The South and the Heisman Trophy

Check out this story by Darren Everson of the Wall St. Journal on the South and the Heisman Trophy.

The problem with the notion that Southern teams have somehow been ‘screwed’ out of the Heisman is that if you go back, you are unlikely to find more than a couple situations where you could make a case for the Southern player.

Let’s look at the last 20 years as guidance, since this is the era when the SEC has been doing so well.

The only real case to be made is in 1997, when Charles Woodson beat Peyton Manning.  Otherwise, who should’ve won? 

Garrison Hearst?  Maybe, but he wasn’t the best back in that year’s class–Marshall Faulk was.

Jay Barker?  Please.

Rex Grossman?  Perhaps.  But he lost to Eric Crouch because he was a sophomore, not a Southerner.

What no one will talk about is that for most of the last 30 years, the SEC’s Heisman chances have been hampered by conservative, unimaginative, grind-it-out offenses.  Defense may win championships, but offense wins Heismans.  While other leagues were opening it up and putting up fancy passing numbers, the SEC (until recently) was content to run off tackle and play defense.  Players from the SEC may have had NFL-level talent, but they didn’t have the college production that players from other leagues had. 

This explains why Florida State and Miami have had no trouble producing Heisman Trophy winners despite being located in the South, while the SEC as a whole has had just two–both from Florida teams with advanced offenses–since Bo Jackson won in 1985.

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Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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7 Responses to The South and the Heisman Trophy

  1. Jake August 26, 2009 at 8:32 pm #

    Check out for stat comparisons of Jevan Snead, Tebow, McCoy and Bradford and my reasons for why Snead could come out on top.

  2. Roby August 26, 2009 at 8:52 pm #

    I think i could have gone without reading that article. It didn’t really say anything, yet it made Berry come across as a little bitter (the “little Heisman brunch” remark) though I don’t think he actually is. Everyone who has ever heard of the Heisman knows it doesn’t go to defensive players. It just doesn’t. Eric Berry knows this. I am all about Tennessee marketing their guy. It is a show of support and a good investment in the program (recruiting, national publicity, etc.). But they are crazy if they think he is gonna come within a sniff of winning it. And you are exactly right, there is no “Southern bias.” There is just a “boring football bias,” which is what the SEC has been guilty of since forever. If defensive players or lineman were ever truly considered, then the SEC would have as many Heismans as any other conference.

    The funniest thing about the Heisman Trophy is that 80% of sports fans will say it is a “popularity contest” and a “joke of an award” when their team doesn’t win it, then rub it in their rival’s faces when they do win it. People bash it, yet they turn around and lobby for it.

    The only problem I have with the award is that there is no standard for who is supposed to recieve it. Some people vote for the best player on the best team, others vote for the gaudiest statistics. There is no continuity.

    Once and for all, I wish they would release some sort of rubric, statment of intent, or something to unify the vote. Because as it stands, people don’t quite know what they are trying to award.

  3. Roby August 26, 2009 at 8:53 pm #

    Clarification: I was referring to the Wall Street journal article you linked to.

  4. Dawgy August 27, 2009 at 7:59 am #

    For Heisman voting purposes, the nation is divided into six regions—each of which get 145 votes. Put another way, each region gets exactly 16.66 percent of the votes.

    Unfortunately for the Heisman folks, the regions don’t break down nicely into 1/6 of the population each. Instead, three regions (Far West, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic) have more population than that—and three have less (Northeast, South, and Southwest). In fact, the Far West has the greatest population at 21.1% of the country and the Northeast has the least—11.9%.

    The South and the West(Pac 10) have been screwed many times. The West has won 11, the South 12 and, only 5 outside the state of Fla. This out of what, 74 winners? Meanwhile by unofficial count Southern teams have won 27 national championships and the Pac 10 has won 9. That accounts for half the NC’s since 1935. I know the trophy isn’t given to the best team but, try winning it with a losing record….Sorry Paul, you played for Notre Dame.

    The Heisman propaganda machine is the fueled by the media(ESPN) and a university’s PR dept.($$$).

    The Heisman Trophy…….Who Cares?

  5. Zach October 6, 2009 at 11:19 am #

    The Heisman is a popularity contest and a joke of an award. Look at the quarterback statistics for the 2009 season. More specifically, look at Colt McCoys’s stats. Second place in the Heisman race? Give me a break…


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