Heisman Rules: Why Jail and Cheating Should Matter for James, Newton

kellyContributor IINovember 24, 2010

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 13:  Quarterback Cameron Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigers watches the jumbotron against the Georgia Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Heisman trophy discussions are driving me crazy. My brother says I’m obsessed about it and he’s probably not wrong. But neither am I without justification. 

On the BCS countdown show a couple of weeks ago, ESPN college football analyst Joe Tessitore told us that by the end of the year it was possible there would be several “undefeated” Heisman candidates, implying that such status was an important criteria in deciding who wins the prize. 

And in a recent interview Craig James, also an ESPN college football analyst, rejected the notion that Kellen Moore was a legitimate Heisman candidate because he didn’t play on a big enough stage at Boise State. Thankfully, Dr. Lou objected to his flawed thinking, although it was hard to catch because coach was laughing so hard. 

I’m assuming both of these guys have access to the Internet so they might want to take a look at www.heisman.com to see what the award is actually for. 

Namely, that it goes to the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance and hard work. 

Hopefully, this is the last time I have to quote the rules in a story, but I’m not holding my breath.

You’ll notice that it doesn’t say the award goes to a flashy quarterback or running back on an undefeated team on a big stage.

C’mon, guys.  

Admittedly, if a potential candidate isn’t on television much or is on a lousy team it’ll be hard for him to get noticed. 

Maybe what’s needed is some kind of nominating process. For example, push the Heisman party back a couple of weeks and make the winners of the top 10-12 college football awards the nominees. 

Ultimately, voters could fill in their ballots however they wanted but if the week preceding the Heisman presentation featured interviews and highlights of the dozen or so offensive and defensive players who were judged to be the best of the best maybe it would make things more interesting and fair.

At a minimum, I’d vote for trying to reach agreement on a set of (written or unwritten) rules for voters to abide by. 

I’ll call my suggestions Kelly’s Enough of the Phony-Baloney Heisman Hype Rules:  

The LaMichael James No Convict Clause: The candidate cannot have any recent criminal convictions, such as trying to choke his girlfriend, like the rule’s namesake and much-touted Heisman candidate from Oregon. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail but mainly wore an ankle bracelet.

The front-runner, Cam Newton of Auburn, also has an arrest under his belt (among other potential problems) for stealing a laptop in 2008. He completed a first-time offenders program and the charges disappeared.

I thought about mentioning the nation’s leading receiver, Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, who too was arrested a couple of weeks ago for speeding and DUI, but receivers almost never win the Heisman so there’s no point. 

Frankly, the lack of any discussion about whether jail time violates the integrity clause is appalling. And it begs the question, What kind of integrity do the voters have if they’re willing to overlook jail time? (I could say the same about some of the coaches but that’s another column.)

Reggie’s Rules of Order: If he accepted cash, gifts, other “improper benefits” or his parents took a house he’s out. If it turns out that Cam Newton’s father really was selling his son’s services to the highest bidder, I would change the name of this rule to Do Not Leave Your Parents Unattended.  

Tarred and Feathered: A suspension during the regular season, whether imposed by the team, university or the NCAA, is grounds for disqualification. Fortunately for North Carolina they didn’t have any nominees this year anyway. 

The Robert Smith Student-Athlete Honor Roll: Named after the current ESPN college football analyst who famously skipped football practice to attend his pre-med lab classes (applause). Candidates don’t need to be rocket scientists, but they need to be students in good standing, which is also a Heisman Trust requirement. 

This is tricky because by law student records are confidential. But if winners are going to trade on the name of the Heisman, and they all do trying to land endorsement deals, maybe the Heisman Trust should ask that basic academic information be disclosed to them—by the candidates themselves—if they want to be considered.

Which means, yeah, I want to know if Cam Newton cheated as is alleged while a student at Florida. So far he's not denying the charges. It doesn't mean they're true but it certainly doesn't look good. 

Defense Wins Championships: Equal consideration should be given to outstanding defensive talent. (Sorry O-line, you guys are never going to win one of these.)

No Man’s an Island: Team records are irrelevant until such time as the award is re-named the Heisman Team Trophy. 

There’s No Business Like Show Business: Team television appearances are also irrelevant. A football player has no control over decisions made by television executives and shouldn’t be punished because some clown decided we’d all like to watch Notre Dame make another run at the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

Judging talent will always be subjective. But surely we can do better than awarding college football’s top prize to a guy with an assault record. Or a cheat.

C’mon, guys.