The 2010 Heisman
The Cam Coronation
What If The Heisman Voting Was Done After
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Ranking the All-Time Winners
The 25 Greatest Heisman
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Heisman Winners -
Races, Player to Not Win, and More
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And so it shall be written. Saturday night, Auburn University quarterback Cam Newton will be announced as the 75th winner of the 76th Heisman Memorial Trophy, cementing his place among the college football legends.
Outside of the margin of victory, and who’ll finish No. 2, there will be little drama, little excitement, and outside of the Auburn bubble, not enough joy.
To the die-hard, non-Auburn, college football fan, this is the Barry Bonds chase for Hank Aaron’s home run record. It’s nearly impossible to separate the brilliance on the field with the controversy off of it, and while Cam Newton might really be the cleanest of the main players in the drama, this is still his career, his life, and his Heisman, and the more interesting story, unfortunately, is the scandal and not the brilliant season No. 2 just came up with.
At the same time that Newton should be enjoying the dream of dreams, he can only do it by disassociating himself from his father, Cecil, who’s at the center of the pay-for-play solicitation allegations. Forever, the 76th Heisman, and Newton’s season, will have an anchor attached to it. It’s no fun, and it’s probably not quite fair.
Spending his time answering questions about his innocence, Cam should instead be spending this time basking in praise from a college football world that just spent the last three months with jaws dropped over a guy that big and that strong who could be that fast and that good a passer and that good a leader and that good an anything else you’d want in a quarterback. Of course, it’s not happening, even though the focus of the story really isn’t on him. Now, the problem surrounds the NCAA, its inconsistent ruling, and the uproar from the media, fans of schools like USC and North Carolina, and from various conference commissioners and coaches worried about the strange and bizarre precedent set. It’s about the ongoing investigation into Kenny Rogers, whose title and role appears to change by the moment, and it’s about the dad, who isn’t just some shadowy, distant figure in Cam’s life. He was the one who, according to Cam, ended up picking Auburn because, in Cam’s words, it was the best “business decision.”
To the casual college football observer and to the general sports fan, all Cam Newton represents at this point is the sordid side of collegiate athletics and yet another scandal to be played up on all the shows and across the Internet. These things never seem to turn out well, and even the cases that end in innocence for the accused, like the Duke lacrosse fiasco, don’t end up with everyone coming away damaged in some way. That’s why Saturday night isn’t a celebration or the coronation it should be, and has become little more than a thing to watch before the SMU documentary comes on.
For many Heisman voters (of which I am one), the Newton vote represents a crisis of conscience. This isn’t a Reggie Bush situation; it’s worse. There were rumors swirling around the former USC star throughout the latter part of his career, and insiders knew something was up at the time, but it wasn’t until five years after the fact that the 2005 Heisman winner’s sins were fully uncovered and punished. At the time that Bush set a record for the largest percentage of first place votes in the history of the Heisman, the rumors were just rumors. This time, with Newton, we all know what happened, and even if the NCAA used one interpretation of its rule book when it could’ve, and probably should’ve, gone with another, the voters have to follow the rules, even if the NCAA didn’t.
Technically, Newton is eligible to play and has been cleared by the NCAA – for now. Therefore, if he’s eligible, we had to vote for him because there’s no other choice. Even if a voter did have a moral dilemma because of the integrity factor, it was impossible to ignore what happened on the field and there wasn’t a second-place option who deserved to come within 25 miles of the honor. Abstaining from voting in protest is one thing, but giving anyone other than Newton the first place Heisman vote would’ve been wrong on every level. Abstaining makes it about the process; voting for anyone else makes it about the voter.
The other side of the argument is that Newton’s dad and Rogers violated a silly rule that really doesn’t have anything to do with anything of substance. Cam Newton wasn’t accused of taking steroids, he didn’t break any laws (at least at Auburn), he’s not academically ineligible, and didn’t shave points or have anything to do with gambling. He’s accused of having a father and an associate act as an agent, which was enough to get players suspended across the country this year, but in reality, it didn’t have anything to do with what happened when the ball was teed up. None of the outside factors seemed to matter, making what Newton did over his 13 games all the more historic.
Had the story just been about what he did on the field, then Newton is winding up the greatest season by any quarterback in the history of college football, and there’s not even a close second. Statistically, in 2007, Florida legend Tim Tebow matched what Newton is doing, but his Gators weren’t in the national championship chase and didn’t win the SEC title. Newton – along with Tebow and Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick – one of only three players to throw and run for 20 touchdowns in a season, and he won an SEC title and is on the verge of possibly winning a national title. There’s no better one-year résumé for a college quarterback. Ever.
Not only does Newton lead the nation in pass efficiency, but he also led the SEC in rushing. He completed 165-of-246 passes for 2,589 yards and 28 touchdowns with just six interceptions, while running for 1,409 yards and 20 scores. Beyond the stats, he led the Tigers back to from a 24-0 deficit at Alabama … not at Vanderbilt, at Alabama, to win on the biggest stage of the regular season. He ran for 217 yards and two touchdowns against an LSU defense that finished eighth in the nation and allowed more than 217 rushing yards to just one other team, Ole Miss (236 yards). And in the midst of a swirling storm and all the allegations and all the problems, he kept playing better and better as the rock and the unquestioned leader of a team that’s one win away from finally bringing Auburn University an undisputed national championship.
This should be a time of fun. This should be when Newton is talked about like Charlie Ward, the star leader of a 1993 Florida State team that won the national title, and Jim Plunkett, the 1970 winner and Stanford legend who carried a good team to greatness. This should be when his season is compared next to epic campaigns like Barry Sanders’ in 1998, Marcus Allen’s in 1981, and Tony Dorsett’s in 1976. Instead, as long as Cam isn’t lying through his teeth, a couple of greedy adults on one side, and overlawyered bureaucrats on the other (who are in full spin control mode), messed around with a legacy and the discourse of an all-timer of a Heisman campaign.
The on and off-field components here can’t be separated, but as Newton holds up the Heisman and flashes his million-dollar, mega-watt smile, there’s one thing that can’t be taken away, wiped off the books with a key stroke (try to find the 2005 Heisman winner on Heisman.com), or excused with an asterisk, real or perceived.
Cam Newton was the best player in college football in 2010, and it wasn’t even close.