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The Heisman hee-haw: The joke's on the Pac-10
By Richard Linde, 11 December 2001
It's been twenty years since the Pacific-10 conference
had a Heisman Trophy winner, the last being Marcus Allen, who won the trophy
in 1981. It's not that the Pac-10 hasn't had some outstanding athletes grace
its gridirons since 1981. How about John Elway, Rodney Peete, Steve Emtman,
Jake Plummer, Troy Aikman, Marques Tuiasosopo, Cade McNown, Ryan Leaf? Add to
the list this year's candidate Joey Harrington (QB, Oregon),
who finished fourth in the Heisman balloting.
Except for three, all of the Davison IA conferences have
posted winners in the balloting during the last 20 years, the exceptions being
the Western Athletic Conference, the Sun Belt Conference and the Pac-10. Fans
from USC, UCLA and Washington can commiserate with fans from such football powers as
Tulsa of the WAC and Louisiana-Lafayette of the Sun Belt Conference, who
haven't had a winner either.
It's not that the Pac-10 is a conference of nobodies.
During this twenty-year period, the Pac-10 has sent more players to the
professional ranks than any other conference. Unlike the sports writers of
America, the pros put their money where their mouths are. This year, among the Division 1A
conferences, the Pac-10 has had the best out-of-conference record, winning 80%
of its intersectional games. Not too shabby.
Does the Pac-10 have bad breath? Maybe, maybe not.
Certainly, Bob Toledo and the UCLA Bruins haven't helped
its image with the sportswriters of America. Cade McNown's involvement in the handicapped parking scandal and
DeShaun Foster's off-field problems with the NCAA have been less than scintillating. McNown finished third in the Heisman balloting in 1998, and
statue-wise, Foster, a bona-fide candidate this year, shot himself in the
foot, being suspended for the last three games of the season. Neither of them
caught in flagrante delicto, McNown has never really admitted any culpability,
other than stating
"the process by which" he
"acquired the permit was wrong", while Foster hired a lawyer
to appeal the NCCA's decision and then to compound matters refused to show up
for Senior day.
Some contrition might have helped here, from McNown,
Foster and Bob Toledo, who says that "kids in the family make mistakes
and kids in the family need to be forgiven."
However, all things considered, this year's balloting shows a significant regional bias in the
ballots that were cast. If you look at the voting (see Table 1), Harrington
finished fourth in five of the sixth regions, although finishing first in the Far West. In
an effort to broaden his regional appeal, boosters from Oregon spent $250
thousand to plaster Harrington's mug on a billboard in New York City. As it
turned out, it was money down the drain.
were 924 electors in this year's balloting, with ballots mailed to 871 media persons
across the nation, 53 Heisman winners and one Suzuki fan. However, only 65% of
the ballots were returned according to preliminary reports. Eric Crouch polled 770 points to capture the award over Rex
Grossman of the University of Florida who polled 708. In the table below, the point total
is calculated by counting three points for a first place vote, two for a second
and one for third.
Table 1. Regional balloting (taken from espn.com).
||Ken Dorsey, 179
If the professional ranks are a measure of talent, some
of the past Heisman winners (see Table 2), have not faired nearly as
well in the pros as the Pac-10 runner up (see Table 3). Danny Wuerffel
(Florida) of the Chicago Bears won the Heisman Trophy in 1996 and Jake
Plummer (ASU) of the Arizona Cardinals finished 3rd in the balloting. The
is a backup quarterback at Chicago, while Plummer starts for Arizona.
And then there is the "Heisman Jinx," which is nothing more
than a euphemism for "we picked the wrong guy." Some past winners
who have been bitten by the bronze statue include Rashaan Salaam (1994
winner), who played for Chicago and Cleveland and had a stint in the XFL this
year, Gino Torretta (1992) who is no where to be seen, and Ty Detmer (1990),
who is a back up QB at Detroit. Charlie Ward (1993) plays basketball for the
New York Knicks.
With the BCS formula under scrutiny, this year's Heisman
Trophy voting becomes more significant considering the regional bias in the
Taken together, they illustrate that something is
dreadfully wrong about the process that determines a national champion and who the best player is in college football.
What can be done about the BCS? For one, throw out the
computer polls. The computer polls are the reason a most undeserving Nebraska
team is playing in the Rose Bowl. That one's obvious. Better yet, let's have a
playoff system, starting with the four BCS bowls, which would leave one more
game for four teams and two more for two teams. Sure there would still be some
squabbling and squawking amongst the teams that never got to play, but a
playoff between the four bowl winners is better than the system we have now.
What can be done about the Heisman voting? Nothing. Consider the
Heisman voting along with the BCS formula as nothing more than a joke. Both of
them produce mythical winners, not real ones. As far as the Heisman voting
goes, let the sports writers of America have their fun and perpetrate their
continuing hoax on the public. In the arena of sports, life is nothing more
than one big hee-haw--and so is
the Heisman Trophy. It's all for fun, so who gives a darn.
Being a Pac-10 fan, I'm not taking the voting seriously
and I hope you aren't either.
Table 2. Heisman Trophy Winners Since Marcus Allen
Table 3. Runner ups from the Pac-10 in the Heisman
balloting, since 1981
(Editor's note: Joey
Harrington was selected third in the first round of the NFL Pro-draft held on
20 April 2002).