The Reggie Bush Fallout Debate… Heisman and BCS Voters Cannot Ignore the Charges

November 17, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Sports Geek.

I believe the saying goes – “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, then shame on me.”

So, what happened during the 2004-2005 college football season? I’ve scoured the Internet for hours and can’t seem to find a thing about it. I thought that USC won the national championship, but I can’t find a single statistic from the NCAA about their season, and that season is also skipped in the list of Heisman Trophy winners.


Obviously, I am joking, but Reggie Bush’s infamous actions from that season have already left a black mark on his reputation, as well as that of the Heisman Trust, the USC football program, and the game of college football.

Fortunately, we can all put that behind us and move on with our lives, right? WRONG! Not even two months removed from the closing of the book on Reggie Bush, a new book may be opening right before our eyes in Auburn, AL.

Cam Newton, quarterback for the undefeated, second-ranked Auburn Tigers (and the current favorite to win the Heisman Trophy) is now under investigation for his own little laundry list of alleged infractions against the NCAA rules. Without rehashing the minutia of every single accusation and charge, let me sum them up for you:

  • In 2008, while at Florida, Newton was arrested for burglary, larceny, and obstruction of justice after having stolen a laptop. He then left Florida to play JuCo ball at Blinn College in Texas.
  • Earlier this month, it was reported that Newton may not have left Florida just because of the theft charges, but that he actually was under investigation for three separate instances of academic cheating, and was actually facing expulsion.
  • Just days after the cheating allegations were reported, sources came forward with accusations that Newton was involved in a pay-for-play scandal, which the sources cite as the reason Newton chose Auburn over Mississippi State.

Now, I understand that these latest charges of academic cheating and pay-for-play have not been confirmed… yet. And while I completely agree that a person is innocent until proven guilty, it is important to note that these charges have also not been proven false.

I am not advocating Cam Newton’s expulsion from college football, but the allegations levied against him are very serious, and if the Heisman Trust and the national pollsters blindly ignore these charges, they are opening themselves up for another very messy, long, drawn out scandal that could result in yet another non-season for the history books.

I am reminded of a scene from the HBO Series Band of Brothers, when a British Tank Commander is warned that he is driving right into a trap. Because he cannot technically ‘see’ the gun waiting to kill him, though, he is forbidden from taking the measures necessary to protect himself, and his men. So even though he anticipates an attack, and even though he has been warned by others that there is a gun pointed right at his head, his blind compliance with foolish rules that do not take circumstance into consideration result in his own death.

This is a situation where voters have an opportunity to prevent a possible embarrassment.

It is not about following the rules, because, if the allegations are correct, Cam Newton himself was not concerned with following the rules. The voters have an obligation to protect the integrity of the awards they have been honored with the privilege of bestowing. Knowingly and willingly granting those awards to a player or team that they have reason to believe may be ineligible is carelessly risking the integrity of the award, and cheapens the accomplishments of all those other winners who did it the right way.

Moreover, it cheapens the efforts of every other person who was ELIGIBLE for the award.

When allegations like those surrounding Cam Newton surface, there are only two ways that awards such as the Heisman or the BCS national championship, can be given WITHOUT fear of further scandal or controversy. Either postpone voting until the charges can be confirmed or denied, or allow that speculation to influence the votes cast during the process.

If the voters ignore the allegations, and continue to keep Cam Newton and his Auburn Tigers at the head of the pack while still under investigation, then shame on the voters.

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The 2010 Heisman Hopeful Debate… First Noel For Heisman

August 30, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Loyal Homer.

Before I launch into my Heisman Trophy hopeful nominee, here’s an indictment of the whole “whittle down the Heisman list in August” movement, despite the fact that we here at TSD are proudly contributing to the problem.

When I was younger I used to think the Heisman Trophy was truly the award for the best player in college football. As I’ve gotten older, the award seems to have morphed into the trophy generally given to the best player who was on national TV a lot, had a highlight reel play, and was mercilessly promoted by ESPN’s studio personnel. Given all that, if I’m going to add to the commentary and noise surrounding a trophy awarded four months from now, I’m going to submit a deserving underdog candidate to all of our loyal readers.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce Noel Devine, senior running back from West Virginia University.

