This Saturday at 8 PM Eastern Standard Time, college football fans from around the nation will tune in to ESPN to see which of three talented gunslingers will win the coveted Heisman Trophy.
Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, Florida's Tim Tebow, and Texas' Colt McCoy will all be present at the Heisman dinner and awards ceremony in New York City. All three of these young men epitomized the essence of the Quarterback position this season—they are natural born leaders who had their teams in the hunt for a national championship and put up mind-boggling statistics.
Regardless of who wins, all three field generals have so much to be proud of. They worked their butts off to get to where they are today and will remember this night for the rest of their lives.
I'd love to say that those of us watching from the living rooms and sports bars of America have an obligation to cling to a sense of pride and history for the game of football as this great tradition is passed along for the 74th time. This award has been given to legends such as Doak Walker, Roger Staubach, and Barry Sanders; it is one of the most prestigious honors in the world of sports.
But in this case, it is instead the responsibility of us fans to suffer through this once historic event with a sense of disgust and shame. Because on some pee-stained couch in Lubbock, Texas, a student-athlete of the finest caliber will be staring aimlessly at the television set with tears in his eyes, wondering why he lives in such a cruel and unfair world.
Graham Harrell majors in history at Texas Tech University. When he's not studying the Crusades or the Renaissance, he enjoys throwing a heap of leather with white stitching through the air while uber-athletic defensive linemen and linebackers run full speed ahead at him trying to bury his face in the grass.
He's pretty good at throwing these leather balls: This season Harrell finished second in the nation in passing yards (4747) while completing 71.8 percent of his attempts. He tossed 41 touchdowns and threw only seven interceptions, posting an overall passer rating of 163.03.
More importantly, Harrell got the Texas Tech Red Raiders one game away from the national championship. He led the school to an 11-1 record, their single loss coming at the hands of a talented Oklahoma team who will now be playing for the title. He orchestrated a game-winning drive against then No. 1-ranked Texas that will go down in the history books as one of the greatest all-time finishes.
Sure, Harrell has had the advantage of throwing to the talented Michael Crabtree all season long. The rest of his supporting cast, however, leaves much to be desired when compared to what Bradford, Tebow, or McCoy had to work with.
He plays football because he loves the game. If it wasn't obvious before, that should have become clear when Harrell broke two of his fingers in the second quarter of the season's final contest against Baylor, a game the Raiders surely could have afforded to take him out of.
Did I mention that he got a 4.0 GPA this year? His performance on the field and in the classroom earned him a spot on the All-Big 12 Academic Team.
With everything he's accomplished this season, there is no logical reason that Harrell should not be invited to New York alongside Tebow, Bradford, and McCoy. So why then was he snubbed?
One simple reason: He doesn't play for one of the nation's most prominent football programs.
That is a downright, crying shame—a disgrace to the game of college football and the entire world of sports. The decision to exclude Harrell is a viscous insult...not only this fine young gentleman, his family, his teammates, and his alma mater, but also to the college football fans of America and our intelligence.
Why couldn't four quarterbacks have been sent to New York? There have been as many as six candidates at the awards ceremony in the past. So why the need to be so restrictive this time around? Budget cuts?
Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, and Colt McCoy have provided us with stellar passing and gutsy play all year long. They without question deserve to be commended for the performances they gave us in 2008.
But Harrell deserves to be honored as well. The fact that he isn't proves yet again that college football as a sport is long overdue for big-time reforms that will address the increasingly evident biases and inconsistencies within its voting procedures.
When you're watching the ceremony on Saturday, celebrate the accomplishments of three of the nation's top field generals with open arms. They deserve your utmost respect and attention.
But don't let Graham Harrell slip your mind. For if We the Fans continue to give our stamp of approval to these sorts of injustices, we can't expect the sport of college football to ever change for the better.