Archive | Heisman History RSS feed for this section

Looking back at Archie Griffin’s Heisman repeat — and what it means for Jameis Winston

Since we once again have a player looking for that elusive second Heisman, I thought it would be appropriate to take a peek back at the circumstances that created the only two-time winner to date.griffin

Archie Griffin is probably a shade under 5-8, but his shadow looms large over Heisman history.  He won the award in 1974 after rushing for a Big Ten-record 1,620 yards and then returned in 1975 as the favorite to become the first two-time winner.

There weren’t a whole lot of established candidates to challenge Griffin in ’75.  Going in, his main competition was probably senior running back Joe Washington of Oklahoma, who was coming off a 1,321-yard (8.4 ypc) junior season in which he led the Sooners to a share of the national title.   Washington finished third in the 1974 Heisman voting, but he had one major hurdle to face in his quest for the 1975 trophy:  The Sooners were on probation and banned from television.  As we know, big performances on TV are key in the Heisman race.

Of the top 10 Heisman finalists in 1974, only Griffin and Washington returned in 1975.  That paved the way for some up-and-coming names to make a move in the race.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }

Heisman Pic of the Day


Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian reacts after USC upsets the undefeated No. 1 Irish, 20-17, in the Coliseum on Thanksgiving weekend in 1964. Quarterback John Huarte (No. 7 in the background and a native of Southern California) was announced as that season’s Heisman winner four days prior to the dramatic loss.

Comments { 0 }

Heisman Picture of the Day


LIFE Magazine’s edition the week of Nov. 29, 1963 included two cover options — one for recently murdered President John F. Kennedy, the other for Navy quarterback Roger Staubach, who was about to win that year’s Heisman Trophy.

Comments { 0 }

The role of conference realignment in Heisman voting

Last year, Heisman Pundit wrote about how conference realignment gave West Virginia’s Geno Smith a unique advantage in the Heisman race.

While Smith failed to finish in the top 10 of Heisman voting due in large part to a poor showing in a week 8 matchup against fellow Heisman hopeful Colin Klein and Kansas State, one player did end up as the beneficiary of conference realignment in last year’s Heisman voting: Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.

Heisman balloting is divided into 6 geographic regions: Far West, Mid Atlantic, Mid West, North East, South and Southwest. When the BCS was introduced in 1998, the 6 BCS automatic-qualifying conferences were each mostly contained within a single region: the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) was in the Far West, the ACC mostly was in the Mid Atlantic, the Big 10 was mostly in the Mid West, the SEC was mostly in the South and the Big 12 was mostly in the Southwest. The Big East was more spread out across the east coast.


As discussed before, voters have a tendency to vote for players from their region. Looking at voting from 1998 through 2012, with the exception of the North East region, which has had only two finalists in that span, every region on average gives the highest vote totals to players from within that region.

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 10.29.57 AM

Examining a conference breakdown of regional votes over the same period, we see a similar pattern of conference preference by region.

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 10.28.09 AM

Conference realignment has adjusted the relationship between region and conference. More schools are playing in conferences that are concentrated in regions different from where the school is located.  So, in addition to writers and reporters in their school’s region, players now receive more media exposure in their conference’s region.



Texas A&M’s move to the SEC put it in the unique position of being located in Texas, the major media outlet center of the Southwest region, while playing in the SEC, concentrated in the South region.

The Aggies’ conference schedule set up some high profile games played in the South region, namely a marquee match-up with Alabama in Tuscaloosa, which earned Manziel major support in the South region, and nationwide. With no offensive Heisman candidates from the South region and no other candidates from schools in Texas, Manziel was the clear standout candidate in two regions. Manziel went on to receive the highest vote total in every balloting region except the Mid West, where Manti Te’o of Notre Dame (located in the Mid West region) received the highest total. With all of these schools changing conferences, which ones are in the best position to benefit?

Missouri and Texas A&M moving to the SEC, West Virginia moving to the Big 12 and Colorado moving to the Pac-12 provide the most exposure for these schools in a new region. With the structure of the ACC and American Athletic Conference, moves to these conferences does less to help players’ exposure within a region outside of their own. Of course, regardless of realignment, players have to perform well enough to garner Heisman consideration.

Let’s see if anyone steps up to take advantage of the changing landscape.

* * *

The author of this post, Daniel Heard, is a PhD candidate in Statistical Science at Duke University. He has dedicated a significant portion of his research to examining trends in Heisman Trophy voting and developing a model to forecast the voting each year.