Serious college football fans are aware of Devine’s talent, but he has yet to achieve national notoriety despite his aggressive, highlight-creating running style and speed. Part of this may be intentional on Devine’s part given the distinct lack of publicity surrounding his recruitment. While recruiting analysts waxed poetic about his talents and a wide variety of YouTube videos displayed his jaw-dropping abilities for the denizens, Devine and those around him were generally people of few (or no) words. In my view, this is refreshing given the publicity hounds that seem to populate the high school football recruiting world. Unfortunately, this lack of self-promotion makes it difficult to mount a Heisman campaign. That is why I would like to help him out. I’m sure that the power of this post will be worth dozens of Heisman votes when all is said and done, in the same way that I would handily defeat Mr. Devine in a foot race. Hey, maybe I’ll at least win the poll for this debate!

Now that I’ve given you the personal reasons why I think he should win, let’s get to his statistics. His statistics alone make him deserving of a trip to New York this December. First, Devine had a dazzling 2009 season that largely flew under the radar. He rushed for 1,465 yards on 241 carries, an average of 6.1 yards per carry. He also racked up 13 touchdowns on the ground. Beyond his notable rushing production, Devine took care of the football. He did not lose a fumble during the 2009 season despite those 241 carries. In fact, Devine has not lost a fumble during this three-year career at West Virginia. Noel, I hope I didn’t jinx you for this year by mentioning that statistic!

The good news for Devine is that there are high hopes for the Mountaineers this season. If they achieve the predicted level of success there will be plenty of national opportunities for Devine to make his case to the Heisman voters. Additionally, he is expected to be the featured component of the customarily potent West Virginia offense.

If Devine stays healthy this season I sincerely hope the voters recognize a player who lets his production do his talking rather than his sideline antics or his grace in front of the cameras. If that is the case, no couch may be safe in Morgantown this December.

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The Heisman Trophy Purpose Debate Verdict

July 23, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

Excellent articles from two polarized perspectives. Is the Heisman Trophy a hollow statue or a prestigious award worth the hype? I think my conclusion may surprise you.

Babe Ruthless had a typically entertaining argument, but for the purposes of this debate topic he spent far too much time spelling out the original intent behind the Heisman Trophy, and very little time presenting a case for why it should still be valued for its substance.

He also asserted that the award is comparable to the MVP awards we seen given out in professional sports. While that may be the intent behind the award, I am not convinced that the Heisman is truly on the same level any longer. Just look at the difference in who votes for the award.

Complaints abound about the ancient voters for the Heisman (including ESPNs Beano Cook, who is the Mid Atlantic representative for the award’s voters). It is an award steeped – and stuck – in tradition. Voters for the award include gentlemen who used to write about college football, but no longer do – and haven’t for years.

At least in professional sports, MVP awards are voted on by contemporaries who are still actively involved in the sport. It is true that some bias seeps in when beat writers for regional teams are allowed to vote, but that bias usually balances by the time the last vote is tallied.

Babe Ruthless is correct that the voting is heavily biased toward large states with legacy voters in the system. The legacy voters – the ones who have voted for the last 50 years and are not as tuned into current events as they should be – are the ones that necessitate the campaigning. Frankly, they are a big part of the problematic system.

Babe’s argument is based on the foundation that talent leads to popularity, therefore campaigning for the Heisman is a good thing. I think this disproves the point talent is a popularity’s precursor:

Popularity is created for any number of reasons. For college football, it is created and controlled, in large part, by ESPN. A primetime game broadcast and a helmet sticker on College Football Tonight go a long way toward enhancing one’s Heisman Trophy prospects. An accompanying marketing campaign – such as Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Locker had launched on his behalf – is another ingredient. Folks need to recognize you to vote for you. Darn right universities understand the importance of the award. They spend a great deal of money promoting players as proof. But that does not mean the award is a bastion of talent, or that campaigning is a good thing. In fact, Heisman campaigns undermine the value and importance of the award by taking the focus off of performance and placing it on how marketable a player is.

Babe Ruthless is arguing to preserve the perceived importance of the award, rather than sustain its quality. The debate question calls its quality into question, and Loyal Homer wins this debate for rightly hammering the contemporary qualities of the award.

Loyal Homer hits the nail on the head in pointing out how players who are currently being campaigned for have not really done ANYTHING to warrant the type of hype and attention they are getting. Their universities are drumming up hype based on what they hope will happen, not anything that has already been proven, another blow to the value of Heisman campaigns.

Let’s quickly examine the stats of the three players Loyal Homer brings up in his argument.

Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder is a senior who has scored 29 total touchdowns in his career.

Washington quarterback Jake Locker has amassed 36 total career touchdowns.

Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallet is just a hair better with 37 total career touchdowns.

Now let’s put those numbers in perspective. Former Texas Longhorn’s quarterback Colt McCoy scored 34 touchdowns in 2008 alone – AND LOST THE HEISMAN TROPHY. His low-key profile and laid back demeanor undermined his campaign. He did not have enough star power to win over Heisman voters, and was shut out. Talent alone is no longer the primary criteria in recent Heisman voting. Subjectivity reigns, and is also highly influenced by a player’s popularity, and the characteristics that contribute to it.

The candidates in the hyped jerseys that are still empty of accomplishments prove Loyal Homer’s point that the award is quickly devolving into a challenge of making mediocre players popular, not necessarily about awarding talent.

I do agree with Babe Ruthless on one point. The award is often used by institutions to enhance their appeal to recruits. There is no question about that based on both of these arguments. But the award’s hype and institutional obsession has created an environment where award prestige far outpaces its substance. It is only a matter of time before the prestige nose-dives.

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The Heisman Trophy Purpose Debate… Heisman Poses Interesting Debate

July 22, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

The Heisman Trophy is touted as the most prestigious award in college football for a reason – it IS the most prestigious award in college football!

The award recognizes the accomplishments of the best of the best. Its importance is undeniable. It is comparable to the various MVP awards of professional sports leagues.

The award offers recognition of achievement on a national scale for both the player and the team. That’s why they give away two trophies, one to the athlete and one to the program that developed him. Analysts start projecting winners long before the season begins because winning the award can be a big boost to a player’s draft status, or it can give universities a big chip to dangle before prospects during the recruiting process. What player wouldn’t want to go to a program that has proven it can produce Heisman trophy winners? I firmly believe that the significance of the award speaks for itself, but today’s debate questions whether it has become just a popularity contest.

In truth popularity plays a large role, but it does so for a reason. Talent leads to popularity. The best players develop huge fan bases. Since the award recognizes the most talented college players it is logical to conclude that they would also be among the most popular.

Admittedly players and universities have begun posturing for the award earlier and earlier, but that doesn’t negate its importance. Instead, it highlights it. Teams know what’s riding on the line and how hard it is to get noticed in the sea of college stars, so they are forced to toot their own horns. In terms of sheer numbers of competitors, selecting the best player in the pros doesn’t even compare with picking the best college player. Plus, standing out among the various college conferences proves challenging enough.

Teams must let the voters know what makes their star special. There is no uniform scheduling committee for college football that ensures parity among every school’s schedule. So, boasting about a stud player is good if their performance is put into perspective with a strong schedule. Similarly, there is not really collaboration among college teams in terms of scheduling games so each voter can watch on TV. These challenges actually encourage players and teams to lobby for the recognition and I can’t blame them.

Since Sports Geek is doing the judging on today’s debate, I feel it is important to include a data-driven intellectual aspect to my argument. To that end I would like to point out that campaigning has become an increasingly necessary evil because of flaws in the balloting system.

The current system lends itself to sectional factionalism. The vast majority of votes, 870 of the 926 total ballots, are cast by members of the media throughout the country. Votes are divided equally among amongst six regions – Far West, Mid Atlantic, Mid West, North East, South, and South West. Although each region receives an equal allotment of 145 votes, the system apportions more votes to the states containing the most media outlets.

That means that states with large populations, and therefore more media outlets, will dominate the voting. This, not surprisingly, gives larger states like California and Texas a decided advantage. Sure the balloters are expected to be somewhat objective, but that really is impossible considering they are making a subjective decision. Seriously, if it were not a subjective decision then why wouldn’t we just let BCS computers make the call? The BCS point may not help my cause, but you get my point – formulas and computers could make a more objective call.

Regional sectionalism is bound to creep into any subjective decision. My opponent’s name, Loyal Homer, is proof of that. Teams from smaller states really have to campaign to overcome sectional loyalties. Our Founding Fathers understood that concept and that’s why we have two houses of Congress – the Senate based on equal representation and the House of Representatives based on representation by population (see this article is educational… even if you don’t agree with it you can at least say you learned something). Schools from smaller states have to advertise early and often to level the playing field. Take Jake Locker for example, he plays for Washington and must contend for votes in the Far West region against a plethora of voters from California. His East Coast campaigning is his best weapon to contend for votes. It may not sit well with some, but if it helps him compete with bigger markets can you really blame him?

