History, Hype, & Folly
True, as ballyhooed all over the airways, the Heisman Memorial Trophy is indeed The Most Prestigious Award in College Football,
if not in all the world of sports.
However, true are a few other pertinent facts about it:
1. It is inappropriately named.
2. It is inarguably political.
3. It is controlled with an iron fist.
Since 1935, the inaugural year of the award, only four times has it gone to a receiver. All the other times, save one, it has gone to either a running back or quarterback. The one time it went to a defensive player was 1997, when Michigan’s Charles Woodson won it. However, although excelling in defense at cornerback, he also played some pretty spectacular offense too catching passes, and returning punts and kickoffs. Linemen and linebackers have never won the award. Forty-one and twenty-nine times respectively have Running backs
won the Heisman.
Comparing running backs to quarterbacks is as senseless as comparing Apples
Nevertheless, because there is not a lobby for either linemen or for linebackers or for any other players, things are going to stay just as they are. Running backs
is “just fine” and has been “just fine” ever since 1935. However, the built in bias – even against Quarterbacks
– cannot be gainsaid. The Trophy’s design appears to be of a Running back
. Maybe not ‘though, the ball carrier may actually be a Quarterback
, or for that matter, a petite lineman running with a recovered fumble. In any case the ballcarrier’s stiff-arm is right smack in the face of everyone who sets his eyes on him!
The only evident reason for ignoring this slight is due to how the game has evolved over time. In the early years, players played both ways. With smaller squads back then, often injuries would call on teammates to play any one of several positions. Those were the days of the “60-minute Men
.” Those days and those men have long since gone. Today, as with the rest of our forever-evolving society, football players are specialists. Blockers block and tacklers tackle, but blockers can’t tackle well and tacklers can’t block well. Ironically, worst of all are usually the Running backs
: the former are egregiously bad blockers and the latter are even more egregious as tacklers.
Moreover, Why fix something that isn’t broken?
Evidently, it isn’t broken in the money-grubbing view of the members of the Trust. It’s doin’ “just fine” – could scarcely be doin’ better. Money is being made, hand over fist. The weeks and weeks of hoopla leading up to the mid-December’s gala award ceremony is bringing in tons of the green stuff. Not only do the Trust’s coffers swell, but also their associates’. Primarily, four TV networks are charged with the task of keeping the hype going, and they do so unrelentingly, season long. These networks are - to no one’s surprise - ESPN, CBS Sports, ABC Sports, and NBC Sports.
It wasn’t long before the Trust’s annual bonanza was noticed by other enterprising sources. In 1937, the Maxwell Award was founded. It was founded for the very same reasons - to make some money and to honor the most outstanding college football player, namely a Running back
or a Quarterback.
With the computer era having just begun, new markets developed, so in 1967 the Walter Camp Award was inaugurated. Likewise, this award was for the nation’s most outstanding college football player, i.e. a Running Back
or a Quarterback
. In 1998, with the computer era burgeoning evermore, the Johnnie-come-lately Associated Press Player of the Year Award was inaugurated – again, it went to a Running Back
Four awards for the same singular distinction, although surfeiting fan’s interest somewhat, have helped to mitigate the politics to a degree, but only to a small degree. By comparison to the Heisman award, the other three awards have scarcely gone noticed.
More interesting than hearing about Apples
should be learning about the genesis of the Heisman award. Originally it was named after the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City, where John W. Heisman served as its first director.
John Heisman was a player playing many positions at Brown as an undergraduate and at Penn as a law student. During a span of three decades, he coached seven football teams, ranging from Oberlin’s in his home state Ohio, to the University of Pennsylvania’s, to Washington and Jefferson’s, to Clemson’s, Georgia Tech’s, Auburn’s, and Rice’s - many of his teams having gone undefeated. His greatest accomplishment occurred in 1906 when, after several years of trying, he finally prevailed upon Walter Camp and Camp’s fellow commissioners to change the rules of football to allow the forward pass. In his last five years of life, after retiring from coaching, he wrote articles about his football passion for American Liberty, Colliers
, and the Sporting Goods Journal
, the last for which, in addition, he worked as editor. When he died in 1936 of pneumonia, the Downtown Athletic Club voted unanimously to rename the award in honor of this great man.
Another great man, had picked up the pigskin and forwarded it, so to speak. This man, like Heisman, was one of the coaching greats; like Heisman he knew the importance of promotion and how to use a pen to catapult his team into history immemorial. Even with the joint duties of athletic director and coach, he wrote a weekly column for years peeking the public’s interest in the game. However, this man was never considered as the heir apparent of Heisman’s, for he died in 1931, four years before the Downtown Athletic Club first opened its doors. This man was Knute Rockne.
