Archive for the ‘Elections’ Category

Pro Football Hall of Fame Election

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

(February 8, 2012) The recently announced new members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (what a wonderful platform they have for the announcement – the Super Bowl) made me think about their process:

  1. Get every voter in a room together,
  2. Hash it out,
  3. Get ‘er done!

It’s a little like making cookies, but the question for me are they commercially baked, store-bought cookies or are they homemade cookies?

For 16 years I served as chair of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Hall of Fame Committee. The committee had two processes for election: one was an independent vote by mail for currently eligible members in which each member of the committee was to exercise independent judgment, and a second process for veteran coaches that involved a committee meeting and group discussion of the candidates, a process similar to that which the Pro Football Hall of Fame uses.

I found having a discussion about candidates to be helpful, but I also thought at times it became like the commercial cookie, subject to group think with each committee member seemingly reinforcing the next.  Independent judgment may be blunted in these circumstances. On reflection I must admit to thinking we got hooked in on one or two candidates early and may have missed some better candidates because one or two committee members moved the group as a whole.

I thought about this when four of the six members of the 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame class were primarily linemen. Did the discussion become more focused on these positions for some reason? Was the discussion skewed by a few of the participants and their strong presence? As the results of successive voting moved forward, did someone note this was happening? In my experience, probably not until sometime after the process had run its course and reflection set in.

How to combat circumstances that might lead to group think and potentially unintended consequences? One of the ways is by having timeouts in the process. Give the committee members time to be reflective and process the discussion before moving toward a vote or toward a consensus agreement. Another is to take a macro-look at the process as it proceeds. Ask questions like:

  • Have we over-emphasized some aspect of the discussion?
  • Are only a few of the committee members really participating?
  • Has comment from every committee member been encouraged before we start moving toward a vote or conclusion?
  • How does the impending decision the group is moving toward compare with what I personally thought before it began? Why?

These are some of the ways to keep a group discussion of candidates from becoming a group think and having the induction class look more like the store-bought cookies than the home made ones, which we all believe are tastier and healthier!

Jack Huckel, Founder & Principal of J.R. Huckel & Associates, offers election and induction consulting services to Halls of Fame. Jack served the National Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum as Director of Museum and Archives for 9-1/2 years after more than 10 years as a volunteer. More information is available at the firm’s web site. He can be reached at jack@jrhuckel.com or 518/852-3033.

Jack is a member of the International Sports Heritage Association and is a member of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Board of Directors’ Executive Committee. He will become president of the NSCAA in January of 2013.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

(May 17, 2011) So I attribute this week’s column to “The Common Man and Bill” at ESPN.com MLB. It says so much about why a regular analysis of voting results just makes sense it deserves to be repeated and sent to a wider audience.

Title: The Hall of Fame Should Lower Voting Threshold

A few weeks back, Bill caught some attention when he revisited Bill James’ 25-year Hall of Fame projections from James’ excellent book, “Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?” to see how the sensei did with his predictions. The results were interesting and, in Ruben Sierra‘s case, deeply funny. In the wake of Bill’s project, at the suggestion of a commenter, we decided to undertake the challenge ourselves. Our first installment is already up, and we’ll continue picking five years at a time for the rest of the week.

The truth is that the exercise is darn close to impossible due to the number of variables involved. We don’t know how the electorate will change, or how attitudes about PED use (or suspected PED use) are going to change in the coming years. We don’t know if voters will become more rational or not. But with so many deserving candidates on the ballot, it’s clear that some players are going to slip through the cracks, especially at the rate that the BBWAA elects candidates (exactly 1.5 per year from 1966-2011). This is unacceptable.

Jayson Stark wrote about this problem in January, saying:

For two decades, that instructional line on the ballot informing me not to vote for more than 10 candidates has never been a     problem. But it is now.

For the first time ever, 10 slots weren’t enough for me to vote for all the players who fit my definition of a Hall of Famer. For the first time ever, I had to leave off the names of players I’ve voted for in the past — not because I’d changed my mind, but because that 10-player limit got in the way.
And Jayson’s not alone in pointing this out, either. Think about it: We’re asking a disparate group of voters to reach not just a super-majority, but a super-super majority. So, to combat the problem, we propose a simple solution: The [National Baseball]Hall of Fame should lower the voting threshold needed to elect a candidate from three-fourths of BBWAA voters to two-thirds.

