Heisman Needs to Stiffen Voting Policies
Yeah, I thought so.
Somewhere Darren McFadden is cursing the fact that he wasn't around for the 2009 football season. He would have won by one of the biggest margins in the history of the Heisman Trophy. I can just see him staring at Oakland Raiders teammate JaMarcus Russell thinking, "Ingram gets a Heisman and I got to play football with this idiot at quarterback?"
Having said that, Ingram gave a great Heisman acceptance speech, was genuinely humble, and this year's slate of candidates, since Boise State's Kellen Moore was inexplicably ignored, was far from stellar. So somebody had to win.
More than anything else, what this year's Heisman selection has proven is that the Heisman selection process is fundamentally broken beyond repair. It's time for a remake. And I've got the key for you in this week's Starting 11.
Presently there are 926 Heisman Trophy voters. Most of them are superfluous. In fact, here is a list of a few august media organizations that have voting rights: Huskers Illustrated, Hawgs Illustrated, FightinGators.net, VolQuest.com, DawgPost.com, RebelSports.com, and Buckeye Sports Bulletin. These are just the ones we know thanks to the Heisman voter list located here. I applaud those writers for being willing to go public with their voting rights, but how many more sites like these have votes?
Scroll through that group of voters and look at how many minor radio stations and local television stations have votes. Is this really who we want voting?
I don't think so.
Which brings me to the first prong of my revamp the Heisman campaign (I'll alternate with observations from this year's Heisman.)
1. Eliminate 3/4ths of the voters because they're lazy.
There are 870 media members (the remaining voters are past winners). Are you really telling me that a carefully calibrated list of 200 media plus the past winners wouldn't be a better list?
I have zero doubt that it would.
Especially since the Heisman has become a de facto referendum on which team is the best. Lazy voters scan the rankings, pick a team, select a player, and brand him the best.
Is it a coincidence that six of the past seven winners have been going to the BCS title game?
Of course not.
But is it lazy voting.
Put it this way, if you replaced Mark Ingram with any of the 10 running backs that had more yards per game than him this season, those guys would have also won the Heisman.
Including Toby Gerhart.
When you're voting for the best player, doesn't that defeat the entire purpose? Especially in football when you give an offensive player credit for half of the game that he never takes part in?
In other words, why should a team's good defense benefit an offensive player?
Give me 200 really plugged in voters and jettison the rest.
2. No sitting on stools in suits.
At some point in time a television executive decided that what all awards shows needed was an element of casual relaxation to go along with the uncomfortable atmosphere.
And guys wearing full suits sitting on stools was the answer.
Message: "Hey, look, we're just like you, we're sitting on a bar stool! Don't mind the suit, Or the way our suit pants ride up and expose our socks. Or the fact that no one has ever sat down on a stool before while wearing a suit and not looked uncomfortable. We're just like you. High five!"
Can we rescind this decision now?
It's uncomfortable to watch, no one looks good, and those tight pants make my baubles hurt by proxy.
3. Do away with three votes on the Heisman ballot and make it a single vote for the winner.
Is this a sorority and fraternity matching service or the selection of the best player in college football? Why should voters pick three choices? Name me another voting system in America where you rank your three favorite choices. (Okay, so my esteemed editor immediately said they use the same system for Major League Baseball's MVP, which has first-through-10th balloting, and the Cy Young Award. Anyway, they're also idiots for voting that way.)
It's positively un-American. This is how France would select the best flutist, not how America should select the best football player.
Everyone agrees with this logic except for Sam Bradford, who otherwise wouldn't have won the Heisman trophy last year.
No one walks into the booth on election day and picks Obama, followed by McCain, followed by Ralph Nader.
When you vote for your local state senator or your mayor, you don't rank three different choices.
Nope, you make a choice.
If that works for just about every election, why do we have a different voting system for the Heisman? All this does is encourage gamesmanship with voting. That is, ff you really want your preferred candidate to win, you can play the system and not just vote for your candidate in the first place, but leave the other candidate off the ballot entirely so he receives no second or third place votes.
Why make this gamesmanship a part of the system at all?
You could still have the same number of finalists, the only difference is your finalists would be based entirely on first place votes as opposed to who got the most overall votes.
It's more honest, more direct, and simpler.
It should happen.
4. Why did Mark Ingram's father being in prison get four billion times more coverage than every other parent that wasn't in prison?
I just don't get it.
Why is this story angle so compelling? So compelling, in fact, that Ingram's dad has gotten more attention than every other parent, including Ingram's own mother, who isn't in prison.
