One Hall of a change in store for contributors like 49ers' DeBartolo

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

CANTON, Ohio -- Good news for Eddie DeBartolo: The Pro Football Hall of Fame is going to make it easier for you to get elected.

That's because the board of trustees on Friday passed an amendment that would put someone like DeBartolo, the former 49ers' owner and only contributor to make the cut to 15 last February, in a category apart from players -- with two nominated every other year.

The proposal takes effect immediately and will have an impact on senior nominees. In the past, two have been nominated each year, with Ray Guy and Claude Humphrey chosen in February, but that would change -- with two contributors and only one senior nominated for election in 2015. The numbers of seniors candidates and contributors would alternate every other year, with two nominated from one and one nominated from the other.

The change is expected to be in place for five years before a reassessment, and it should make it easier for candidates like DeBartolo, former commissioner Paul Tagliabue and former GMs Bobby Beathard, George Young and Ron Wolf to graduate to Canton. All have been nominated, with none making it.

"Much, like our seniors committee, we're going to nominate contributors separately," said Hall of Fame president David Baker. "It will give a lot of these owners, and former commissioners and general managers an opportunity to have a level playing field themselves."

That's important for someone like DeBartolo. Previously, contributors had to compete with modern-era candidates for one of five positions -- and the numbers speak for themselves. Of the 287 people in the Pro Football Hall of Fame only 19 are contributors, 11 of whom are owners.

"The goal here," said Baker, "is to have contributors to be considered as the same caliber as seniors so they're not compared directly to modern-day players, and (so) we would not take any spot from modern-day players."

With this step the Hall can induct up to eight persons in the future -- with Baker saying "it may increase to more," depending on how this five-year proposal works out. Any change is an improvement for contributors, and look for DeBartolo -- a finalist the past three years -- to be one of the first to take advantage.