But wait, some of you are going to say, the Hall of Fame is for the best players ever and lowering the voting threshold would allow unworthy players a way in. Not true! Since 1980, only three players (Orlando Cepeda, Jim Bunning and Nellie Fox) have garnered more than two-thirds of the vote and still fallen short of election by the BBWAA, and no player has had more than two-thirds of the vote and not eventually been elected since 1994. However, you probably aren’t shocked to know that all three were elected by the Veterans Committee shortly thereafter. All have plaques resting comfortably in Cooperstown.

Rather than throwing the doors wide, then, what this proposal will do is speed up the process by which worthy players are voted in. It will allow the voting to more closely reflect the era in which they are voting, when suddenly a few writers and editors who are rabidly and proudly irrational and unfair about their choices, or have given up following the game closely are given less sway in the overall process. And if the players in question are going to get in eventually anyway, what’s the problem?

With just one year left before the mega-cohort of Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling and Kenny Lofton all hit the ballot at once, it is imperative that the Hall of Fame act on this now. Do not wait. Do not form a committee (good lord, does baseball not need another committee!). The backlog Stark identifies is only going to get worse.

The Hall of Fame may be a private institution, but it exists because baseball fans pay a great deal of money to go there and honor the game’s history and their favorite players. And for every worthy player that is excluded, the Hall will grow less and less legitimate as the keeper of the game’s past, and lose more and more of its appeal to the people who support it.

 

A Vacation Satisfaction

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

(April 12, 2011) I left on vacation over a week ago with a certain sense of satisfaction – an election process I had worked to develop over ten years had recently been concluded and the announcement of its results had been very well received. U.S. Soccer, on March 29th, announced that National Soccer Hall of Fame Class of 2011. Three players, a veteran player, and a builder were elected and the results indicated that several others received vote totals that indicated good engagement on the part of the voters. Several candidates in the Veteran Player and Builder elections, where only one candidate can be elected in a year, received votes close to or above the election criteria. In the Player election the results showed strong support for the players elected.

The press reporting of the announcement was positive, with virtually universal praise for the Class of 2011. That is a testament, first, to the high quality of the individuals who will be honored at Induction 2011, but also, I believe to the election process.

I was part of a team of several Hall of Fame affiliated individuals who, over the course of several years, analyzed election data and results and continued to ask a few basic simple questions:

  • In our heart of hearts, do we believe the result was the best possible?
  • What have we learned this year?
  • How can we make this a better election process?

Those of us who conduct these elections have, I believe, a need to have a real feel for the history of the area for which the elections are being held, whether it’s a sport, a geographic area, or an organization. We need to have a feel for who ought to be recognized. If we come away from an election result with the feeling that those most deserving have not been elected, and I totally understand this is a subjective criteria, then I think we are obligated to question our election methodology.

An election almost always has some unanticipated element. It might not occur at the top of results tabulation, but somewhere in the details of the election are unexpected findings. One of the most surprising examples for me in the National Soccer Hall of Fame Player elections was the realization, over the course of several elections, that the Hall of Famers were more willing to elect than other voting pools. How did we know this? The average media ballot, for instance, selected fewer players that the average Hall of Famer ballot. One would have thought once they were “in the club,” so to speak, they would choose to keep it smaller, but that turned out not to be the case. Many years down the road now, I still don’t know whether that is good or bad, right or wrong, just that it is an interesting curiosity!

I believe we fail our duty if we do not ask the third question. “Better” is a subjective that covers many nuances to the voting. It includes a multitude of questions about who votes, how the votes are counted, the transparency of the process, etc.  Even when elections have really great results, we must not allow ourselves to be lulled into complacency. One never knows what gems of understanding or potential downfall may be hidden in the data.

The core of my pride in the National Soccer Hall of Fame Election 2011 result was that a team of people who cared about making the process one that would have universal credibility and validity worked together to continually question our assumptions and biases. We discussed, argued, and wrote to each other to meet the goal of producing the best election process for our organization. We saw it as a moving target rather than a fixed point.

It’s not that you should mirror the specific election process developed at the National Soccer Hall of Fame; rather I believe each organization that conducts a Hall of Fame election has an obligation to analyze and discuss every year’s voting results in search of a better process for the following year. We should appreciate the business management concept of Six Sigma and apply it to the election process endlessly in search of that perfect election.

