Last week, one of the 926 ballots for the 2010 Heisman Trophy award arrived at my mailbox.
With a Dec. 6 deadline, voters usually spend this time making sure they watch and critiqueÂ the top candidates as they play in meaningful late-November games.
Not this year. This year, voters are checking the news wire to find the latest nugget on the ballooning scandal(s?) of the clear on-the-field favorite, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.
Investigators ofÂ many realms are looking into Newton’s involvement in a pay-for-play allegation that he was shopped to Mississippi State for a six-figure amount during the recruitment process. In addition, there are reports that Newton left the University of Florida in 2008 because of three instances of academic cheating.
So the dilemma is not whether Newton is the best player in college football. It’s pretty safe to say that’s the accepted belief around the country.
The predicament is in the voter’s role as a moral trailblazer.
One voter summed the line of thinking in this way: “Sooner or later, we have to send a message about what’s right and what’s wrong,” Chuck Hathcock, the sports editor of the Grenada Star in Mississippi, said. “People tell me that the kinds of things we’re hearing about with Cam Newton are just part of college football now. But I say it’s not a part of college football, and if it is, we need to stop it.”
That may be all quite noble in theory. I just find that path flawed.
The Heisman trophy voters should not be the ones grabbing the flaming torch and leading the mob to take on the morally corrupt college football super stars. It isn’t our message to send.
I understandÂ the moral-responsibility feeling. It comes from the vacant 2005 Heisman trophy that went to Reggie Bush, which was eventually returned after it was learned he and his family received nearly $300,000 in gifts and money from a sports agent.
So you say you don’t want a Reggie Bush Fiasco again? Well, what’s a voter to do this year? Say don’t vote for Cam Newton. Ok, the second best player? A case could be made that’s Oregon’s LaMichael James.
James, the same player who was arrested in Februrary on a domestic violence charge. The same player who the NCAA investigated after he swapped his 2000 Mustang for a 2003 Range Rover, with the little help from his uncle. OK, when the ‘uncle’ was pushed for further details, it’s discovered he’s just a ‘family friend’. But he’s not an agent, so the NCAA says its all on the up and up.
I’m not incriminating James. I’m saying if I can’t vote for Cam Newton because he’s engulfed in a crapstorm of allegations and I can’t vote for James because he’s got some sketchy characteristics, I’m starting to get pretty far down the ladder. Do we vote the squeaky-clean Boise State standout every year?
It’s rather obvious to say, but the NCAA should be in charge of squelching the apparent rampant wrongdoings amongst its elite players. It’s fostered an atmosphere that has Heisman voters doing more background checks than stats analysis. We’re looking at what cars they’re driving and not what kind of offense they’re operating.
Fault lies in years of NCAA incompetence. Heisman voters, although cute in theory, can’t put out that fire.
O.J. Simpson earned his Heisman on the field. So did Johnny Rodgers (At 18, was at the wheel of a gas station robbery getaway car) and Billy Cannon (counterfeiting) and Billy Sims (failure to pay child support).
Let’s let this Heisman be decided on the field. Let’s leave it up to the NCAA to make sure we don’t have another tainted pool of candidates in the future.