The Heisman is still important if for no other reason than the urgency with which it is sought. Players want the recognition as the best player there is, not the most liked or popular player. The award keeps us glued to our television watching games we might not otherwise care for because there are Heisman competitors on the field. The award honors the best today as it has for so many years, the campaigning doesn’t hurt the award’s credibility, rather bringing attention to its importance.

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The Heisman Trophy Purpose Debate… Less Hype, More Substance!

July 22, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

The state of Georgia went to the polls on Tuesday to vote in the primary election for the candidates who will be seeking office in November. Some of the positions I was able to vote for included governor, attorney general, and a few local races. Apparently, the college football world has gotten in on the whole campaign theme because several schools have launched Heisman campaigns for their supposed Heisman contenders. Check out the websites for Christian Ponder, Ryan Mallet, and Jake Locker. There are others out there, too. Keep in mind that the season is well over a month away. What a joke this is! Didn’t we all just get through fussing about how overhyped NBA free agency was?

I have a real problem with campaigning for awards like the Heisman, especially before the season. In the contradictory argument to mine, Babe Ruthless writes about the breakdown of the Heisman voters. I have a simple question for our judge today, Sports Geek, for the distinguished voters of the Heisman trophy, and for our loyal TSD readers.

What has a guy like Jake Locker or Christian Ponder done to prove to you that he deserves the 2010 Heisman Trophy?

Humor me! How many touchdowns have they thrown for so far? Yards? How many wins do their teams have?

My point exactly! These guys, and the hundreds of other players competing for the Heisman, have zeroes all across their stat sheet. What’s ironic is that guys like Locker and Ponder may have uphill battles to convince Heisman voters this year. Locker’s Washington Huskies are coming off a 5-7 2009 season, and Locker himself has yet to even be named All Pac-10 at the quarterback position. Christian Ponder is on a Florida State team that went 7-6 team in 2009. While the team should be better this season, Ponder missed the last four games of the season after separating his shoulder. He appears to be fully recovered, but again, it brings his “candidacy” into question.

All of this hype puts a lot of extra pressure on the student-athlete, whether it’s before the season or during the season. A guy like Ponder can probably handle it. He’s a smart guy, as he has already earned his MBA and will be halfway through a master’s degree in sports management this Fall.

But others may not be able to handle the stress. They could be thinking, “The school is spending all this money hyping me. I don’t want to let them down. I don’t want to let my teammates down.” This hype could prove to be detrimental to the team in the long run, and it’s not like all the extra hype always works. If hype ALWAYS worked, Tim Tebow could have left Gainesville with three Heisman Trophies. How could he do that? Because he’s Tim Tebow!

Winning awards should come down to what happens on the field, both individually and as a team. Winning… now there’s a concept.

The Heisman Trophy has been victimized by the media and turned into a popularity contest. We’re definitely living in an age of televised free agent decisions and extended live coverage of press conferences. The hype machine is on full throttle 24-7! And enough is enough!

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The 2009 Heisman Voting Debate – Spiller Made a Charge….Is It Enough?

December 7, 2009

Read the arguments by Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan.

Last week, I argued that Colt McCoy essentially won the Heisman with his performance against Texas A&M. I said that it was his to lose. Based on what happened in the Big XII championship game, I think he lost it. What a dreadful game by McCoy. He and Mack Brown nearly threw away a chance to go to the national championship game with poor clock management at the end of the game. At the end of the day, I think McCoy possibly threw away the Heisman

I had a chance to go down to the ACC Championship in Tampa, Florida Saturday to watch Georgia Tech’s high powered triple option offense against Clemson. It was a very entertaining game to watch in person and something, quite frankly, that the ACC needed. However, there is one player in the game that I came away most impressed with, one that I think signifies what the Heisman trophy means. That player is Clemson running back C.J. Spiller.

Obviously, you and I have heard of C.J. Spiller. He plays in a BCS conference for one of the top programs in the ACC. I have had the pleasure of watching a good bit of him over the past four years, but Saturday night was the first night I have watched him in person. Watching Spiller live gives a greater appreciation for him. I think he is the most electrifying player college football has had since Reggie Bush.

He single-handily almost won the game for the Tigers. He finished with 233 yards on 20 carries and four touchdowns. Those numbers earned him the MVP of the game, even in defeat (editor’s note: This is the first time the game’s MVP was awarded to a player on the losing team). Tech fans were outraged at this after the game, but I think it was the right decision. Sitting at Raymond James Stadium, you just felt all the Tech fans on edge when Spiller had the ball in his hands. Out of all the candidates, did anyone close the season better than Spiller?