 

An Election Process Commentary on the National Sailing Hall of Fame

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

(March 29, 2011) The National Sailing Hall of Fame recently announced its inaugural Induction Ceremony will take place on October 23rd at the San Diego Yacht Club. The organization, headquartered in Annapolis, MD, also promulgated its Hall of Fame By-Laws and Rules for Election.

Two elements of the process caught my eye: 1) the size of the selection committee, and 2) the actual voting process.

According to the “BY-LAWS AND RULES FOR ELECTION” dated March 24, 2011:

1. The Selection Committee (the Committee) shall consist of no more than twelve (12)

members nor less than ten (10) members.

2. The Committee shall have national representation and include at least one (1) representative from the National Sailing Center & Hall of Fame Board of Directors, U.S. Sailing, a member of the Hall of Fame, the media, the industry, NSHOF Founding Member Yacht Club, a sailing museum, community sailing, two (2) members at large and two (2) additional from the above listed groups.

In my estimation this group is too small. While the Board of Directors, in creating these rules for election, has worked to have good representation of several sailing groups, the small size of the committee will eventually, if it does not demonstrate it in its first class, be subject to “group think.” The membership of this committee will undoubtedly be people well-known to the sailing community and to each other. They have already had many conversations about sailing, sailors, captains, boat builders, etc. and have found areas of agreement and disagreement. They will bring these many years of conversations to the selection process and, though not intentional or orchestrated, will inevitably think along the same lines about who are the seminal influences in sailing as they select each induction class. Maybe that’s acceptable, but I argue for a larger panel as I believe the more votes there are, the wiser the selection.

Here are some ways to increase the voter pool and add to the recognition for the National Sailing Hall of Fame:

  • Extend the voting privilege to each sailing club that is a member of U.S. Sailing. By doing so, the National Sailing Center and Hall of Fame could create attachments to every sailing club across America, garnering more publicity and support for its non-profit educational institution, its activities, and its fund raising. The voting could be organized along Senate lines (a fixed number of votes per club) or along House of Representative lines (the number of votes is dependent on the number of sailing club members with a minimum number of votes guaranteed).
  • Extend the voting privilege to multiple media. These are the people who are going to put the Hall of Fame’s news into popular media. Find those media who regularly report on sailing and sail racing. For example, I suspect there are television reporters across the country who work to cover the local sailing news. Use the local clubs to identify them and give the reporters another reason to put sailing and National Sailing Hall of Fame news into the broadcast.

These are two examples of how one might extend the voting franchise, thereby creating a broader selection panel and, as I believe, a wiser choice of inductees. In addition these alternatives will more widely popularize the National Sailing Hall of Fame and its Induction Ceremony.

The Voting Process for the inaugural classes is:

a) For 2011, 2012 and 2013, the Committee will be split into three (3) working parties, with each working party to review all the submissions in an assigned category. [Author’s note: the Categories are 1) Sailing (Racing – Cruising – Offshore), 2) Technical/Design (Designers – Builders - Sail-makers), and 3) Contributions (Teachers – Coaches - Administrators, Media (including authored works, TV, film, etc.) - Promoters – Organizers)] Each working party will submit up to twenty (20) names from its assigned category to the entire Selection Committee for a maximum total of sixty (60) for the following ballot procedure:

Each member of the Committee shall rank the candidates from one (1) to sixty (60) (or up to the maximum submitted by the working committee if less than sixty (60)) one (1) being top choice/most qualified and sixty (60) being the last choice/least qualified candidate. For each ranking a candidate receives a point value based on the following scale:

Rank Value

1 – total submitted by working Groups (up to sixty (60) points)

2 – total submitted by working Groups minus 1

3 – total submitted by working Groups minus 2

4 – total submitted by working Groups minus 3

Etc.

Once all points are tallied and totaled for each candidate, only up to fifteen (15) candidates receiving 66% of the possible points will be considered for nomination to the

National Sailing Hall of Fame. If more than fifteen (15) candidates receive 66% or more, then a subsequent vote will be taken with only those receiving more than 66%. The candidates receiving the top fifteen (15) total points in this second ranking will be presented to the Board of Directors of the Hall of Fame for induction.