You can contact Daniel at

Comments { 0 }

Dennis Dodd’s open letter to the Heisman Trust

Long-time Heisman voter and colleague Dennis Dodd is giving up his Heisman vote due to the trust’s short-sighted policy of punishing voters who reveal their choices before the ceremony.

Dodd wrote a powerful letter to those in charge of the trophy:

To: William Dockery
President, Heisman Trust
17 Battery Place, Suite 1226
New York, NY 10004


I respectfully resign my Heisman vote effective immediately.

This is my way of getting out on my own terms before the Heisman Trustees can throw me out. Monday is the deadline in your organization’s ham-handed attempt (in my opinion) to make secret a process that has been a joyful, celebrated American sports tradition for decades.

As you know, in August voters were notified if they didn’t agree to hide their Heisman ballots, voting privileges would be up for review. A heretofore unenforced “non-disclosure requirement” was mentioned.

Last month about 50 of the 928 voters from 2012 were admonished for revealing their ballots. I was one of them. Your letter arrived with the names “Johnny Manziel,” “Manti Teo” and “Collin Klein” highlighted from my column with a yellow marker like I had cheated in class.

We had until April 8 to atone for our sins — aka promise “in writing” we would hide our ballots from public consumption after the voting deadline (early December). Even then, you stated regional and state representatives “will take your explanation into consideration when determining the 2013 electorate.”

So this is what Heisman double-secret probation feels like. It’s not worth it. Not like this: Bill, it seems that you didn’t send letters to all the “violators.” I know that. I’ve received at least one call from a media member who did the same thing as me — wrote about his ballot for an annual column. So now we have a case of a previously unenforced non-disclosure agreement being applied arbitrarily.

But let’s forget that for a second. Having voted for at least 15 years, I/we at least deserved an explanation for this sudden change of protocol. I contacted all nine Heisman trustees, including you. They are captains of law, finance and industry. Eight did not return my phone messages and/or emails.

Richard Kalikow of Manchester Real Estate and Construction in New York was kind enough to spend a few minutes on the phone. Mr. Kalikow explained that while he remembers the trustees making such a decision he didn’t remember when, or many details.

“We want to keep it [voting] under wraps like the Oscars or another announcement,” Mr. Kalikow said. “We don’t want any announcements going out before the television announcement.”

That raised an important question. Did ESPN pressure the trustees to make this decision? The Heisman show has drawn record ratings lately and would seemingly be unaffected by 50 voters revealing their ballots less than a week before the announcement. I was told by Mr. Kalikow and a Heisman spokesman there was no interference from ESPN.


As for the Oscar analogy, we are talking statuettes and stiff arms, Bill. Two different things. If you mean that careers are sometimes made and lost on who wins an Oscar and a Heisman, then yes, they are the same.

If you mean the voting processes are similar, then no. According to this website, Oscar nominees are decided the same way the Cambridge, Mass. City Council is elected, the same way the Australian Senate and parliament of Ireland are elected.

The same way we elect a president. It’s called a proportional voting system and I have little idea what it means. I do know that when I voted for the Heisman, Deliotte and Touche handled the ballots and that was pretty much good enough for everyone. Now with all the ballots in one big secret pot, we’ll just have to — like the Oscars — take the accountants’ word for it.

It’s called transparency, Bill, and there is precious little of it these days in college athletics. I am resigning my vote because I cannot in good conscience participate in a process where there is more secrecy, not less. You may have noticed, there’s a huge need to keep things on the up and up in college athletics these days. The world has become a very skeptical place because of the implied words from the NCAA: “Trust us.”

There’s something wrong with O.J. Simpson still having a vote (as a former winner) and a bunch of slappy sportswriters in danger of losing theirs. A Heisman vote is not a right. I get that. But someone must still explain to me why, after 70-plus years of not invoking the non-disclosure clause, the Heisman Trust is using it as some sort of threat against loyal voters.

A threat that has become selective and unfair, considering all the voters who “violated” policy were not contacted.

“Then maybe that was an oversight on our part that we didn’t know all the people who revealed their ballots,” Kalikow said. “Everybody should have gotten a letter, probably.”

We both know, Bill, there are Heisman voters who have a hard time telling the difference between a first down and a spatula. Perhaps that’s unfair too, to those of us who care — care enough to make a special trip to the Downtown Athletic Club to survey the damage post-9/11.

This was in 2002 or 2003. The DAC was close to Ground Zero. The resulting devastation eventually reached all the way to Heisman finances. That day I crossed yellow police tape, alone, to enter the lobby of a building that held so much history.