For the season, his numbers speak for themselves. He has 1,145 yards rushing on 201 carries and 11 touchdowns. He has 445 yards receiving and four touchdowns. Those are excellent numbers. What takes him to the next level are his numbers in the kicking game. He has four kickoff returns for touchdowns. In total, he has over 900 return yards, which includes kickoff and punt return yardage. He is a legitimate threat to score every time he touches the ball. He also is the only player this season to score at least one touchdown in every game.

I realize people are dead set on giving the Heisman Trophy to McCoy, Mark Ingram, or maybe Tim Tebow. But Spiller deserves an invite to New York, at the very least. If I had a vote for Heisman, my vote would be for C.J. Spiller. And memo to those who coordinate the Heisman trophy – Loyal Homer really want a Heisman vote!

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The 2009 Heisman Voting Debate – It is the Heisman Award for 2009… NOT 2006 through 2008!

December 7, 2009

Read Loyal Homer’s argument and Sports Geek’s argument about who their picks for the 2009 Heisman Trophy are.

There are a lot of different theories on how voting should take place in the annual awarding of the Heisman Trophy. Some argue that the trophy should be used as recognition for the most outstanding player over an impressive collegiate career, while others would argue that a strong close to the season in high-profile games is all that is necessary to lock up the award. I, on the other hand, feel that the award for college’s most outstanding player should actually go to COLLEGE’S MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER – how silly of me!

Many people are going to be clamoring for Colt McCoy to be named the 2009 Heisman winner. Their reasoning is that he has had an outstanding college career, and deserves the award for his consistently strong performances. That reasoning is flawed, though. Two thousand and nine has been one of McCoy’s WORST seasons, statistically! Both 2006 AND 2008 were better seasons for McCoy, with 2007 as the only year in his career where he threw for FEWER touchdowns, and MORE interceptions than in 2009. If you were TRULY interested in recognizing the player with the best collegiate CAREER, it would be Tim Tebow who deserved the award, not Colt McCoy!

The REAL reason that some folks want McCoy to win the award is because he has not yet, and Tebow and Sam Bradford have. The last time I checked, though, the Heisman is for the MOST OUTSTANDING player, not the player we feel most sorry for. McCoy’s BEST seasons did not stack up against Tebow or Bradford, so why would one of his WORST seasons suddenly earn him the award? It just does not make sense.

The player who DOES deserve to win the award this year, however, is Stanford running back Toby Gerhart! By far the best running back of the 2009 season, no player has had a greater impact on his team than has Gerhart, who led the nation both in rushing yards (1,736) and touchdowns (26). And while you would expect strong performances against weak teams (such as Washington State and San Jose State), Gerhart actually turned in his BEST performances against some of the toughest teams in the country!

In 2009, Stanford took the field against four different teams that were ranked in the top-25 at the time – Washington (#24), Oregon (#8), USC (#9) and California (#25). In his four games against those top-level opponents, Gerhart rushed for a combined 737 yards (an average of 184.25 yards per game) and 11 touchdowns. In addition, Gerhart helped to send Charlie Weis packing as he tacked on an additional 205 yards and three more touchdowns in his final regular season game against Notre Dame!

Gerhart scored MULTIPLE touchdowns in nine of 12 games this season, and reached the end zone at least once in every game (except one). He also eclipsed the 200-yard rushing mark in three different games this season, including a season-high 223 yards and three touchdowns against the Pac-10 champion the Oregon Ducks!

Toby Gerhart was the most outstanding player of the 2009 season! Simply put, he made the difference between winning and losing in 2009 for Stanford. Last season, the Cardinal managed to win only five games all season. For his part, Gerhart put up only 1,136 yards and 15 touchdowns. In 2009, however, he rushed for an additional 700 yards and 11 touchdowns in the same number of games played, helping lead Stanford to an eight-win season and a Sun Bowl invitation against the Oklahoma Sooners on New Years Eve. When Gerhart was held to less than 100-yards rushing (which occurred only twice in the entire season), Stanford lost. On the flip-side, though, he rushed for at least 175 yards in four separate games, including both the USC and the Oregon matchups, leading Stanford to victory all four times. He is an outstanding player on a mediocre team. Thanks to his presence that mediocre team became a Pac-10 contender with two wins against top-10 teams in 2009. I would call that making a Heisman-worthy impact!

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