The Heisman Is a Hoax: This Popularity Contest Needs an Overhaul

James Adkins@KCChiefsBlitzCorrespondent IIDecember 13, 2009

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 12:  Running back Mark Ingram #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide poses with the Heisman Trophy during a press conference after being named the 75th Heisman Trophy winner at the Marriott Marquis on December 12, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Congratulations to Alabama running back Mark Ingram for winning the 2009 Heisman Popularity Contest.

You see, everyone loves a winner, including the media who vote each year on the player most deserving of the Heisman Trophy. Unfortunately, the misperception that the country's best player must be a member of one of its best teams has turned the award into a hoax.

For Ingram, all winning the Heisman proves is that he's the best player on one of the country's best teams.

The Heisman Trophy espouses itself as the award to recognize the most outstanding college football player in the country, but the ambiguous nature of the award's voting process has allowed it to become a sham. 

More often than not, the best players on the best teams are simply another cog in the machine. Their statistics and success are a byproduct of the talent around them and the fact that they are man-for-man more talented than their opponents.

Conversely, for players on less talented teams, the argument can be made that it's more difficult to put up a Heisman-worthy season because they have less talent around them.

When these players put up great numbers and lead their teams to victory, it's often in spite of their supporting cast and they are typically playing a far greater role in that team's success.

This season, Alabama's Ingram wasn't the country's best player. He didn't lead Division I football in any major statistical category. In fact, there were actually two other running backs on his own team (Roy Upchurch and Demetrius Goode) that averaged more yards per carry than Ingram. 

It is entirely possible that if coach Nick Saban would have stuck with either of the other two backs this season, they could have produced every bit as well as Ingram.

The Heisman this season should have been a coin flip between the best two players that were irreplaceable to their teams: Ndamukong Suh and Toby Gerhart.

Suh, while touted by most as the probable overall top selection in next April's NFL draft, apparently wasn't good enough in the eyes of Heisman voters.

For the second season in a row, Suh led one of the country's best defenses in tackles, sacks, hurries, blocked kicks and tackles for loss. His presence on the Cornhuskers defense made every other player on the squad better, and his team always had a shot to win because of Suh.

Gerhart did nothing less than lead the country in every major rushing category: yards, TDs, attempts and scoring . He didn't just lead all RBs in scoring, he led all of Division I in scoring. By comparison, Ingram ranked 14th in scoring.

The 235-pound Stanford senior led the country in runs of over 10 yards, with 50 . That number is phenomenal considering he faced four defenses in the Pac-10 (Arizona, Arizona St, Oregon St and Cal) that allowed less than 120 yards per game. Ingram faced only one defense that good (Florida, 102.3 ypg).

The Stanford runner also ran for 100 yards in 10 of his 12 games, including three games with over 200 yards. Ingram, by contrast, only ran for 100 yards eight times, hitting the 200-yard mark just once.

Why didn't Suh or Gerhart win the Heisman? Simply put, their teams didn't win enough, as both played for four-loss teams.

Here's to hoping that, in the future, the Heisman committee listens to those critical of the current voting process.

Because without changing the criteria by which voters cast their votes, the Heisman Trophy will continue to be given to an above-average player on a great team, while college football's best players are only recognized by the other collegiate awards handed out in the two weeks prior to the Heisman.


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