Based entirely on his on-field exploits, there is no doubt that Cam Newton deserved the Heisman trophy. Having rushed for 1,409 yards and passed for 2,589 yards, accounting for a total of 49 touchdowns, he became the first SEC player to run for at least 1,000 yards and pass for at least 2,000 yards in the same season.
By the time the Iron Bowl game finished, with Newton having led his team to a 28-27 come from behind win over bitter rivals Alabama, the Heisman race was all but wrapped up.
Yesterday, it was made official. Cam Newton won the Heisman.
Newton's Heisman win is a win for him, a win for his family and a win for his team. It's a win for football, and a win for those who believe that college football is all about the game.
Ironically, the big loser here is college football itself.
College football, as an institution, is one of athletics and academics, a marriage of two disparate ideas. Football and athletics are all about competing, winning and being better than the opponent. Football players are encouraged to be mean and hurt their opponents. Players are taught to be deceitful and trick their opponents, often attacking weaknesses to win games.
On the other hand, when you break it down, college, at its core, is about higher education, about becoming more intelligent, useful members of society. Most academic institutions expound the virtues of integrity, diligence, perseverance, and hard work, much like what the Heisman trust declares as its mission statement.
So the winner of the Heisman trophy should exhibit characteristics that demonstrate a respect for both the game of football and academic institutions of higher learning.
Cam Newton does so well on the former. Unfortunately, he has shown a lack of maturity and respect for the latter, and his Heisman win exposes the hypocrisy of the Heisman trust as an institution. The Heisman has turned into "just" a pageant contest that is not rooted in its mission statement or shares the same values it purports to hold.
The Heisman voters who are largely ingrained in the sporting world, forget about the real world and about the fact that it's an award for the most outstanding college football player, and not just merely the best football player.
As a football player, Cam Newton has been unrivaled this year.
As a college football player, a student-athlete, his performance this year and in years past have been appalling at best.
While at the University of Florida, Newton was arrested in 2008 on three felony charges for purchasing a stolen laptop. Later, amidst suspicions and allegations that he cheated, Newton left Florida, saying he wanted to play and wouldn't be able to because Tim Tebow was returning for his senior season.
His choice turned out to be a prudent one, as he transferred to Blinn College in Texas and won the 2009 NJCAA National Football Championship. This success catapulted him atop the recruiting boards and set the stage for his father's "pay-for-play" scheme with Mississippi State.
Allegedly, his father, a pastor, solicited money from Mississippi State for Cam Newton's commitment through former Mississippi State football player Kenny Rogers. Rogers had called former teammate John Bond to solicit up to $180,000 from assistant coaches at Mississippi State.
After NCAA investigations, it was discovered that Cecil Newton had in fact committed this egregious act and both he and Rogers were implicated for their involvement the whole fiasco.
During his acceptance speech, Newton rightfully and graciously thanked his parents for everything they did behind the scenes. He claims that he loves his father unconditionally, as any child should. After all, they are responsible for everything—good or bad—that he stands for. He is a reflection of their character.
Unfortunately, that reflection could be an ugly one.
Newton was initially suspended by the school after investigations found that the pay-for-play scheme occurred. But he was subsequently exonerated and reinstated the following day, on Dec. 1 by the NCAA "without conditions" after investigations determined that he had no knowledge of the situation.
Of his meeting with the NCAA, Newton said, "During that time, the only thing that I could do and the only thing that I did was tell the truth...the truth will come out."
However, on Nov. 9, ESPN reported that Newton told a Mississippi State recruiter that his father had chosen Auburn because "the money was too much." Asked about his conversations with Mississippi State after declaring for Auburn, Newton claimed, "Through my eyes...I'm clear with everything I said during that conversation".
Anyone who has as much to lose as Cam Newton would admit to knowing about his father's schemes. After all, at the end of the day, it's much better for all parties involved if Newton feigned ignorance and let his father take the fall for everything that happened.
So there you have it.
The NCAA and Heisman trust awarded a young man with a trophy that he deserved for his on-field achievements. But these otherwise reputable institutions ignored other important factors, things that had more to do with the "student" part of student-athlete.
Not only was he charged with three felony counts and accused of cheating, but whether he knew it or not, he was part of a bigger scheme that threatened to make a mockery of the sacred amateur status of college sports. And he was rewarded for it.
The implications of this are damning not just for now, but also for the future.
Student-athletes can now feign ignorance and escape relatively unscathed, if not so in the public eye. Now, whenever an a student-athlete's parents, family members or friends do something wrong, they don't have to deal with it and can escape punishment by pretending to not know.
But worst of all, for all the young kids who look up to these heroes of college football, they are looking up to role models who can commit crimes and cheat, and treat the system that rewards them so poorly, hardly the characteristics embodied by the most outstanding player in college football.
It's too bad the NCAA, the Heisman trust, and everyone involved are just interested in providing the best product on the field, no matter how badly he represents himself as a student-athlete.