It goes without saying, the Heisman Trophy is a big tradition in college football and is meant to showcase and honor the best players in college football.
Before we delve into how this prestigious award lost its luster and prestige, let’s detail a bit of the history behind it and how the winner is decided.
The first Heisman Trophy (originally named the DAC Trophy) was awarded at the end of the 1935 college football season. The trophy was renamed the following year after the death of John W. Heisman.
The concept of the Heisman was “to annually honor outstanding college football players” (heisman.com). The winner is decided by a balloting system and there are six sections with one representative from each. These representatives are sports journalists “who, as informed competent and impartial” (heisman.com). So the rest of the voting goes like this:
“Each Section within the United States has 145 media votes, totaling 870 media votes across the country. Additionally every former Heisman winner, 58 presently, has a vote as well. In 1999, The Heisman Trophy agreed to develop a special program to allow the public at large to become part of the balloting process by permitting one (1) fan vote eligible in the overall tabulation. This program once again continues this year through a partnership with Nissan North America, bringing the total number of voters for the 2014 Heisman race to 929. The actual ballots include a space for electors to designate three individuals for the Heisman Trophy. The first choice on an elector’s ballot receives three points in the overall voting tabulation, the second choice receives two points and the third choice receives one point” (heisman.com).
The Heisman receives a lot of hype and If you’re a fan of football at all, you know what we’re talking about. Before the season even starts, a group of guys are talked up and labeled “Heisman Hopefuls”. Most of the time, these guys are either running backs or quarterbacks and every so often you’ll see a wide receiver and rarely you’ll see a defensive player. Their stats are quoted and these guys are watched like hawks.
The Heisman used to be something worth celebrating. It used to be something when one said a player won the Heisman- it meant the recipient was really going places. It meant he was going to succeed in the NFL and do great things. That isn’t the case anymore.
The Heisman has essentially become an inaccurate and frustrating popularity contest. In essence, it has become a high school prom king race. It’s sad to see this once great award be degraded to a token achievement. The mission statement of the Heisman Trust states,
“The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity” (Heisman.com).
I’d have to argue that while this may have once been true, it isn’t any longer. A fact that is only serving to further soil a once great accolade. A lot of people may disagree, but I firmly believe that in order to restore the luster and prestige that the Heisman once had, the voters need be more particular in their choosing.
Take, for example, last year’s winner-a 19 year old redshirt freshman out of Florida State named Jameis Winston. He led the Seminoles to a National Championship that year. He has decent talent, but many question whether or not he can have much long-term success beyond college. Add to that, he has been investigated for sexual assault, accepting money for autographs, point shaving, shoplifting, and complaints about having a BB gun on campus and shooting squirrels. He was also suspended for a game earlier this year after he stood up on a table and screamed a sexually explicit phrase.
Coming in second for the Heisman last year was Alabama quarterback, AJ McCarron. A player who had a proven successful college career, led the Crimson Tide to three National Championships as well and won numerous other awards. So, considering the criteria, why did AJ McCarron lose to somebody who hadn’t shown the world of college football what he could do and hadn’t fulfilled the following part of the Heisman Trust mission statement: “Whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity?”
Perhaps what I’m detailing here is tantamount to blasphemy in college football, but it needs to be said.
The Heisman Trophy isn’t a big deal anymore. When listed on a player’s resume, it just doesn’t have the same flash and importance it once did. Sometimes, the voters have gotten right, but lately that doesn’t seem to be the case. One would think that a player who wins the Heisman would be successful in the NFL. I understand that a player’s talent doesn’t always translate to the NFL, but if an individual wins an award that deems them the most successful and talented player in college football, shouldn’t they be able to transition and be successful in the NFL? When you look at the list of Heisman winners though for the past 10-15 years, it’s hard to pick out men that have had outstanding success in professional football. It seems logical, the committee just isn’t considering potential winners of the trophy carefully enough.
This year, that could change.
Obviously being the lowly, unrecognized writer that I am, I have no sway or influence on people as important as the Heisman voting committee. Still though, I implore the voting committee and everyone involved in the process to consider the winner more carefully and choose more wisely. One step closer to restoring the prestige of the Heisman would be to choose Oregon star quarterback, Marcus Mariota as this year’s winner. Not only does he have the amazing talent on the field required to win, but his “performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity”.
Choosing Mariota would no doubt give some of the prestige back to the Heisman Trophy- something the world of college football desperately wants to see.