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1st ref in Hall of Fame has to wait till ’11



Predictably, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has skipped over enshrining an official, despite the fact that baseball, basketball and hockey already have done so. In fact, while officials make the long list of nominees, they are routinely pared off the list as the field of semifinalists is announced. Officials who have made the long list recently are:

  • 2010: Jim Tunney
  • 2009: Ben Dreith
  • 2008: Art McNally, Pat Haggerty, Tunney
  • 2007: Rex Stuart
  • 2006: Haggerty, McNally
  • 2005: Haggerty, McNally
  • 2004: McNally
  • 2003: Dreith
  • 2002: Dreith
  • 2001: Jerry Markbreit, Tunney

None of these men have advanced to the semifinal. So little respect is paid to the position, that 2007’s Rex Stuart, who officiated the umpire position, had his name misspelled on the Hall’s website. The nomination of the obscure Stuart further underscores the uphill battle for officials, as he never officiated a Super Bowl, although he was an alternate in Super Bowl XXIX.

This year’s nominee hoping to advance to the semifinal list of 25 is Jim Tunney. He is currently working as a motivational speaker and writes the Tunney Side of Sports blog.

He was not on the list.

We reported when Tunney was first placed on the long list that at least two non-players advance to the semifinal, usually of the ownership ranks. (This year, former Browns/Ravens owner Art Modell and former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue advance to the group of 25.) While there would not be a game today if not for the tremendous investment that a franchise requires, there also would not be any respectable competition if not for a highly qualified officiating staff.

Perhaps some of our nominated officials should band in their cause with retired NFL punters, another position excluded from the Hall of Fame.

Update: Tunney posted the following statement on his blog:

A huge THANK YOU to each and every one of you who took time to vote for me as a nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Pro Football Hall of Fame Committee has selected its top 25 to be voted on for the class of 2010. I was not selected, however, as I said above, “Wait’ll next year!” Indeed, I do count my blessings.

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)