A new idea that I have for the Heisman Trophy
Hear me out.
I know that everyone loves the pageantry and exclusivity of the Heisman Trophy, so this suggestion will probably be met with a laugh from at least some of you. Everything as it relates to the current Heisman ceremony remains the same. We’ll just get an added element to this.
Just hear me out.
What if the Heisman committee took a page out of the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame’s playbook? The most exclusive Hall of Fame in professional sports started a “Golden Era committee” in 2010. Its purpose is essentially for a 16-member selection committee to vote in members who were no longer eligible to be on the ballot who played from 1947-1972.
Here’s what I want in college football — “Decade Heismans.”
In June of every 10th year (2020, 2030, 2040, etc.), we have the active members of the Hall of Fame examine the previous decade of non-Heisman winners and vote for 1 player. The player from that decade with the most votes earns the honor of “Decade Heisman.”
What’s the need for something like this, you ask?
Think about all the players who didn’t win a Heisman, but their résumés were absolutely worthy. There are guys like McFadden (2000s) and Peyton Manning (1990s) who come to mind. McFadden was actually the guy who made me think of this — that’s your cue to listen to our “Debates Down South” podcast that we recorded on his Heisman candidacy — and I’m not even sure if he’d be the clear-cut winner. Vince Young might have something to say about that.
Speaking of Young, you’d also have a way of actually acknowledging what a player does in the postseason. Last I checked, the national championship is pretty important when it comes to the whole “legacy” thing. Isn’t it weird that we never take that into account with the top individual honor of the sport? This way, you could make an argument for someone like Young with the context of what he did vs. USC in 2005.
It’s also a way of judging players based on the competition in their decade instead of the competition in their individual years. I’ve always thought it was a bit unfair that Ingram only had to beat out Toby Gerhart while McFadden was tasked with battling 50-touchdown Tebow. Not all Heisman winners are created equally. There is an element of competition luck to winning the Heisman. The Decade Heisman takes that out of the equation and it still preserves the prestige of the award (it would only have 9 new members if you suddenly voted on every decade the Heisman has been in existence).
Before you hate on this idea, think about this. What if, in June of 2010 when there’s nothing going on in the slowest time of year, we had a 1-hour announcement show to dedicated to who would win the Decade Heisman? Who wouldn’t watch that? If we’re all willing to watch an early-November Playoff rankings show, I’m pretty sure this would fit into every college football fan’s viewing schedule.
The ratings would be off the charts. And yeah, so what if quarantine status has me thinking about spicing things up during a dead time of year.
What would the rules be? Simple.
As I said, at the conclusion of every decade, living Heisman winners would be given a ballot with non-Heisman winners from the previous decade. They get to vote for 1 player. In order to make the ballot, the non-Heisman winners had to have either finished in the top 2 of voting once OR finished in the top 5 twice. It’s based strictly on when the first regular season of the decade starts (fall 2010) until when the final postseason of the decade ends (January 2020). But for cases like Drew Brees, who made the top 5 in both 1999 and 2000, he’d show up on the 2000s Decade Heisman ballot.
It’s based entirely on college performance. Where a player was drafted or what they did in the NFL isn’t part of this. What a player did over the course of their college career — and not necessarily just 1 season — is all taken into account.
Based on those rules, here’s who would make the ballot for the 2010s:
- Andrew Luck, Stanford QB
- Manti Te’o, Notre Dame LB
- A.J. McCarron, Alabama QB
- Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin RB
- Christian McCaffrey, Stanford RB
- Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB
- Bryce Love, Stanford RB
- Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama QB
- Jalen Hurts, Alabama/Oklahoma QB
Imagine getting to watch a ceremony in which we decided a Decade Heisman for that group of guys. It’d be incredible. You’d be able to account for someone like Watson, who ended his career with a national title against what appeared to be an all-time Alabama team. Or some would probably lean with Christian McCaffrey, who many felt was wronged in 2015. What about Andrew Luck? All he did was finish 2nd in consecutive years like McFadden did the previous decade.
Ah, that reminds me. The field for the 2000s Decade Heisman would have plenty of intrigue, too:
- Josh Heupel, Oklahoma QB
- Drew Brees (finished in top 5 in 1999 and 2000)
- Rex Grossman, Florida QB
- Ken Dorsey, Miami (FL) QB
- Brad Banks, Iowa QB
- Larry Fitzgerald, Pitt WR
- Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma RB
- Vince Young, Texas QB
- Brady Quinn, Notre Dame QB
- Darren McFadden, Arkansas RB
- Colt McCoy, Texas QB
- Toby Gerhart, Stanford RB
Who wins that one? I think it’d be a wild 3-horse race between Peterson, Young and McFadden. Would I love to have debates to break down who wins? Of course. Because this would only be voted on once every 10 years, we’d have so much buildup after the decade ended.
Ok, last one. I promise.
Here’s the 1990s ballot:
- Raghib Ismael, Notre Dame WR/KR
- Casey Weldon, Florida State QB
- Marshall Faulk, San Diego State RB
- Heath Shuler, Tennessee QB
- Ki-Jana Carter, Penn State RB
- Tommy Frazier, Nebraska QB
- Troy Davis, Iowa State RB
- Peyton Manning, Tennessee QB
- Michael Bishop, Kansas State QB
- Joe Hamilton, Georgia Tech QB
My guess is that comes down to Manning vs. Frazier in an incredible split decision.
(Just thought of this. In the event of a tie, the voters who didn’t have one of the tied players would vote between those final 2.)
Again, the challenge would be getting voters to totally block out the players that these guys became in the NFL. This isn’t about who was the best player in the pros. It’s about who was the best player in college.
More important, this is about honoring those who probably would have been a Heisman in most years if not for the person who they went up against. This isn’t a participation trophy (someone in the comments will definitely suggest that).
It would be a way for Heisman winners — not the bloated pool of Heisman voters — to make an educated decision on who deserved to join their exclusive fraternity. It wouldn’t have heat-of-the-moment decisions made based on how conference championships go, and it would eliminate whether a player lived up to massive preseason expectations (and probably lost to another who came out of nowhere). Gone would be the Heisman narrative that voters get consumed by. Instead, they’d turn to a decade’s worth of historical evidence to make the case for a player.
Crazy? Brilliant? Idiotic? Genius? You decide.
Either way, thanks for hearing me out.