Later today the Pro Football Hall of Fame will announce the 2012 class. This year's class of finalists does not feature a sure-fire entrant, which opens the door for a few players. Guys like Chris Carter, Aeneas Williams and former 49ers linebacker Charles Haley all could potentially make their way into Canton this year.
The most intriguing name on the ballot, however, is former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo. Twelve owners have been enshrined at Canton, but all twelve purchased their teams before the AFL-NFL merger and got in as much for their contributions in growing the league. The guidelines are fairly loose when selecting deserving candidates:
"The only criteria for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame are a nominee's achievements and contributions as a player, coach, or contributor in professional football in the United States of America."
Eddie DeBartolo was arguably the first owner to basically spare no expense for his team. He brought in the best team money could buy and he spared no expense in keeping his players happy. It is noteworthy that other owners sought his counsel after purchasing their teams. Given the fact that he did join the league well after the merger, it will be interesting to see how voters handle his case.
Eric Branch has a pair of great Q&As with Eddie DeBartolo and Carmen Policy if you are looking for some fun reading material this morning. We'll have more at approximately 2:30pm ET when the 2012 class is announced.