Thankfully, the Heisman recovered to attract new sponsors and post those record TV ratings. A sophomore won the award for the first time, then a freshman. All that with us freely writing and talking about the Heisman. All of it publicizing your award, Bill.

That’s why I do know that secret ballots or not, we’re going to know the Heisman winner in advance nine times out of 10. It’s America. It’s the Heisman. It’s unique. We the people actually love that process.

Hiding things will never change the fact that voters can still anonymously divulge their ballots. I suggest you check out which has predicted the Heisman winner for 11 consecutive years. There was even a way for me to keep my vote. I simply could have agreed to hide it, and write after the deadline, “I have filed my ballot and agreed to keep it secret. But if I were to divulge it, I’d be strongly leaning toward …”

Not worth it for me. Either everything is out in the open or nothing is. Lack of transparency is what has NCAA critics howling. But forget about me. Any Heisman process that doesn’t have’s Tony Barnhart as a part of it, isn’t worth participating in. Mr. CFB has given up his vote too.

So, what’s the point? Heisman speculation is a cottage industry. It’s not going away. Neither are those record ratings on ESPN.

Bill, please don’t do this. The Heisman is about to lose some of its luster. The Reggie Bush debacle was bad enough. This just brings unneeded negative attention to an American tradition that ranks right up there with Chevrolet and apple pie.

Hope to speak to you about this further. You should have my number. I know you have my address.

There’s nothing more that I can add to this eloquent letter. All I can do is co-sign.

Comments { 4 }

Updated Heisman total offense numbers

One of the leading statistical indicators of late for determining the Heisman winner has been total offense — meaning, yards gained running and passing. As I talked about in my story about Super Quarterbacks, the last five Heisman winning quarterbacks have piled up an average of 4,676 yards of total offense in their Heisman-winning seasons (these numbers include the bowls). Not surprisingly, those five winners are each among the top 10 all-time among Heisman seasons for total offense.

If you want to know why Johnny Manziel won the Heisman, look no further than his total offense numbers. And if you want to figure out who’s going to win next season, look for total offense.

Here’s the top 10 total offense totals among Heisman winners in the year they won the trophy:

1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, 2012 — 5,116 yards

2. Ty Detmer, BYU, 1990 — 5,022 yards

3. Robert Griffin III, Baylor, 2011 — 4,992 yards

4. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma, 2008 — 4, 767 yards

5. Andre Ware, Houston , 1989 — 4,661 yards

6. Cameron Newton, Auburn, 2010 — 4,327 yards

7. Tim Tebow, Florida, 2007 — 4,181 yards

8. Chris Weinke, Florida State, 2000 — 4,070 yards

9. Carson Palmer, USC, 2002 — 3,820 yards

10. Jason White, Oklahoma, 2003 — 3,744 yards

Comments { 0 }

Heisman and the bowls: The best and worst performances

When newly-crowned Heisman winner Johnny Manziel takes on Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl on Friday, he won’t be playing just to lead Texas A&M to a big win. He’ll also be playing to prove to the college football world that he really did deserve that trophy.

Bowl games can be treacherous for Heisman winners. After being feted and fawned over on the banquet circuit for half of December, the honoree often loses focus, gains weight or falls out of shape. As a result, more than a few winners have laid eggs in their bowls, leading to talk that a “Heisman curse” exists.

But there have been plenty of great performances to go along with the bad ones. Here’s a look at the 10 best and 10 worst performances by Heisman winners in bowl games. Will Manziel make one of these lists?

The 10 Best Heisman Performances

1. Johnny Rodgers vs. Notre Dame, 1973 Orange Bowl – The versatile Rodgers, who normally played wingback, played I-back against the Irish and capped his illustrious career by scoring four touchdowns and passing for another (a 52-yarder to Frosty Anderson). He finished with 15 carries for 84 yards rushing and caught three passes for 71 yards as the No. 8 Cornhuskers crushed the No. 10 Irish 40-6.

2. Charles White vs. Ohio State, 1980 Rose Bowl – No. 3 USC beat No. 1 Ohio State 17-16 as White overcame the flu to rush for 247 yards on 39 carries. He scored the winning touchdown on a dive over the pile with 1:32 to play to finish off an 83-yard drive in which he rushed for 71 yards on six attempts.

3. Barry Sanders vs. Wyoming, 1988 Holiday Bowl – Oklahoma State crushed Wyoming 62-14 as Sanders rushed for 222 yards and five touchdowns. If the NCAA counted bowl game stats from back then, his single-season numbers would be absurd: 2,850 rushing yards and 44 touchdowns.

