You may think The Ultimate Hall of Fame is a hallowed home for preserving the history of our sport and celebrating its greatest players and contributors. Or you may think that the Hall is a bunch of egotistical jerks looking for a way to elevate themselves above the teams they played on. (Share your opinion in the comments.) The purpose of this article is to give you fresh fuel for whatever fire you feel like stoking by describing the enormous changes the Hall has implemented over the last 18 months.
First, a little history. The Hall was brought to life in 2004 with the support of the board of the Ultimate Players Association (UPA), now USA Ultimate. From the beginning, the UPA, then USAU, was a hands-off partner that provided occasional logistical support while letting the Hall remain wholly independent. For the last 17 years, the Hall has been run with no budget by a rotating group of volunteers, led throughout by Suzanne Fields (Hall of Fame Class of ’04).
Thanks in large part to the efforts of Brian Murphy (’07), this all changed in late 2019. Under Brian’s tutelage, the Hall became a Colorado corporation exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of Title 26 of the United States Code. With this structural change came significant changes to the character and the objectives of the Hall. A board of 13 directors, elected by the Hall membership in December 2019, now steers the ship. (Approximately a third of the board’s seats will be up for new elections each year, beginning in December 2021.) Over the last 18 months, this group has given a great deal of energy and creative thought to what the Hall is. And, more importantly, what it might become.
- The foremost repository of memorabilia that captures the colorful history of our sport—for all players in all divisions.
- A partner for ultimate programs around the world working to enrich and expand the global community of ultimate players.
- A champion of the values of the ultimate community, including social justice, equality, and inclusion.
- A partner to organizations across the country that strive to introduce our sport to young players from all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds while providing these future Hall of Famers with the support they need to engage, develop, and thrive.
- A virtual space—through a newly created website—where this rich history of our sport will be displayed, debated, and celebrated.
- One day soon, a physical space where this history is preserved and shared.
In short, over the last year-and-a-half, the board has been exploring ways to establish lasting and meaningful connections between the past, the present, and the future of the sport.
Who are the 13 volunteer board members who have embraced this challenge?
The board began by creating a network of committees. These include typical board committees—an Executive Committee (Chair, Pat King ’09), a Bylaws Committee (Chair, Brian Murphy ’07), and a Finance Committee (Chair, Rob “Nob” Rauch ’06). Many of the committees created by the board, however, are unique to our Hall.
For more than 15 years, between 2005 and 2019, the Hall was primarily a “vetting committee,” a group performing the core duty of identifying players, contributors, and special merit candidates worthy of induction. Naturally, one of the first acts of the newly seated board was to create a formal Vetting Committee to continue this work. The board increased the size of the committee (from five members to eight in 2020 and to 13 in 2021) to improve regional representation and gender balance. The new committee began by removing gendered language from documents describing the induction process. And, as it has done in prior years, the committee scrutinized the selection process and implemented improvements that culminated in the induction of a diverse and impeccably qualified Class of 2020. In 2021, the Vetting Committee added three recent inductees to the Hall — Vivian Zayas (’20), Lori Parham Ewald (’19), and Jeff Cruickshank (’17) — with the goal of bringing fresh ideas and closer connections to players and contributors now being considered for induction. Significantly, in 2021, half the Vetting Committee will be comprised of players inducted in the last four years.
Last month, the 2021 Ultimate Hall of Fame Selection Process was officially kicked off. The announcement contains the eligibility criteria, process details, and timeline to identify the 2021 Class of the Ultimate Hall of Fame.
A critical group, the Principles Committee, chaired by Lori VanHolmes (’15), assumed the role of the “conscience of the board,” helping define the board’s direction and objectives. One of the first tasks of this committee was updating the Hall’s 15-year-old mission statement. For over a year, members of the Hall have worked through various committees to hone language that captures the Hall’s commitment to honoring the past, present, and future of the sport. This important work is ongoing.
