True Heisman candidates are pretty rare
By By Stan Torgerson / sports columnist
Oct. 21, 2002
Whenever a writer or broadcaster would like to emphasize the ability of a football player he admires, he (or she) will refer to him in their story or on-air comments as a "leading candidate for the Heisman."
At this time of the season it seems there are Heisman candidates hiding behind every goalpost.
Likewise, the nice way to say a kid isn't playing very well is to say "he's probably lost his chance for the Heisman." Rex Grossman of Florida is an example.
The truth is there are not more than six or eight "leading candidates for the Heisman" but no one leader. This is the most wide open Heisman campaign I can remember in the 20 years I have been a voter and the 11 years I've been Mississippi state chairman of the award. It's still too early for someone to have an inside track. There are a lot of games to be played and many Heisman voters equate a player's ability with the team's record as well as the individual's statistics.
Then there's the injury factor. I'm certain many Auburn fans felt Cadillac Williams was a viable candidate for the award and I'm sure he was. But he now has a broken leg and his season is over. The Heisman won't be won by someone who played in just half his team's games.
But let's forgo the candidates for the time being and talk about the process.
The Heisman Memorial Trophy Award is presented each year to the Outstanding College Football Player of the United States by the Downtown Athletic Club of New York City, Inc. The country is divided into six districts. Mississippi is in the South District and its Sectional Representative is Jimmie McDowell, veteran sports writer in the state and currently President of the All-American Football Foundation.
Each district has 145 voters from the media, a total of 870. In addition, each previous Heisman Trophy winner is given a vote, a total of 53 in all. In 1999 for the first time in history the Heisman Committee joined with the American Suzuki Motor Corporation in a special program to allow the public at large to become a part of the balloting process by making one (1) fan vote eligible in the overall tabulation. That means the total number of electors is 924.
The district votes are allocated to states in proportion to their population. Mississippi doesn't get as many as Georgia for example. The state chairman decides on who the voters for his state will be. Our votes in this state are scattered from North to South, from East to West in the interest of fairness. There are representatives of the print media on the Mississippi list. There are representatives from television as well.
Voters are not identified so as to shield the process from hype. The state and regional chairmen are identified in the Heisman's annual report book but no others Under instructions from New York I always decline requests for a list of the Mississippi voters. Schools attempt to find out who they are but in the end they usually send out promotional material to members of the Football Writers Association, guessing they're more likely to be Heisman electors. Many of them are but a large number are not. The state Heisman chairman makes the ultimate choice.
With that relatively small number of voters, the committee is very anxious to get as close to 100% representation as possible. On that basis any elector who did note vote over the past two years is to be replaced. If their ballot was received late last year and the year before they also lose their vote. If the combination of not voting, a late ballot or an improperly filled out ballot over the two year period occurs, they too are scratched. The ballot lists a first, second and third choice. Any ballot which fails to show votes for all three places is not counted. If they vote on time each year, they normally keep their voting privilege the following year.
The ballots will be mailed from New York November 13th. The votes must be received by the committee at a date in early December, usually after the last regular weekend of games.
I have never had a member of the media decline an offer of a Heisman vote. They realize it is both an honor and a responsibility to play a part in selecting the number one individual award in sports, the Heisman Memorial Trophy.
What do the voters get out of their participation? Only a 3×6 bumper sticker with the year and the words "Heisman Trophy Elector" printed on it. And a feeling of a job honestly and well done.