Hall of Fame to consider adding separate contributor category

By Josh Katzowitz | NFL Writer

Ed Sabol is the last contributor to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011. (USATSI)
Ed Sabol is the last contributor to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011. (USATSI)

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When the Pro Football Hall of Fame voters come together the Saturday before the Super Bowl each year to vote on a new class, it's usually a tough sell to get a so-called contributor elected. Unlike a player or a coach, the contributor category -- which usually is either a former owner or simply somebody who made the game better -- is a tougher sell to the super majority of those who are voting.

For instance, former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo and former Browns/Ravens owner Art Modell were semifinalists in 2014, but neither was seen as having much of a chance to actually be elected. The last contributor to make it in was NFL Films founder Ed Sabol in 2011, and before him, former Bills owner Ralph Wilson made it in 2009.

Overall, 19 contributors, 11 of whom are owners, currently reside in Canton. But now, the Hall of Fame wants to make it a little easier to honor those who didn't make their mark while playing on the field.

As the Denver Post reports, the Hall of Fame will consider an amendment at its board meeting Friday that would increase the maximum who could be elected each year from seven to eight and would erect a new contributors category that would be separate from the modern-day players, much in the same way that senior players currently have their own category.

"Obviously, during the last 30 years there has more been growth in the game than ever before," said David Baker, the president of the Hall of Fame. "There are a lot of people who are responsible for that, but unfortunately, what often happens is a contributor gets compared to a modern-day player (on the ballot) and it's not really a fair comparison. It's apples and oranges. It's what happens on the field and what happens around the field that makes that game happen."

If that new category is built, the 46-person selection committee still would need to give its 80 percent approval for that particular contributor to be elected.

"What we're looking for is a similar amendment in how we distinguish these seniors and contributors to overcome what has become a bit of an inequity," Baker said. "Clearly, there are a lot of guys who deserve consideration ..."

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