In Defense of the Heisman

As the writer of a site dedicated to the Heisman, I must on occasion come to the Trophy’s defense.

So, let’s look at some stuff that’s come out lately.

First, there is Matt Hinton (Dr. Saturday), who I think is just flat out wrong on a couple things in this typical Heisman-bashing column:

I see the trophy as an irrelevant political award reduced by marginally informed pundits to a handful of arbitrary criteria that automatically eliminates roughly 90 percent of deserving candidates before the season begins

I think it is extremely uninformed to think that 90 percent of candidates are undeservedly eliminated before the season begins.  If Hinton were making a preseason list of national title-contending teams, I’m sure he would most likely eliminate all but a few ‘deserving’ teams from consideration.  I doubt that he thinks Baylor has a shot at the national title even though right now the Bears are undefeated just like every other squad.  The same idea is applied to looking at the Heisman race–you narrow down the candidates to those most likely to win and you eliminate those who have no shot.

Oh, but the Heisman is a political award.  Whereas the rest of college football is not based on politics, right?  Don’t the polls–made up of impressionable humans–basically determine the national champion?  If the Heisman is an irrelevant political award, then college football is an ‘irrelevant political sport.’

And I had to laugh at this revisionist history regarding last year’s Heisman race:

That race was boring enough without the sense of inevitability that wasn’t yet attached to the Bradford and McCoy campaigns. I hope the Downtown Athletic Club preserved the chair indentations from last year’s ceremony.

Au contraire, last year’s race was one of the most exciting in recent history.  Does Hinton live in a barn?  The identity of the Heisman winner last year was never an inevitability, as Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell, Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy and finally Sam Bradford all took turns as the No. 1 guy.  Harrell was one win away from clinching the award in unlikely fashion, as was McCoy (who by the way was coming off a lackluster sophomore year and was hardly a preseason favorite).

Hinton then goes on to touch all the bases required to qualify as curmudgeonly Heisman critic:  Detmer, Torretta, Jason White, no defensive players, no offensive linemen, blah, blah, blah.  Of course, a real case is never made for anyone else, just a blanket denunciation of some past winners (what’s wrong with Ty Detmer?  That win over Miami didn’t do it for ya?).

Hinton writes:

Seven of the nine winners this decade have been clean-cut white quarterbacks from mega programs, many of them foregone conclusions with halos around their head.

This is just blatantly ignorant.  Carson Palmer, Jason White, Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford were hardly ‘foregone conclusions’ when their Heisman seasons began.  The first two were reclamation projects who redeemed themselves as seniors while the last two were the only sophomores to win the Heisman.    And I’m not sure why race has to be an issue with Hinton.  The two biggest landslide winners in the history of the Heisman came from this decade and were both black (and, incidentally, quite clean cut).  [Question:  Does Hinton consider Bradford ‘white and clean cut?’  Last I checked he had quite the wooly mane and was part Native American.  Maybe he’ll clear that up in his next column.]

No one ever mentions that White was a great college player who led his team to two BCS title games, or that he threw 40 touchdown passes the year he won the Heisman (despite having no knees).  It’s much easier to make him a whipping boy because his team got crushed a week before he won the Heisman.   But if winning is so important, why should Larry Fitzgerald have gotten the nod over White when his team went a measly 8-4?  

Eric Crouch is ripped because he couldn’t pass, but this obviously betrays Hinton’s own bias as he does not rip a passsing quarterback for not being able to run (Crouch was a better passer, for instance, than Danny Wuerffel was a runner). 

Tradition is very important to college football.  The Heisman is definitely a great tradition and a big part of the sport.  It’s sad that some in the younger generation don’t see it that way. 

Of course some just hate the Heisman because players from their teams have a hard time winning it.  I’m sure they’d flip flop and love the Heisman if that wasn’t the case.

Personally, I don’t think you have to love the Heisman, but if you hate it, you should not be allowed to write about college football.

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About Heismanpundit

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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2 Responses to In Defense of the Heisman

  1. Non E Mouse September 2, 2009 at 3:07 pm #

    As a long time reader of Hinton’s (From back in the SMQ days):

    If Hinton were making a preseason list of national title-contending teams, I’m sure he would most likely eliminate all but a few ‘deserving’ teams from consideration.

    Nope. He’ll only refer to it as the Mythical National Championship and start talking about how much better a playoff system would be.

    Au contraire, last year’s race was one of the most exciting in recent history. Does Hinton live in a barn?

    Please re-read what he said. He is saying that THIS year’s presentation will likely be boring, because it’s pretty likely it will be the SAME THREE PEOPLE. He said nothing in that excerpt about LAST YEAR’S being boring.

    His main thrust is that you can be certain the “Heismandments” will be followed, for the most part. Maybe it will be a sophomore. Maybe it will be Tebow or Bradford. But unless Mays or Berry (Or Spikes for that matter) start playing offense too, they’re pretty much eliminated from getting invited to New York, preseason. In fact, if you’re not a running back or quarter back, odds are you’re not even in the discussion. Every once in a while, a WR or a defensive guy gets some love, sure (Larry Fitzgerald, Glenn Dorsey), but it’s hard to claim that the Heisman REALLY represents the “Best College Football Player of the Year” when it almost automatically eliminates most of the positions from consideration automatically…

  2. Heismanpundit September 2, 2009 at 3:16 pm #

    1. So what if it’s a mythical title? He’s not the one who came up with that moniker. It’s part of college football. If he wants a playoff, fine. But to me, that’s not what college football is about. Love it or leave it.

    2. His stament began ‘that race was boring enough…’. How is that him not calling it boring?

    3. It’s actually easy to claim the Heisman represents the most outstanding player. Just because it’s not always definitive in everyone’s mind doesn’t make it a valid award. Are you prepared to claim that most Heisman winners aren’t worthy of it (even if they aren’t the most deserving)? I wager that you aren’t and that Hinton definitely wouldn’t, which makes his criticism sound whiny and lacking foundation.