It's been a long time coming, but the Arena Football League is set to name a new Hall of Fame class, the first since 2002. So much has happened since then, great players, coaches and others associated with the game have established themselves, and with the collapse and re-opening of the league, it's great to see a new class being inducted to really make it feel like arena football is "back."
The San Jose SaberCats were out for two years (one due to the league being defunct and one year off in 2010), but they're back, and with their former head coach Darren Arbet holding the reigns once more. Arbet actually has the "owner" label applied, along with his head coaching duties this time 'round. The AFL has narrowed it down to ten finalists for the 2011 AFL Hall of Fame class, of which essentially anybody associated with the AFL is eligible, and Arbet is one of those finalists.
He's had a storied career as the SaberCats coaches, regarded as one of the best in AFL history. We'll have more on what makes him (along with the rest of the finalists) qualified in an update to this stream, but for quick reference, his 109 wins ranks him fourth in AFL history, and his .708 winning percentage is good for second all-time among head coaches. Arbet was also the first African-American to win a pro football championship, with the 2002 win in ArenaBowl XVI over the Arizona Rattlers.
The 2011 Hall of Fame Class will be announced during ArenaBowl XXIV weekend at the site of ArenaBowl and inducted during the 2012 season opener. ArenaBowl XXIV is set for August 12th. We'll have more on each finalist in the coming weeks and months, but for now, a list of the ten finalists:
Head Coach Darren Arbet
OL/DL Sam Hernandez (former SaberCat)
WR/DB Barry Wagner (former SaberCat)
QB Kurt Warner
WR/LB Stevie Thomas
OL/DL Sylvester Bembery
WR Eddie Brown
WR/LB Hunkie Cooper
OS George LaFrance
President/GM Gene Nudo