Art Modell will not be headed to the Hall of Fame this year.
The former Ravens owner was not chosen as one of the five modern-era finalists enshrined as part of the 2013 class. This is the second time since 2002 that Modell has made the finalist stage, but come up just short of Canton.
The Hall of Fame’s 43-member selection committee instead chose to enshrine Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Jonathan Odgen, Bill Parcells, Dave Robinson, Warren Sapp and Curly Culp.
“Art Modell was one of the best owners and deserving of the Hall of Fame,” Ogden said after getting named as an enshrine.
Modell was one of the first finalists eliminated during Saturday’s selection process.
However, the discussion about Modell during the selection process was one of the most passionate and lengthy, according to voting member Clark Judge of CBSSports.com. There were 16 people who spoke up about Modell, which lasted more than 32 minutes, the second most of any candidate this year.
“There was lively discussion and it was impassioned, and a lot of talk about the move from Cleveland,” Judge said. “I knew once it sort of focused on [the move], that it was going to be tough to get over. It was pretty clear from the discussion that this room was divided and there are too many ‘nays’ for this thing to get over the hump.”
Before Saturday’s vote, the push for Modell’s entry was as loud as ever after he passed away Sept. 6, 2012.
Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti, General Manager Ozzie Newsome, Head Coach John Harbaugh and linebacker
Newsome even wrote a guest editorial in defense of Modell for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where the city’s fans have loudly voiced their displeasure for Modell since moving his franchise to Baltimore.
Bisciotti emphasized that Modell’s decision to move the organization from Cleveland to Baltimore shouldn’t be deciding factor in Modell’s candidacy.
"I don't think it should keep Art out," Bisciotti said. "I know he broke some hearts in Cleveland, but nobody knows all the details or knows the story. The animosity that Baltimore shows to the Irsays is something that I lived through and can understand. So I'm not asking Cleveland to understand. I'm not even asking Cleveland to forgive. I just know that Cleveland's rabid fans should not be the reason that they keep him out. Because it seems like a spite thing and not a legitimate 'let's look at the resume thing' and that's really what I hope changes this year."
Harbaugh said it would be wrong for the voters to leave Modell out again.
"There’s no question he belongs there, there’s no question he’s going to be in the Hall of Fame,” Harbaugh said. “Why wait? Let’s just do it right now. Let’s do the right thing.”
Judge pointed out that there are four owners in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who have moved their franchises: Dan Reeves (Rams), Al Davis (Raiders), Lamar Hunt (Chiefs) and George Preston Marshall (Redskins).
“It kept coming back to the move, and honestly I think that’s a little bit unfair because there are other people who moved teams and Steve Bisciotti made that clear the other day,” Judge said.
In addition to the move, the other challenge for Modell is that fewer coaches and owners get inducted than players, and he was also up against Parcells, regarded as one of the game’s best coaches ever.
“The thing that Parcells had going for him is that he took teams to three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks,” Judge said. “He also rebuilt four franchises. That was a compelling argument and I think that was something that swayed the voters in his behalf.”
The last time Modell was a finalist Cleveland Browns beat reporter Tony Grossi spoke up against his candidacy. Leading up to Saturday’s meetings, Grossi did not specifically indicate what he would say about Modell this time around, but he did write that he prepared a three-page speech that was “slightly different from the one I delivered in 2002.”
Grossi and Baltimore media representative Scott Garceau of 105.7 The Fan both presented to the committe on behalf of Modell’s candidacy, which is the standard procedure to have the selecting member in the region where the candidate was most active speak on the individual’s behalf. Once the presenter is finished, the rest of the committee members have an opportunity to speak as well.
The other candidates eliminated during the first round of cuts were Tim Brown, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Kevin Greene and Will Shields.
Modell could still get inducted at a later time, but this year appeared to be the best chance for him, Judge said.
“I think there was a lot of feeling for him because he passed away, the Ravens are here, it seemed to be the stars sort of aligning,” Judge said. “It’s too bad because I think Art was certainly an influential guy in the history of this league.”