Pro Football Hall of Fame: How are players nominated?

The Pro Football Hall of Fame will announce its 2012 class on Saturday, the day before Super Bowl XLVI. We take a look at the nomination process.

Matt Sullivan/REUTERS/File
In this file photo, former Oilers, Vikings, Seahawks, and Chiefs quarterback Warren Moon kisses his bust during his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Moon was inducted along with Harry Carson, John Madden, Troy Aikman, Rayfield Wright and Reggie White in 2006.

Who deserves to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?  We’ve made our picks (to see them, click below). Whether they match the official annual selections, which are announced each year the day before the Super Bowl, remains to be seen.

But before getting to the Monitor’s choices, some background and comments are in order.

First, an interesting fact: Anyone may nominate a player, coach, or contributor simply by writing to the hall in Canton, Ohio. It says so right on the shrine’s website. The only stipulation is that players and coaches be retired for at least five years.

Submitting a nomination, of course, only begins the winnowing process handled by a 44-member Selection Committee composed mostly of football writers from each NFL city. These guys (they’re all men) are known to local readers, but they are no-names nationally. You won’t find big-name sportscasters like Joe Buck and Al Michaels among them.  

This committee does its work quietly and the selections are generally met with far less buzz than in baseball.  Why?  Partly because baseball, with its many player statistics, lends itself far better to hot-stove debates about the game’s immortals.  In football, how’s one to gauge an offensive lineman?

Also, there are more than 1,000 media types eligible to cast ballots in voting for the baseball hall conducted by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Many of these voters share how they’ve voted in columns and blogs that bring a lot of attention to the selection process.

The football selectors, on the other hand, are a small coterie who via a series of votes narrow the field from 105 preliminary nominees (this year), to 26 semifinalists, to 17 finalists this year, including two old-timers. When the group meets in Indianapolis Saturday, they vote on the Class of 2012 enshrinees. There is no set number that gets in, but the ground rules recommend three to seven new Hall of Famers each year, including any players nominated by a Seniors Committee.

The fewest ever ushered in was three, in 1973 and 1976.  Last year’s class had seven members: Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Chris Hanburger, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, Les Richter, and Ed Sabol, who was voted in as a contributor for being the guiding force behind NFL Films.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame itself only facilitates the selection process, but does not participate in it. 

The all-time greats given the nod are enshrined as part of the annual Enshrinement Festival in Canton, where they don the coveted yellow Hall of Fame blazers at the induction ceremony (Aug. 4 this year) and where their bronze busts are unveiled.  

Before clicking to see our Class of 2012 picks, here is an alphabetical lists of the 15 finalists:

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