12/10/10 — LOCAL OPINION: Heisman Choice is Important

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LOCAL OPINION: Heisman Choice is Important

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on December 10, 2010 1:47 PM

Most men, myself included, are born with the innate belief that we can fix anything or come up with a fail-proof solution to any problem.

I'm resigned to the fact the 2010 Heisman Trophy race is not one of those problems to which the solution comes quite as easily.

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is the hands-down winner if the award were based solely on on-field performance. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Newton holds the nation's highest passer rating at 188.16. He's thrown for 2,589 yards and 28 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Newton also rushed for 1,409 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Perhaps more importantly, Newton guided Auburn to a 13-0 regular season, an SEC championship and a date with Oregon in the BCS national championship game.

However, there is an integrity clause on the Heisman's mission statement that reads, "The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity."

Newton's widely-publicized investigation by the NCAA into his father Cecil's supposed pay-for-play during his recruitment by Mississippi State has left a lot of questions unanswered. The probe has put Heisman voters, as well as fans, in a difficult position.

I agree with the point CBS college football analyst Gary Danielson made during Saturday's SEC championship game regarding the NCAA clearing Newton to play against South Carolina. The NCAA can't worry about the future when sanctioning athletes. Declaring Newton ineligible in an attempt to prevent further pay-for-play scandals when the NCAA believes Newton to be innocent would have been in no way productive.

The college football fan in me wants to believe Newton is innocent and that as far-fetched as it sounds, that his father truly did act alone. I want to go against what society teaches and believe that despite what evidence suggests, someone can be innocent until proven guilty. I want to believe that the year Newton spent at Blinn Junior College winning a national championship last season, humbled and changed him. I truly hope he learned from his misdeeds while at the University of Florida that included stealing a laptop and cheating.

But frankly, like most of America, I simply don't know.

Newton's closest competitor in the Heisman race is Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck, an NFL-ready quarterback, passed for 3,051 yards and 28 touchdowns in a pro-style offense. Stanford's lone loss came at Oregon, a game in which Luck threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns.

In almost any other season, Luck would be a sure-fire Heisman winner. He led his team to an 11-1 season, a berth in the Rose Bowl and he's all but guaranteed to be a top-five draft pick next spring.

Most years I would love to have a Heisman vote. Several seasons in recent memory come to mind in which the selection committee in my opinion has awarded the wrong candidate. Nebraska's Eric Crouch over Miami's Ken Dorsey in 2001 and USC's Reggie Bush over Texas' Vince Young in 2005 are just two examples.

This season, however, I'm thankful I don't have a Heisman vote. There are too many questions to be answered about the clear-cut winner and I can't in good conscience vote for a second-place candidate when I know he's not the most deserving player. That would leave me with the difficult but yet, somehow fitting decision to abstain from voting.

It doesn't always require words to make a statement.

Silence can often be quite powerful.