4. Matt Leinart vs. Oklahoma, 2005 BCS title game – Leinart turned in a virtuoso performance against the Sooners, throwing for 332 yards and five touchdowns to lead the No. 1 Trojans to a 55-19 win over No. 2 Oklahoma in the BCS title game.

5. Danny Wuerffel vs. Florida State, 1997 Sugar Bowl – A little over a month after getting sacked six times and throwing three picks against the terrific Seminole defense in a 24-21 loss, Wuerffel rebounded to throw for 306 yards and three touchdowns as the Gators walloped FSU 52-20 for their first national championship.

6. Tony Dorsett vs. Georgia, 1977 Sugar Bowl – Dorsett and Pittsburgh closed out a dream undefeated season by beating No. 5 Georgia 27-6. Dorsett rushed for 202 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries as the Panthers won the national title.

7. Terry Baker vs. Villanova, 1962 Liberty Bowl – Baker, one of the original dual-threat quarterbacks, rushed for 137 yards and passed for 123 in Oregon State’s 6-0 win. His 99-yard first-quarter touchdown run remains the longest in bowl history.

8. Ernie Davis vs. Syracuse, 1961 Liberty Bowl – Davis was excellent in leading the Orange to a come-from-behind 15-14 win over Miami. He rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. His touchdown and two-point conversion reception cut the lead to 14-8 and, then he rushed for 24 of the 51 yards on Syracuse’s game-winning drive.

9. Ricky Williams vs. Mississippi State, 1999 Cotton Bowl – Williams rushed for 203 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries to lead the Longhorns to a 38-11 victory over the Bulldogs.

10. Ron Dayne vs. Stanford, 2000 Rose Bowl – Dayne keyed his team’s second straight Rose Bowl win by rushing for 209 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries as the Badgers beat Stanford 17-9.

The 10 Worst Heisman Performances

1. Troy Smith vs. Florida, 2007 BCS title game – Smith set the gold standard for Heisman flops, completing just four of 14 passes for 35 yards and an interception in No. 1 Ohio State’s 41-14 loss to the No. 2 Gators. The visibly overweight Smith also rushed for -29 yards on 10 carries.The 10 Worst Heisman Performances

2. Joe Bellino vs. Missouri, 1961 Orange Bowl – The Navy running back finished with four yards rushing on eight carries in his team’s 21-14 loss to Missouri. The lone bright spot of his day was a nifty 27-yard touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone.

3. Vinny Testaverde vs. Penn State, 1987 Fiesta Bowl – Testaverde went 26-of-50 for 285 yards, but he threw five big interceptions — including three to Pete Giftopolous, as No. 2 Penn State beat No. 1 Miami 14-10.

4. Jason White vs. LSU, 2004 BCS title game – White followed up a rough Big 12 title game by completing just 13 of 37 passes for 102 yards and two interceptions in No. 2 LSU’s 21-14 win over No. 3 Oklahoma.

5. Gino Torretta vs. Alabama, 1993 Sugar Bowl – The No. 1 Hurricanes were overwhelmed by No. 2 Bama 34-13 as Torretta went 24-of-56 for 278 yards and three interceptions.

6. Ty Detmer vs. Texas A&M, 1990 Holiday Bowl – Detmer was roughed up by the Aggie defense. He suffered two separated shoulders while throwing for just 120 yards and an interception on 11-of-23 passing in a 65-14 loss.

7. Chris Weinke vs. Oklahoma, 2001 BCS title game – By now, you can see that the moral of this list is that an immobile quarterback who wins the Heisman is in danger come bowl time. Weinke was 25-of-51 for 274 yards, but he threw two interceptions and lost a fumble as the vaunted Seminoles offense was shut out in No. 1 Oklahoma’s 13-2 victory.

8. Archie Griffin vs. USC, 1975 Rose Bowl – The much-anticipated battle between Griffin and Heisman runner-up Anthony Davis of USC didn’t live up to its billing. Griffin was held to 75 yards on 20 carries, and he lost two fumbles in the 18-17 loss to the Trojans.

9. Marcus Allen vs. Penn State, 1982 Fiesta Bowl – College football’s first 2,000-yard rusher was held to just 85 yards on 30 carries by the Nittany Lions. Allen also lost two fumbles as Penn State beat USC 26-10.

10. Desmond Howard vs. Washington, 1992 Rose Bowl – Howard was an all-purpose dynamo all season, but the Huskies found a way to bottle him up. Howard was limited to just one catch for 35 yards and one rush for 15 yards — though he did add 60 yards on returns. Washington whipped Michigan 34-14 to win a share of the national title.

Comments { 1 }