Although Knute had passed on, three of his protégés carried the torch for love of the game and love of their alma mater. In slightly differing degrees, they were instrumental in founding the Downtown Athletic Club and maintaining sway on how the soon-to-be most coveted award would be handled from that time onward. All three men were head-football coaches of prestigious Catholic colleges, all three were members of the Rochne’s famed backfield, The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame
. Elmer Layden was one, he coached at his alma mater. Harry Stuhldreher was another, he coached at Villanova. Jim Crowley was the other, he coached the Fordham Rams in the Bronx. In fact, it was one of Crowley’s players who posed for the sculptor of the bronze ballcarrier. Frank Eliscu is the sculptor’s name.
Fordham University is where another player would rise to glory and later take up his predecessors’ gauntlet. Crowley was this young man’s head coach and Frank Leahy (later to succeed Layden at Notre Dame) was this player’s line coach. The young man was Vince Lombardi. He rose to greatness as a member of the team’s renowned line, dubbed The Seven Blocks of Granite
So, with the above as prologue, it should be easy to imagine how the Fighting Irish of New York City, as well as around the nation, have been able to maneuver themselves to keep a tight grip on college football politics and effectively “stiff arm” any opposition.
Of the Eight Heisman Trophy Trustees
, three of their bio’s can be readily found on the Web: the current president, William Dockery attended Belmont Abbey in Charlotte, North Carolina; his law partner, Michael Comerford attended Georgetown University Law School; and former President James Corcoran, and Senior V.P. for Morgan Stanley, attended Georgetown Law School. These colleges are indeed Catholic.
The Eight Trustees
govern the policies of the balloting procedure and pick Six Sectional Representatives
to oversee the process. Each representative oversees a regional section of the country. There are six regions. Each section has 145 votes
, which are cast by sports journalists. In all, there are 870 votes cast
by them. Several, if not all, of these Representatives and countless sports journalists are employed by the same dominant broadcasting companies which have a lock on college football.
A couple Representatives
have a natural bias for Notre Dame. Don Criqui
is a Notre Dame alumnus. He started his reporting career in South Bend. Pat Haden
, is another Catholic, who as a high school quarterback played for Bishop Amat Memorial High School
in La Puente, California
. He also attended Catholic Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. More important, he, as Don Criqui, was employed by NBC Sports, among other broadcasting companies, and for years commentated on Notre Dame football games. Having been a former Southern Cal quarterback and currently the university’s athletic director, Haden has a bifurcated bias.
The NBC T-V affiliate is actually owned by the University of Notre Dame!
The other four representatives have been around for a long, long time. They are Dave Campbell
with the Waco-Tribune Herald
, Beano Cook
with ESPN; Bob Hammel
with The Hoosier Times
of Bloomington, Indiana; and Jimmie McDowell
, with Mississippi Sports. None of these men has a bias outside of his particular region, and none of them seem to have a noticeable bound to Notre Dame. However, Dave Campbell has an obvious bias for his alma mater.
It is not necessarily because Campbell is an alumnus of Baylor University that Baylor’s quarterback Robert Griffin III might win the Trophy this year, but it certainly does not hurt his chances. Moreover, it assures that politics will not
be a factor in this year’s selection.
Griffin is going to win the award because he deserves to win it. Andrew Luck or any other quarterback fall short of his statistics, and no running has meant so much to his team’s success as has quarterback Griffin to his Baylor Bears. More important, Griffin is both a runner and a passer! With Griffin, we get both Apples
This proclamation, proclaimed presently, is not
a prediction, but a projected actual fact. On Monday is was indicated, and by Tuesday it was certain, and by Wednesday it was old news! With “worms” and “spiders” and “crawlers,” and verifiable hearsay, the outcome is certain within less than a 1% margin of error. Griffin will win in a landslide! Griffin has won already!
Robert Griffin has won the Heisman trophy for 2011!
Come this Saturday evening our ears will confirm what our eyes are too skeptical to acknowledge. Assuming our eyes have not deceived us, this year is an aberration. Thus, we should continue perusing the balloting process, if for no other reason than to see its ridiculousness.
In addition to the 870 votes
, each of the 55
former Heisman recipients still breathing cast a vote each. That makes a subtotal of 925 votes
) more vote yet needs to be cast. That one, singular vote is for you and me and all the other millions of football fans across the nation . . . who don’t count!
Perhaps The Heisman Trust should be renamed to reflect its totalitarian control! Pray tell, if any fan can suggest a more befitting name!
As we reflect on the Heisman selection process, we should begin to question the propriety of Jack Swarbrick, the athletic director of Notre Dame University, being the only athletic director on the BCS Rules Committee, and, also, of Rev. John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, being on the so-called Presidential Oversight Committee.
Would it not be better public relations to show a semblance of fairness, rather than to dispense with it altogether ?
At any rate, we ought to be grateful that Notre Dame has nothing to do with local or national politics. No, She has nothing, nothing at all to do with such unseemly matters! God above forbid the notion!