More seniors in Hall for NFL's 100th year? It could happen

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is considering a proposal to expand the senior class for one year ... to coincide with and celebrate the NFL's 100th anniversary.

It's no secret that the Pro Football Hall of Fame has far too many qualified candidates waiting on Canton who may never make it. Most of them are seniors -- including a majority of the 92 all-decade choices through the 1990s -- and they're buried in a pool of candidates that only gets deeper with each year.

But there may be relief on the way, with the Hall's executive director, Joe Horrigan, acknowledging that the Pro Football Hall of Fame has discussed a possible one-time "amnesty" (our words, not his) to celebrate the NFL's 100th anniversary and allow some of those qualified candidates admission.

Joe Horrigan photo courtesy of Talk of Fame Network
Joe Horrigan photo courtesy of Talk of Fame Network

The criteria for admission is unclear, but suffice it to say, that all-decade status for players is probably one of them. It's an idea the Talk of Fame Network has embraced and pushed the past three years, and, it appears, is one that has the Hall's attention.

"We've had this conversation," Horrigan said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. "It's kind of one of my banner issues, too. We literally have floated ... conceptually ... the idea to our board of trustees, who ultimately will make a decision like that. There are a lot of challenges that we obviously have to get over, but I think the 100th anniversary brings opportunity to so many different things."

One of them, Horrigan said, is having a regular-season NFL game played in Canton. With the Hall recently renovating and expanding Tom Benson Stadium, it could be a perfect venue for a 100th anniversary game.

"We think it would be a great opportunity," said Horrigan, "because the 100th birthday of the NFL actually falls on Sept. 17th (2020), which is a Thursday, which would be great to have a Thursday night regular-season game here on that date because Canton will be the epicenter of that centennial celebration, the 100th birthday of the NFL."

But why stop there? Why not open the doors to Canton in 2020 to seniors who are qualified but have either been overlooked and/or forgotten? Present guidelines allow for no more than three senior candidates every two years -- with two every even year (as it will be in 2018) and one in the odd (as it was this summer) -- and that has done little to reduce an enormous waiting line.

One idea for the NFL's 100th celebration has the Hall admitting an additional candidate per decade, and that's a start. Because there are, according to our Rick Gosselin, 80 all-decade choices from the 1920s through the 1990s who haven't even been discussed by the Hall's board of selectors.

Maybe that changes ... and maybe it changes soon.

"I think there are so many other opportunities," said Horrigan, "not the least of which would be looking at some of the backlog of players and contributors that might get an ... I hate to call it an 'amnesty' because it sounds as if it's allowing for someone who may not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. And I think there are so many that deserve to be in the Hall of Fame that, to make them continue to wait into the next century ... that's really a challenge for them.

"I hate seeing it, and I know you guys do, too. And maybe this is the chance where we might be able to use this ... if you will ... as the catapult to make it happen. I hope so, and I'm going to continue to make that argument."

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