The International Volleyball Hall of Fame represents the most elite of clubs. With the exception of the inaugural class of 1985, every year’s inductees have been selected by previous Hall of Famers.
But this year, the IVHOF — headquartered in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where William Morgan invented the sport of volleyball in 1895 — is changing it up.
In an effort to ignite engagement with volleyball fans from around the world, one of 2018’s five Hall of Fame inductees will be chosen by a fan vote.
“It’s very rare that we do something different and new at the hall,” IVHOF executive director George Mulry said. “We’ve been trying to figure out ways to really engage people and get them excited about what we do.”
The nominating committee — an advisory group made up of longtime leaders in the volleyball world, including Doug Beal, Marv Dunphy, Sinjin Smith and others — put together a ballot of 31 potential inductees, which the Hall will release on Friday when polls open. Fan voting will continue until May 13, and the announcement of the 2018 Hall of Fame class will come shortly after, sometime in mid-May.
The International Selection Committee made up of all living Hall of Famers will chose four inductees from the same ballot of 31 names, and the fifth member of the Class of 2018 will be the nominee with the most fan votes who was not already selected by the committee.
“Some of the biggest feedback that we get from our inductees is the fact that it’s so special for them to be recognized by their peers, since it’s other inductees that nominate them,” Mulry said. “I think that this is on par if not better than that, where they’re not only getting recognized by their fellow inductees, but the fans of the world are saying, ‘We think you’re one of the best.’”
When fans reach out to the Volley Hall, it’s typically to suggest a nominee or complain when their favorite player got snubbed, again. The IVHOF wants to channel that passion and allow the fans’ voices to be heard.
“Part of what we’re hoping to flesh out throughout this process is who may have been missed in the past and who our future eligibles should be,” Mulry said. “We want to be able to be transparent and share that information online with everyone so they know potentially who is coming up in the next years that might have a chance of being inducted.”
The new fan-favorite induction slot makes the IVHOF unique among other industries’ hall of fames.
“Aside from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the NASCAR Hall of Fame, there’s very few (halls) that really do this,” Mulry said. “Even those two, they just give the fans one vote. So a lot of them will have 54 (committee members) and the fans get one of those votes. We’re literally letting the fans select a person, so we’re putting the faith in the people to do the right thing.”
This year also marks the return of the IVHOF’s VIP Experience Raffle, a chance for fans to win a trip to the induction ceremonies. To enter, fans must donate at least $20 to the Hall of Fame. With each subsequent multiple of $20 donated, their name will be entered into the drawing additional times.
Jacksonville area coach Rob Holley was last year’s big winner in the inaugural VIP Experience Raffle. Florida region executive director Steve Bishop bought raffle tickets for Holley and the rest of his region’s volunteers as thank you gifts.
The Volley Hall bought Holley and his wife Mary flights to Holyoke for the 2017 induction ceremony and paid for their accommodations while they were in town. The Holleys had all-access passes to every induction week celebration, and they sat in the front row with the inductees and were recognized at each event.
“I’ve attended many coaches conventions and clinics where I’ve talked to some of the best coaches and players in the country,” Holley said, “but to have conversations with some of the greatest coaches and players in the world, all at one time, in one place, while it was their time to shine. .. That was unreal.”
You can enter the raffle from now until August 31, 2018, with a qualifying donation, and starting Friday, you can play a role in creating volleyball history by voting for the fifth member of this year’s induction class.