To confirm this fact, I did a highly scientific search. I went to Google and typed in "mark ingram's father" as my search query.
I got 4,180 results.
Then I typed in "mark ingram's mother," and I can't even make this up, Google asked me if I meant to type in, "mark ingram's father."
There were just 71 results for Ingram's mother.
So Ingram's father got roughly 59 times as much coverage as his mother.
Can you imagine what would have happened if Ingram's mother were also in prison? ESPN would have set a record for slow camera shots accompanied by maudlin music.
Seriously, though, can national news editors do a simple Google search like this in the future to find out if a story angle is overplayed?
5. Focus on national writers when it comes to doling out the Heisman ballots.
College football is a national sport now. There was a time when regional voters were necessary because people in other parts of the nation may not have been familiar with the best players in the country or had the opportunity to watch them play on television.
That's no longer the case.
People all over the country are exposed to the best players now.
So why do we need a regional voting system?
Because the way the Heisman is structured favors the parochial over the national. That needs to be revamped now.
6. Ingram owes his win to the timing of the SEC Championship game because it allowed him to make a closing argument.
In fact, I'll toss out this thesis: If Gerhart and Stanford played Notre Dame the last week of the season, on the same day as the SEC Championship game, Gerhart wins the Heisman instead of Ingram.
Isn't this an indictment of Heisman voters? That when games are played can have such a huge outcome on the result?
It's a year-long award, yet the final game of the season counts for about 50 percent of the overall vote tally. And some players don't even get a chance to play the final week of the season. Hell, Big Ten players almost don't get a chance to play the final month of the season.
Anyway, keep this in mind, the Heisman now favors the SEC, Big 12, and, to a lesser extent since no one watches, the ACC teams because they play on the final week of the season in championship games.
Granted some Pac-10 and Big East teams play regular season finales, but often those games usually don't matter in the grand scheme of things.
More viewers in the final week = more likely Heisman.
7. Publicize all ballots and make a searchable database of writers' selections over the years.
This would open up all votes to public ridicule, public commendation, and public analysis.
It would keep voters on their toes, and alert us all to biases. More importantly, it would make voters consider their own biases.
The Heisman should include this on their Web site along with a complete list of all voters.
You should be able to click on any voter's name and see who he has picked for as long as he's had voting rights. If you aren't willing to publicize your ballot, that's fine, but you shouldn't get a ballot either. .
8. What was up with Tony Dorsett checking his text messages during Ingram's acceptance speech?
Every year the old Heisman winners do something to upstage the current winners. I'm starting to think that the past Heisman winners should be lined up on a different stage so they don't distract from the actual ceremony.
By the way, does anyone else think Eric Crouch gets stopped by Heisman security every year?
9. Don't accept ballots until the season is over.
Ten percent of all voters sent in their votes before the season was complete.
Each of these voters should have his or her voting rights rescinded on the spot.
10. Be careful asking receptionists at weddings where the nearest television is so you can steal away and watch sporting events.
I was at a wedding in Michigan Saturday. At about 8:40PM, as I knew the actual announcement was nearing, I ducked out of the reception, asked a woman sitting at the reception desk where the nearest television was, and then skedaddled down the hall to watch live.
Fifteen minutes later, after Ingram was announced as the winner, but before the voting tallies had been released, my wife taps me on the shoulder.
"I asked the receptionist if a guy with a beard asked her where the nearest television was," my wife said.
Lesson: Wives are cunning.
11. Cut all writers who cover individual sports teams for pay sites from the Heisman voting list.
If the perception of bias is enough to regulate all of our campaign finance laws, how do we allow writers who make money directly from fans for writing about a specific team to vote for the Heisman? I'd eliminate all site-specific Rivals and Scout writers from Heisman voting.
I mean, the guy who writes for a site called FightinGators.net has a vote. So does the guy who writes for Huskers Illustrated.
Who do you think those guys voted for this year?
I'm not denigrating the work they do, but I am saying that they shouldn't have a vote in the Heisman. If any single player that is on their team is in the race, they're voting for him.
If they didn't they'd face a revolt from their paying subscribers.
In the meantime, the flawed Heisman selection process should face a revolt from any college football fan who cares about how the nation's best player is selected.
The Heisman is a broken system seriously in need of repair.
Clay Travis is the author of three books. His latest, "On Rocky Top: A Front Row Seat to The End of an Era" chronicles the 2008 Tennessee football season and is on sale now and makes a easily wrap-able Christmas gift.