5 ways to improve stale, predictable Heisman Trophy ceremony
I take pride in the fact that I vote for the Heisman Trophy. It’s arguably the most recognizable award in all of sports.
That being said, as much as I’m a fan of nostalgia and keeping it old school, the good people at the Heisman Trust have been showcasing an identical ceremony for too many years now. There are more cobwebs to clear away every December.
As seems to be the case more often than not lately, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield ran away from the competition — he won all six of the individual regions — in landslide fashion. He’s also the 15th QB to emerge victorious since 2000. Only three running backs managed to walk off with the bronze in that time.
There has been an inordinate amount of post-Heisman chatter on social media this week, largely stemming from the atrocious ratings that the broadcast got on ESPN. There simply wasn’t enough intrigue for John Q. Public to tune in and watch.
Because I’ve been loosely involved with the proceedings since the 2009 campaign, here are five tweaks that I would like to see, not just for the TV show but the voting process, too.
Expand ballot from three names to five
When voters cast their ballots online, they list just three names: one for first place, one for second and one for third.
Depending on how the voting finally shakes out, there may only be three players invited for the event, like this year. Other years, we’ve seen four or five. But if five are going to be on the ballot, then go ahead and bring five to the event.
Additionally, more emphasis must be placed on getting a first-place vote. Mayfield received 732, almost 10 times that of the second-place finisher, Bryce Love (75), the tailback from Stanford. But since first-, second- and third-place votes have a simplified 3-2-1 weighting system, Mayfield got 2,398 total points to Love’s 1,300 even. That’s less than 2-to-1.
Alter the weighting system to make a first-place vote worth 10 points, then 5 for second, 3 for third, 2 for fourth and 1 for fifth.
Get some other positions involved
Since 1997, when Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson was too out of this world to ignore, only quarterbacks and running backs have captured the Heisman.
With the game slanted so heavily toward offense these days, especially throwing the ball, it’s basically become a QB award. A tailback can still win, but he better shatter records along the way like Alabama’s Derrick Henry (below) in 2015.
We’ve already expanded ballots from three to five, so now let’s restrict voters from having more than two players from the same position. They can’t just list their five top signal callers. That’s why we have the Davey O’Brien and Johnny Unitas awards. Too many wondrous wideouts have been ignored since Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991.
If you want to go a step further, make it mandatory to include at least one defender. Let’s get a nose tackle to the ceremony.
Move balloting up a week, not back
There have been some suggestions to move the Heisman ceremony to after the College Football Playoff has been completed.
Personally, I don’t like that idea. Players on Final Four teams would get two or three extra games to impress voters if you include all the various conference championships, which devalues the regular season. It’s meant to be a regular-season award.
What we should do is have balloting done after the 12-game schedule is complete, before the league title games and ahead of the playoff. These days, voters cast their ballots around the same time that the selection committee announces its four teams, so we’re too busy looking ahead to those matchups to care about the Heisman.
The playoff is the only thing that seems to matter now. If the Heisman wants its own moment, then it must be earlier.
Take the show on the road
For the longest time, the Heisman ceremony took place at the Downtown Athletic Club until it was compromised due to September 11th.
The ceremony is now held at PlayStation Theater in Times Square, which ramps up the cheesiness. Attempting to recreate the look and feel of the old DAC takes away from the charm since they’re trying to turn the new facility into something it’s not.
If the NFL Draft can be relocated — both Chicago and Philadelphia were awesome host cities — then the Heisman can escape from New York, as well. Have it at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. Have it at Red Rocks outside Denver. Have it at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. Let each site put its individual stamp on it.
The announcement too closely resembles winning an essay contest put on by the Daughters of the American Revolution. It’s time to put a new spin on things.
Revoke privileges from lazy voters
I take my responsibilities as a voter very seriously, and the overwhelming majority of my colleagues feel the same way.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case for everybody entrusted with a vote. While I appreciate UCF putting together a historic 12-0 season, the fact that four people put Knights quarterback McKenzie Milton at the top of their ballots is a disgrace.
Granted, regional bias is impossible to eradicate. Since I cover the SEC for a living, I’m not taking in a lot of Pac-12 games. Nevertheless, if a writer who covers San Diego State shamelessly voted for Aztecs running back Rashaad Penny in 2017 after giving Donnel Pumphrey — another SDSU tailback — the nod in 2016, then clearly he’s blinded by his own beat and can’t be objective.
We don’t need more voters. If anything, we need fewer. It’s a privilege, not a right. Treat it as such. If you don’t, be gone.