Cam Newton Has Heisman Trophy, But for How Long?
Now the question is: How long will he keep the award?
Despite his substantial victory -- Newton totaled 1,184 points more than runner-up Andrew Luck of Stanford -- 105 voters omitted Newton from their ballots. Even still, Newton dominated the other three finalists: Luck, Oregon's LaMichael James, and Boise State's Kellen Moore. Newton received 729 first-place votes compared to Luck's next-best 78 first-place votes.
Newton was undoubtedly the best player in college football, but he was also the most controversial. Maybe the single most controversial college football player of all-time. Especially since Newton's pay-for-play allegations come so quickly on the heels of Reggie Bush having his Heisman trophy stripped. Indeed, Bush was noticeably absent from the gallery of past winners that ESPN flashed on the screen immediately before the announcement of the newest Heisman winner.
Early in Saturday's broadcast, ESPN's Chris Fowler publicly addressed Cecil Newton's absence from the ceremony. Asked before the vote by ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit what the most difficult aspect of the controversy surrounding his eligibility was, Newton replied, "Just everything coming back-to-back-to-back." Asked how difficult it was to not have his father at the ceremony, Newton replied, "I'd be lying to you if I didn't say it hurt. It hurts me a lot because this is a once-in-a-lifetime deal."
Announced as the winner, Newton took the stage and embraced former Auburn running back Bo Jackson. Viewers couldn't help but wonder whether Newton will follow the path of the Auburn running back or the USC one, Reggie Bush. Newton took the stage and began by saying, "I'd like to thank my beautiful mother and my father." At this point Newton, suddenly overcome with emotion, paused and several of the past Heisman winners encouraged him to take his time. After a prolonged pause, someone in the crowd yelled out, "Yes, you Cam." Having regathered himself, Newton said a simple, "Thank you." Later he addressed Cecil directly, "And to my father, I love you so much."
But proving that he can't escape the controversy no matter what he says, Newton offered up a soundbite that only served to illuminate the current controversy even more. "My parents do a lot of things behind the scenes that goes unnoticed," he said. If only. Much of what his parents have done has come in for great scrutiny. And greater scrutiny may still be coming.
At the first Heisman Trophy ceremony since Bush was stripped of his title, the ghosts of improper benefits past lingered. No matter who you were, you couldn't help but feel a bit slimy when Newton just took the stage, wonder if we'd just given the Heisman Trophy to a player who was going to be returning it in the next five years. Wonder whether the Bush imbroglio was both past and prologue. Wonder how in the world the nation's best amateur quarterback can be classified as a professional by at least one of the schools in his own conference. Wonder whether the Heisman Trophy's famous stiff arm should actually be an upturned palm demanding money. But most of all we wondered this: How long will Newton's reign as 2010 Heisman Trophy winner last?
The answer will come later.
For one night at least, two clear Heisman paths diverged in the Best Buy Theater. And we still don't know which one Newton took. Will he be there in 25 years, the silver anniversary of his award, to give a hug to the 2035 Heisman winner, or will his trophy be FedExed back, his oil portrait ripped from the wall never to seen again? You can make a strong argument for either direction.
"I'm pinching myself right now because I feel like I'm in a dream right now," Newton said immediately after winning the award. Whether Newton's dream will become the nation's nightmare is the question that will linger for the next several years. In perhaps the most fitting conclusion of all, ESPN ended its Heisman Trophy broadcast with a special documentary, the Pony Excess, about the death penalty being given to SMU for players receiving improper benefits.
On a night when millions of people watched Newton receive a college football award maybe, after all, amateurism is the real illusion. In the meantime, uneasy lies the head that wears the Heisman crown.
Follow Clay Travis on Twitter here. With All That and a Bag of Mail back on a weekly basis, you can e-mail him questions at Clay.Travis@gmail.com.