The Pro Football Hall of Fame has announced that 54 people are semifinalists for the 2023 Fall of Fame class. Former referee Jim Tunney and former referee and supervisor of officials Jerry Seeman made the list.
Before a dedicated contributors committee was formed, several officials, including Tunney, have made it to the semifinal round of balloting, but never got any further. After the new contributor candidate track was created, officials still did not get the final nomination. Last year, Art McNally finally broke through, becoming the first official named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Starting this year, the contributors and coaches categories are merged. A new procedure has 25 candidates (or more if there are ties) named as semifinalists.
We made the Hall of Fame case for Tunney in 2019, and the 93-year old referee certainly deserves a close look by the voter. He retired in 1990 after 31 seasons, tied second-longest tenured NFL official in history.
Tunney worked as a field judge and referee, wearing number 32 for most of his career.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Tunney earned the title “Dean of NFL Referees.” His demeanor, signals, mic work and administration were so proper and dignified that he lived up to his title. For half his career, there were only divisional (if needed) and championship playoff games to work. Tunney worked a total of 20 playoff games: nine divisional contests, eight conference championships and Super Bowls VI, XI and XII — the first official to work back-to-back Super Bowls (Tom Sifferman worked three in a row at the turn of the century).
While Tunney worked several dramatic playoff games, perhaps the one that is most talked about is the Fog Bowl, the 1988 divisional playoff between the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles, played in pea-soup conditions on the Chicago Lakefront.
Tunney has been a semifinalist multiple times in Hall of Fame balloting. We’ve made a convincing case for him. We hope the voters enshrine Tunney in the 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.
Jerry Seeman worked as a head linesman, line judge and referee in the NFL from 1975 to 1990, retiring after working the thrilling Super Bowl XXV. From 1991 through 2001 Seeman was senior director of officiating, replacing Art McNally.
Seeman wore number 70 for most of his career.
Seeman certainly packed a lot of excitement into his 16-year career. He worked as a head linesman and line judge until 1979, when the NFL appointed him to referee, replacing Don Wedge, who moved to the deep wings. Amazingly, Seeman was named the alternate referee to Super Bowl XIV, in his first year as a referee. Seeman was on the field in one of the most exciting playoff games as an alternate. Seeman was alternate referee in the 1987 AFC Championship Game at Mile High Stadium. Jim Tunney was the referee. In the second half, field judge Dick Dolack had to leave a game with a leg injury. Seeman came in for Dolack and served as the field judge for the rest of the game (There were two alternates per playoff game back then and Seeman was best suited to replace Dolack.). Seeman was the official who ruled that the Broncos recovered The Fumble, that sent John Elway and company on to Super Bowl XXII.
As the NFL’s senior director of officiating, Seeman oversaw several technological advancements to help improve the calls on the field. Seeman used comprehensive video tape presentations to help train officials to use proper mechanics and to call the game the way the NFL wanted it called. Seeman was instrumental in helping bring back instant replay in 1999. Officiating crews started working NFL training camp scrimmages and give rules talks to the players and coaches during Seeman’s tenure. He retired as senior director of officiating in 2001. Seeman served as a game observer for several years after leaving the NFL front office.
The Tunney and Seeman candidacies have a long way to go. On July 27th, voters will narrow the field even further. It is possible one, both, or neither official candidate will make it past the next round of balloting.
It took too long to get an official in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is hope either Tunney or Seeman is inducted next summer.