It's been called a "joke," a "sham" and the "highest honor in college football." It's the Heisman Memorial Trophy, and its iconic status as the sport's greatest achievement needs to come under some serious review.
The Heisman Trust, the caretakers of the statue and organizers of the famed dinner, should think about tweaking their mission statement this year. The outrage should not center on perceived snubs, but rather focus on undeserving invites like Tyrann Mathieu.
Mathieu went to New York City. He has no business on that flight or in that dinner, just as Cam Newton should have been refused a ride to the airport the year before.
Why? Both players failed to fulfill the requirements of the Heisman Trust's mission: pursuit of excellence with integrity. In fact, in the first three sentences of the mission statement, the word "integrity" is used twice to describe the candidates and the trophy's legacy.
Mathieu and Newton have the athletic talents and are considered "excellent" football players—no qualms with with their qualifications there. But the box next to "integrity" should remain unchecked.
In the past two years, both hopefuls carried major issues with them to the Big Apple. In Newton's case, it was a recruitment scandal that kept gaining momentum. In October 2011, Newton and Auburn were cleared by the NCAA, but at the time of the trophy presentation, the content of Newton's character was definitely still in doubt. That doubt should have kept Newton off the ballot.
Looking back, was Newton a deserving winner? An emphatic yes. At the time, a more cautious voting body should have reviewed the entire case for Newton, not just his play.
This year, Mathieu was suspended for violating the team's drug policy (via ESPN). Once again, a powerful indictment of a player's code of morality should have eliminated him as a candidate. Once again, it was overlooked by the voters.
The Heisman Trophy is one of the most idealized symbols in any sport. As such, possible winners should be above reproach in both categories: excellence and integrity. No one player is a perfect choice, but every candidate should at least pass the minimal standards for consideration. That means suspensions and scandals—not just touchdowns and tackles—need to be fully evaluated by every single voter.
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