Perhaps a more accurate description of the award recipient would be "college football's outstanding player, who probably plays quarterback or running back, provided that he is an upperclassman and part of a team contending for the national championship with a historic track record of success and a large fanbase." Maybe that's too long to engrave on the plate, but at least it would be honest.
In seventy years of the trophy, there have only been five winners who weren't a quarterback or running back, and those players were absolutely phenomenal. No Freshman or Sophomore has ever won the award. The list of winners is dominated by players from Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas, USC, and Michigan. However, I'll give the committee a break for last year. Reggie Bush did plenty to earn to the award. The guy was a walking highlight reel and a decent role model as well. And since the award is given prior to the national championship game for some reason I'll never understand, Bush was the right choice at the time. Still, had it been given after the national championship game, the trophy would probably be sitting in Austin right now.
However, arguably the biggest Heisman gaffe occurred in 2003, when Jason White won the award over Larry Fitzgerald. Larry Fitzgerald was without question the nation's best wideout, and literally carried his Pittsburgh team to several wins that year. However, he failed to win the award because he was only a Junior, played for a program that wasn't a powerhouse, and was a receiver. Meanwhile, Jason White met the criteria and won the Heisman, only to follow up with a terrible 13-37, 102 yard, 0 TD, 2 INT effort in the national championship game. White is now working for a securities firm and doing local commercials in Oklahoma, but it must be mentioned that his NFL career was partially limited by bad knees. Still, Fitzgerald is a Pro Bowler with an extremely bright career ahead of him who excelled in college as well as at the next level.
There have been numerous other Heisman busts. Names like Gino Torretta, Andre Ware, Ron Dayne, Eric Crouch, Danny Wuerffel, Rashaan Salaam, and the aforementioned Jason White exude mediocrity in the minds of football fans these days. And those are just the recent examples. Sure, the college game is different than the NFL, but these supposed "outstanding players" should have talent that translates to the next level. My contention is that there is obviously something wrong with the system of selecting a winner.
Why can't the award be given to the player that did the most for their team every year? Would that just make too much sense? Sure, such a determination is subjective, but then at least players who didn't meet the hidden rules would have a chance at the trophy. I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that if Notre Dame goes to a BCS bowl game, Brady Quinn will automatically win the Heisman regardless of what any other players do this year. Steve Slaton may carry WVU to a BCS game, and Calvin Johnson may have the best year of any player, but it won't matter, because they don't meet the criteria. And that could be a damn shame once again.
- Trent Wycoff
(Questions, comments, praise, and constructive criticism can be directed to Trent within the forums or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org)