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Jim Tunney on Hall of Fame long list, historically this is as far as it goes



The Pro Football Hall of Fame has released its 2010 preliminary list of nominees for the Hall. The preliminary list of 131 will be whittled down first to 25, then 15, with four to seven being elected prior to Super Bowl XLIV. Among the list of nominees that is newsworthy here is former referee and current motivational speaker and blogger, Jim Tunney. He was previously on the long list of nominees for 2008.

Unfortunately, this is pretty much the end of the road, as history tells us. No official has ever been enshrined in the Hall, and none has made the semifinal list of 25 in the past five years at least, according to the Hall’s website. Those nominated in previous years:

  • 2009: Ben Dreith
  • 2008: Art McNally, Pat Haggerty, Tunney
  • 2007: Rex Stuart
  • 2006: Haggerty, McNally
  • 2005: Haggerty, McNally

Looking over this list makes it readily apparent that game officials do not have serious consideration for the Hall. Last year, they nominated Ben Dreith, the referee known for his colorful descriptions of penalties (most notably, the penalty because “after he tackled the quarterback there, he was giving him the business down there!”). Now, I really enjoyed Dreith’s vivid vernacular, and he was certainly a good referee, but he was the sole nominee last year? Umpire Rex Stuart could not have been under serious consideration, seeing as the Hall of Fame misspelled his name. McNally and the late Haggerty make the list frequently; notably absent is the late Norm Schachter.

While we don’t see many officials listed in the long list of nominees (with three in ’08 being the recent high-water mark), at least a half-dozen owners and general managers make the list, and generally two of them graduate to the semifinal list each year. I don’t doubt the qualifications of the Art Modells and the Jerry Joneses in their nominations and their contributions to the game. However, officials are not only athletes—sometimes decades senior to the players they must keep up with—but also must maintain a high level of accuracy. Consider that an average official is 98% accurate, and the best season for a quarterback is 71%.

So, we do extend congratulations to Tunney, and will be rooting him on to the next level. Hopefully, we will be pleasantly surprised.

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)