After only one week of the college football season, I obviously have no idea who will be on my Heisman Trophy ballot in three months, but, unfortunately, I do know who will NOT be on my Heisman Trophy ballot in three months:
In my mind, Manziel, the first freshman to ever win the award, has already disqualified himself from the opportunity to win back-to-back Heismans. Not because of anything he’s done on the field, but because of what everybody pretty much knows he did off of it. Everybody, that is, except the NCAA, which investigated Manziel for about five minutes before determining that there wasn’t enough proof to find the SEC’s sacred cash cow guilty of signing and selling thousands of autographs to known memorabilia dealers for tens of thousands of dollars.
Manziel might well be the best player in college football, but the very first sentence of the Heisman’s mission statement doesn’t say the trophy should go to the best player; it says it is to go to the most outstanding player “whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”
Question: Does anybody really believe Manziel has conducted himself with integrity? If you do, you should give up your Heisman vote or have it taken away for ignoring the award’s stated mission and parameters.
I am not voting for Manziel for the same reason I didn’t vote for Cam Newton a couple of years ago. Newton was a college player who fled the University of Florida amid allegations of academic fraud and after he was found with a stolen laptop computer and threw it out the window when police arrived. He was a player whose recruitment was investigated by the NCAA and the FBI after his father reportedly tried to sell his son’s services to the highest bidder. Newton, of course, won the Heisman in a landslide despite the lack-of-integrity hat trick (legal issues, academic issues, NCAA issues) during his college career.
Amazingly, those of us who left Newton off of our ballots back then became pariahs and were chastised by ESPN personalities such as Mel Kiper Jr. and Paul Finebaum. Kiper actually said those who didn’t vote for Newton should be stripped of their ballots. Finebaum — during a back-and-forth exchange with me on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” — scoffed when I mentioned the Heisman’s “integrity” clause and chortled that the clause meant “nothing.”
Remember when media members used to be the “watchdogs” of college football? Now, they have become the lapdogs.
Sadly, maybe Finebaum and Kiper are right. Maybe integrity does have zero value in today’s billion-dollar college football world.
If this is the case, then Heisman officials need to eliminate the “integrity” clause from the award’s mission statement. Until they do, I’m going to continue to adhere to it. There’s a reason the word “integrity” isn’t included in the last sentence of the mission statement; it’s included in the first sentence. Obviously, Heisman organizers think it’s pretty dad-gum important. Too bad so many Heisman voters choose to ignore it.
And please spare me the argument that Manziel has been cleared to play by the NCAA and therefore voters have a duty to include him on their ballot. That’s nonsense. Just because he’s eligible by NCAA standards doesn’t mean he’s eligible by Heisman standards. The NCAA doesn’t decide who wins the Heisman; an independent panel of voters do. I like to compare it to those who vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Cheaters like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are certainly eligible, but it doesn’t mean you have to vote for them.
The same with Manziel. Just because he’s eligible doesn’t mean voters should vote for him. This isn’t a college kid who took a $100 from a booster so he could take his girlfriend out on the Saturday night after the big game. Manziel allegedly took tens of thousands of dollars in illicit cash. That means he’s no longer an amateur athlete; he’s a professional autograph signer. Any reasonable-thinking Heisman voter can deduce that Manziel didn’t spend hours upon hours signing these high-end memorabilia items for known autograph brokers out of the goodness of his heart.
A vote for Manziel is a vote against what the Heisman Trophy is supposed to represent:
“The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”
If Johnny Manziel wins the award again, the bronze figure on top of the trophy should not have his arm out; he should have his hand out.
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(Mike Bianchi: firstname.lastname@example.org )
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