten in (and rightly so) on their second time as Seniors, specifically Lou Creekmur and Henry Jordan. Plus several deserving folks were regular finalists before finally making it in as Seniors, among them Tommy McDonald, John Henry Johnson, Gene Hickerson, Bob Brown, Leroy Kelly, and Frank Gatski.

    While I don’t think the Senior process should be scrapped, I do think it needs to be changed. Currently, there is no guarantee the nominating committee will put forth good candidates, nor that the general HoF voting committee will elect good Senior candidates. Instead, I think there should be a panel of knowledgeable football historians who identify, research, nominate, and directly elect players in this category. Regardless, there is a big need for a Seniors process given how many deserving candidates are still not in.

  32. anthronext says: Feb 14, 2012 5:36 PM

    NONSENSE!!!

    There are a number of great players who have not gotten for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of their play. The Denver Broncos had one of the all-time great linebacker cores of the 1970s including Randy Gradishar. They did not get in largely due the hang-over of Denver’s reputation as a terrible franchise in the 1960s.

    There are a number of other examples . . . What about Cookie Gilchrist? He is not in largely because of erratic behavior following an obscene number of concussions. However, he was considered a monster running back, the Jim Brown of the AFL. A Hall of Fame without him is not really a Hall of Fame.

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