Football Hall opens blinds

For some unknown and inexplicable reason, Damon Allen is not a first-ballot CFL Hall of Famer this...

For some unknown and inexplicable reason, Damon Allen is not a first-ballot CFL Hall of Famer this year. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters file photo)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:10 PM ET

The Canadian Football Hall of Fame is emerging from the dark ages.

In light of a series articles by QMI Agency, the Hall has begun to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding its election process.

On Wednesday, for the first time, it released the names of players who will be eligible for induction. It also is inviting fans to participate in deciding who gets bronzed.

Sun columnist Steve Simmons slammed the Hall’s inability to recognize star quality when it failed to name Damon Allen this year, and Pinball Clemons several years ago, as first-ballot Hall of Famers.

Last week, the Sun published separate articles suggesting the Hall’s election process seemed a clandestine operation, with nobody outside of the selection committee even knowing who was eligible.

“This thing doesn’t need to be a deep dark secret. The Hall of Fame belongs to the football fans of this country,” said George Black after releasing a list of 33 players and 13 builders who will be eligible for election next year.

Black, who chairs that committee, said fans are encouraged to nominate others, with official forms available on the Hall’s website.

“Anyone in the country can nominate someone. Two members of the committee have to endorse the nomination and that puts a guy on the ballot for next year,” said Black. “The way I look at this is, if there’s publicity about the Hall and selection process, it creates discussion. Obviously, we don’t want to create massive negative controversy, but if people are talking about who’s going into the Hall of Fame, that’s a good thing.”

The Hall’s board met last week after inquires by the Sun into the selection committee’s transparency and lack of public accountability (individuals declined to explain why Allen wasn’t elected). Those articles also questioned the committee’s willingness to recognize greatness, rather than lining up candidates like boxcars and pushing them through in the order that they retire.

“It think it’s already there,” Black said on Wednesday. “There have been 14 people who were first-year eligible and elected. It happens. It requires literally unanimity by the committee, that the person finishes on top of the heap the first year ... and there are strong opinions on the committee about whether guys deserve to be elected first-ballots. It’s like herding cats sometimes.”

And cats can have sharp claws.

“Last year, Danny McManus, Joe Montford and Terry Vaughn were all first-ballot eligible and I honestly thought two or all might make it then,” said Black. “But the committee decided they didn’t need to go in the first year.”

They made it this year. But not Allen. His name likely tops the list of 33 eligible players released on Wednesday. But heated debate looms with Milt Stegall eligible for the first time.

“We’ve got Milt and Michael O’Shea, too, being eligible and there will be strong opinion whether they should leapfrog other guys and be first-ballot inductees,” said Black.

Five players are elected each year. Two members of the Hall’s selection committee must endorse a player to get on Wednesday’s list. And, if anyone believes Leo Cahill (just to pick a nit) should be on it, there’s time, said Black.

“There are guys on the list who you wonder why they’re there,” he said, “and guys who aren’t on the list you wonder why hasn’t anyone nominated them.”

Nominations are open until September. The selection committee considers the nominees with 75% support needed to get on the second ballot. The 14-member committee consisting of media members, former players and other Canadian football intelligentsia, then vote with the top three CFL players, one amateur and one veteran player who has been retired for more than 25 years being elected.

There will still be disagreements. Who gets in and who doesn’t, said Black, “is an argument that is ever thus.” But at least the process is a bit more fan-friendly and there is at least a hint of transparency.

bill.lankhof@sunmedia.ca


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