The Principles Committee also recommended the creation of several new committees and task forces to (1) consider the expanding importance of the mixed division, (2) explore ways to honor the global character of the sport, (3) promote racial, gender, and social equity in the sport, and (4) keep the ultimate community informed of and connected to the Hall’s work. In early 2021, the full board accepted the recommendations of the Principles Committee and creating the following groups:
The Mixed Division Task Force: Pam Kraus (’17) and Dave Blau (’17) stepped up to lead a task force charged with drafting a process to advance player candidates who were important in Mixed Division play, reflecting the steady and important growth of this division over the last 20 years. The task force includes seven current members of the Hall and 14 players and contributors involved in the development and expansion of the Mixed Division. The goal of the task force will be two-fold: (i) present a proposal to the board that considers how the current selection standards and process applied to Open and Women’s Division Player nominees might be adapted to assess and celebrate players who have committed themselves to Mixed Division play; and (ii) outline a vetting process and timeline. As a part of this work, input will be solicited from the current members of the Hall and the ultimate community more broadly.
The International Task Force: Tom Kennedy (’04) is leading the charge in a grand effort to explore how the current Hall can work with ultimate communities across the globe to develop a mechanism for honoring players and contributors. This task force is in the process of working to identify important individuals involved in the expansion of the sport and development of international play; the task force will make a proposal to the board on how these early promoters might be acknowledged by the current Hall. The task force is also creating a template that describes how one might establish a regional or national hall of fame from scratch—by defining the qualities that describe a hall-of-fame worthy player, the process for developing and running a peer pool, the potential structures of a selection process, etc. This template will be shared with interested nations. The long-term goal will be to develop a “federation” of national organizations across the globe to work together to celebrate and preserve the history of the sport and to honor the players and contributors who reflect the brilliant camaraderie that characterizes international play. We hope the template might also assist groups in cities, states, and regions across the United States that are interested in developing local halls.
The Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee: Co-chairs Angela Lin (’18), Harvey Edwards (’07), and Pat King (’09) are working with a diverse group of Hall members and leaders in the ultimate community to explore ways the Hall might be more mindful of social justice issues in the performance of its core objectives and, critically, how the Hall might support and expand the work of ultimate-related efforts to promote social justice in the sport and the communities in which the sport is played. Over the next year, the committee hopes to ensure that the Hall’s interest in celebrating the history, honoring excellence, promoting growth, and preserving the legacy of ultimate and Spirit of the Game is pursued with a sensitivity to issues of race, gender, and social equity. The committee will also consider ways the Hall might partner with creative and effective programs that seek to promote social justice and/or introduce the sport to underrepresented communities.
The Communications Committee: Dave Blau (’17) chairs this committee charged with strengthening the connection of the Hall with the current ultimate community. To date, the Hall has relied on USAU’s website (and a Facebook group dedicated to Ultimate Frisbee Alumni & Hall of Fame) to communicate with the ultimate community about the Hall’s activities and the results of its yearly induction process. USAU chose not to include Hall of Fame content in its recent updates to its website.1 This created an urgent need to create a Hall website to provide a portal for communication with the community. Over the next few months, the Communications Committee will create and present stimulating and provocative content that captures the unique character of the sport we love while providing a space to discuss the meaning of “excellence” in our sport. The website will also include updates on the vetting process and financial operations of the Hall. The beta version of the website is up now at www.ultimatehall.org. Sign up for updates, and follow us on social media on Instagram and Twitter. Over the next few years, the website will grow and evolve into a “Virtual Hall of Fame” — as we raise funds and develop plans for a permanent brick-and-mortar hall.
With very few exceptions, everything described above has been completed by volunteers working in their spare time. Notably, to date, the Hall has been self-financed. In 2020, every member of the board, and many members of the Hall, contribute financially to support the work described above. If you would like to join us in promoting the work of the Hall, the website will provide a portal through which you can make a tax-deductible contribution. If you are interested in supporting these initiatives with your skill and time, the board is looking for volunteers with expertise in developing web content, fundraising, social media promotions, event planning, and assisting in developing strategic partnerships with other ultimate related organizations. We are also looking for people interested in working with the Hall through unpaid internships. If you’d like to pitch-in, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One last thing: The Hall is looking at dates in early November 2021 for a virtual gala. The idea will be to host a video conference with players from every division, every region, every era to reconnect with friends, rehash great times, and make new friends from different eras. The program is still being worked out but we hope the event will include short presentations from some of the game’s current superstars and provide a flexible environment where people can connect with players from different eras and reconnect with old friends. Stay tuned!
Thank you for taking the time to learn about our work. Let us know in the comments if you think we’re on the right track. For those with good intentions, please know that your comments, criticisms, and ideas for ways we might improve will be heard—and are always appreciated.
This post originally appeared on Ultiworld.