Once the three inaugural classes have been named, the process changes a little:

For 2014 and thereafter, the Committee will be split into three (3) working parties, with

each working party to review all the submissions in an assigned category. Each working

party will submit up to ten (10) names from its assigned category to the entire Selection

Committee for a maximum total of 30 for the following ballot procedure:

Each member of the Committee shall rank the candidates from one (1) to thirty (30) (or up to the maximum submitted by the working committee if less than thirty (30)) one (1) being top choice/most qualified and thirty (30) being the last choice/least qualified candidate. For each ranking a candidate receives a point value based on the following scale:

Rank Value

1 – total submitted by working Groups (up to thirty (30) points)

2 – total submitted by working Groups minus 1

3 – total submitted by working Groups minus 2

4 – total submitted by working Groups minus 3

Etc.

Once all points are tallied and totaled for each candidate, only up to five (5) candidates

receiving 66% of the possible points will be considered for nomination to the National

Sailing Hall of Fame. If more than five (5) candidates receive 66% or more, then a subsequent vote will be taken with only those receiving more than 66%. The candidates receiving the top five (5) total points in this second ranking will be presented to the Board of Directors of the Hall of Fame for induction.

I once served on a selection committee where our charge was to rank order about 20 candidates. I found it very difficult. It involved making very fine distinctions among many worthy candidates and a healthy block of time to do it well – a very daunting task and mind-jelly-making stuff! I can’t imagine doing it with 60 candidates. And those who are being ranked in the bottom half on most ballots, and certainly those in the bottom ten, will most likely be well outside the point total for election.

I would suggest that ranking all 60 candidates need not be done to find the top fifteen. It is too much work for selectors for too little reward in finding the top candidates. Rather, here are some alternative voting schemes which, in my opinion, are more realistic and will end up at the same place as the National Sailing Hall of Fame method:

  • Have each committee member select 10, 15 or 20 candidates on a ballot; one could even rank order these, and compile the results.
  • Have a 2-step process, similar to one outlined above when the number of candidates reaching 66% exceeds the maximum number in the class. In the first step, committee members select up to 10 or 15 candidates for advancement to a Final Ballot of 20 candidates. On the Final Ballot ask voters to selection and rank order 10 to 15 candidates.

There are several other voting methods that I suggest would arrive at the same end as the one being sought by the National Sailing Hall of Fame. I believe each Hall of Fame needs to review the election procedures annually, taking into account the experiences of the just past ballot year and consider making adjustments that make the process more transparent, easier to understand, and that also widen the voting pool.

What is your opinion? What do you do? Share in the comments section of the blog so all can profit from your experience.

I will be on vacation next week and blog postings will resume the week of April 11.

Jack Huckel, Founder & Principal of J.R. Huckel & Associates, offers election and induction consulting services to Halls of Fame. More information is available at the firm’s web site. Jack can be reached at jack@jrhuckel.com or 518/852-3033.

How Many in a Hall of Fame Class?

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

(March 16, 2011) My blog of a few weeks ago entitled The Hall of Fame Conundrum: Represent the Sport or Only its Professional Manifestation began a Facebook discussion about the size of a Hall of Fame class. One of the participants in the discussion said that only three (3) of anything (player, veteran player, administrator, owner or whatever is chosen for a title of honoree) should be inducted in any one year. That more than that is simply too many.

Is that feasible? Could your Hall of Fame exist within that limit? I do work with one Hall of Fame who restricts its induction class to two each year. The reasons are simple – budgetary! To afford the expense of transporting, housing, and feeding the new inductee and family for the ceremony, they set a hard limit of two per year.  That is certainly one viable reason to create limitations, but if the Hall of Fame chooses to honor players, veteran players, and non- players who have contributed to the game, then three per year is a true challenge to preserve, perhaps.

So, something to discuss: Should your Hall of Fame limit class size? If so, why? Is it budgetary or is it that you worry about running out of worthy honorees? Or is exclusivity important and the smaller the class the more it looks exclusive? My correspondent opined that having a small number of inductees emphasizes the high standard of the class. He felt that restricting the class to three really made it a very special occurrence. Do you think that way?

Any of these or more are valid reasons to set a class limit and certainly are among the reasons to discuss whether a limit to class size is appropriate to your Hall of Fame.

Jack Huckel, Founder & Principal of J.R. Huckel & Associates, offers election and induction consulting services to Halls of Fame. More information is available at the firm’s web site. Jack can be reached at jack@jrhuckel.com or 518/852-3033.