Why I'm Not Watching the Heisman Show Anymore

Every week during the college football season my newspaper of choice here in Ohio comes out with a section on, or at least one writer's opinion of, the Heisman Trophy race. The players are ranked, commented on, and rise and fall based on their past week's performance.

Last year this guy couldn't damage Brady Quinn enough in his weekly musings, yet Troy Smith of Ohio State came away relatively unscathed and we know he won the award. Not that the individual writer decided it, but he sure didn't help Quinn's cause and was too pro Smith in any non-partial journalistic terms. Nor is he required to do so. I just ask for no bias. Is that asking too much?

Even ESPN gets into the act with ranking individual players with people like Lou Holt, Mark May, Kirk Herbstriet, etc. stating their opinions. Message boards have also been known to argue the merits of individual football players. I'll wager that the ignore poster feature on boards gets used quite a bit in this debate.

I'm not going to watch the Heisman show this year and will never do so again. Etch those words in stone. The show, the trophy, and its supporters make false claims, or at the very least false assumptions. It has become an "old boys club" award. Yes, I know that the Downtown Athletic Club was, and most likely is an old boys club anyway, but you know what I mean.

When did the criteria for the Heisman change from "the most outstanding college football player" to the De facto "best player on one of the better teams" award? Want to argue that? From 2002 to 2005 Southern Cal had three Heisman winners and had a combined record of 48 wins and 4 loses. In 2003 the Heisman went to the 12-1 Sooners' quarterback. 2001's award winner was a quarterback from an 11-1 Nebraska team. In fact you have to go back to 1994 and Colorado's Rashaan Salaam to find a winner on a team that hasn't posted a .700 winning percentage over the last decade and the Buffs were 11-1 that year.

If "the best player on one of the better teams" is the criteria then guys like the original Heisman winner, Jay Berwanger doesn't win on the basis of his Chicago team going 4-4, nor does Notre Dame's Paul Horning win on the basis of the Irish going 2-8 in Paul's Heisman year. Then again we didn't have ESPN back then, so maybe the voters did more thinking and research. Ya think?

Quite simply it now goes to a player from one of the biggest conferences, on one of the best teams, and of course to a skill player. Some noteworthy examples and noteworthy non-winners:

In 2000 the Heisman went to FSU's Chris Weinke. The fourth place player that year was Ladanian Tomlinson.

In 1992 the Hurricane's Gino Torretta won over Marshall Faulk. It wasn't any better for Faulk in 93 losing out to Charlie Ward of FSU.

Notre Dame quarterback John Huarte edged out Tulsa's quarterback Jerry Rhome in 1964. There was a guy in third place I'm sure many will remember named Dick Butkus.

Granted the best player selection would be a totally objective choice under the best of circumstances, but I have a few gripes about who has been chosen and how they've been chosen. For example, Bret Musberger all but anointed Troy Smith last year after a"good play", but definitely not a play of Flutiesque proportion. He did this in the middle of the season. Let's see Musberger, a Northwestern graduate, Northwestern being a member of the Big Ten, Troy Smith of Ohio State which is a Big Ten team, ABC which has the contract for the Big Ten. Wow. Shocker there. (Note that the Flutie Hail Mary pass to Phelan came after the voting was over.)

Another thing that irks me is outright voting bias, especially by region. BYU junior, Ty Detmer, won the Heisman over Raghib "Rocket" Ismail. The fact that Detmer won, although painful to Irish fans, is eclipsed by the fact that Rocket did not win a region and his lowest total was in the Midwest where he totaled 135 points. His second lowest total was 175 points which he was awarded in the Far West, Detmer's region. In the other four regions his total was over 200 points in each region. No bias there? Consider that Notre Dame is a school in the Midwest and Rocket scores his lowest total there? It's not as if he had votes split by other Midwestern (read Big Ten players) players. There was not Midwestern players in the top ten besides Rocket and the tenth player only scored 20 points so there weren't any players to draw votes away from the Rocket. At least there weren't based on ability.

Look at a few of the players who are never mentioned in this year's Heisman race. Tulane's Matt Forte and his 2127 yards rushing. UCF's Kevin Smith and his 2448 yards rushing. Air Force's Chad Hall with a total of 2504 yards of all purpose running. How about Hawaii's Colt Brennan last year? There's been a big to do about the touchdowns that Florida's Tim Tebow has produced this year. Last year Brennan produced 63 touchdowns and didn't even get a plane ticket to New York.

I could name more, but why bother. Some of you out there will throw out conference strength, strength of schedule, and non conference games played. Well, Forte gained 4.5 yards per carry against LSU and Smith gained 157 yards against Texas. Couple that with the fact that Forte or Smith didn't have SEC or Big Twelve blockers ahead of them. As for Hall, well we Notre Dame fans know what he can do. I'm not saying that any of these deserve to win over another player, but they really aren't being considered. What's worse is that they most likely haven‘t been seen by most voters, even in highlight clips. What am I saying? Most voters would discard them from consideration because they don't play in a big conference.

The best all around football player I've ever seen was Walter Payton who finished well out of the Heisman money his senior year. The winner, Archie Griffin, won his second Heisman that year. Their professional records sure make a statement on that year's Heisman race. Yes, I know it's a trophy about what players do in college, but the professional record sure validates some things. I know to mention the pros will do nothing but drive some purists (How can you be a purist on the Heisman?) over the top, what with their "It's a college award, not an NFL award." rhetoric. And it is true you can't predict who will be the best professional player. However, let us quit the charade that the award "goes to the best college player." It goes to the most hyped player from the bigger conferences. Little conference, or Division II guys like Payton should not apply.

So this Saturday, when someone is being given the opportunity to, "transcend greatness, to become a legend", I think I'll miss that superlative moment for something like watching Rocket take it back twice against Michigan and Bo. Now that's must see TV.


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