Bernstein: I’m Still Voting Newton For Heisman
Yes, I have a Heisman ballot.
Go ahead and get your bewilderment out of the way, and make your comments about how little we talk college football on the show. We live in Chicago, goobers. It’s a big city — a professional one.
The name atop my ballot at the moment is that of Auburn Quarterback Cameron Newton.
Newton is in the process of leading his team to a perfect record with both his arm and his feet. He has thrown for 1890 yards and 19 touchdowns. He has run for 1146 yards and 15 TDs. He is the best player in college football.
Numerous reports, however, allege that his recruitment was auctioned between Auburn and Mississippi State. He bounced from Florida to a JuCo due to multiple accusations of academic cheating and an incident involving a stolen computer.
All of it may be true, and none of it means he isn’t the best player in college football this year.
Here’s what the Heisman Trust’s official website says in its mission statement: “The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”
The key word, you see, is “performance.”
It is entirely possible that both his choice of program and academic record are stained by actions that fall outside the criterion of “integrity,” but I am not being asked to vote on that. I am asked to vote on the best performance, and Newton’s is unquestioned.
And we don’t really have to argue semantics. We’re talking major-college sports, where billions of dollars of revenue are at stake and more players than we know have been induced to attend school with big bags of cash, and kept happy with more goodies while there. There are venal coaches running outlaw programs, and there are good coaches who have no idea what wealthy boosters are doing, and don’t want to know.
(Even the venerated UCLA basketball teams of John Wooden – the ones about which paeans have been sung, books written and statues built to honor their collegiate glory – were dirty beyond belief. Look up “Papa Sam” Gilbert.)
I voted for Reggie Bush in 2005. Bush was later found to have been playing professionally, essentially, while at USC. The school has since been penalized and Bush returned his trophy voluntarily.
Do you really want to dig into the all-time list of winners? Do you really want to know everything about every recruitment and college career so we can retroactively determine who gets to keep their award? I’ll answer that – you don’t.
Given the chance, I’d vote for Bush again. I never demanded he return his Heisman. Unless I am directly instructed that a player is ineligible for the ballot, I am voting for the best player that season.
This is not like the issue facing Baseball Hall of Fame voters, who must decide on the validity and integrity of a player’s actual performance when considering the effects of drugs.
How Cam Newton got to Auburn is not material to what he is doing on the field. When I am asked to vote on recruiting practices and conformity to arcane NCAA rules, I’ll be happy to do so.
Newton is eligible for my vote, and he has it.