By MIKE DAROZA
Thanks to recent investigative news reports – breaking by the minute these days – Auburn’s Cam Newton and his alleged transgressions have summoned a cloud of potential controversy over the 2010 Heisman Trophy race.
If you only take into account what we know for sure, and that is only what has taken place on the football field, Newton’s performance thus far has made the campaign for the coveted stiff-armed hardware not much of a race at all.
|So far this season, Auburn's Cam Newton has risen above the competition. It remains to be seen if he can stay above his past.|
In his record-setting first year as a starting quarterback in major college, Newton has passed for 1,890 yards and 19 touchdowns and has rushed for 1,146 yards and 15 touchdowns.
And, oh by the way, he has also guided the Tigers to a 10-0 record and No.2 ranking in the current BCS standings.
But, should on-the-field acts be the only factor considered when selecting a Heisman winner?
Some would vehemently say yes.
|Some think on-the-field performance is the only thing that should matter. However, the Heisman Trust - shown here with 2008 Heisman winner Sam Bradford - and the voters may feel otherwise.|
However, if you look at the Heisman Trust’s very own mission statement, it suggests otherwise.
“The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.”
Just in case you have somehow been trapped under a rock in the last few days, I’ll try to give you a thumbnail of the news surrounding the Heisman-frontrunner recently.
A week ago, it was reported that a sports agent claiming to represent Newton had allegedly contacted Mississippi State University – one of the schools Newton apparently came very close to signing with out of Blinn College before abruptly signing with Auburn – to let them know that another school had offered as much as $200,000 in an effort to get Newton to sign with the unnamed school.
Then on Monday, a story surfaced that Newton was facing expulsion before he left the University of Florida for allegedly cheating (putting his name on another student’s work and/or submitting a paper purchased off the Internet).
|Before transferring from Florida, Newton was arrested in 2007 for possession of a stolen laptop.|
This, it should be noted, is separate from the 2007 incident in Gainesville in which Newton was arrested for possession of a stolen laptop.
Then finally – for now anyway – on Tuesday another story reported separate sources coming forward to say they allegedly either took part in a conversation with Newton’s father, Cecil, about how “it would take more than a scholarship to get” Newton to MSU, or took part in a conversation with Newton about how he “didn’t want to go to Auburn,” but his father forced him to because “the money was too much” to pass up.
|Newton's father, Cecil Newton, is reported to have said it would take more than a scholarship to get his son to sign with Mississippi State.|
The common thread in all of this, of course, is the word “alleged.”
Nothing has been proven, and if my memory serves me accurately, the judicial system goes something like this: Innocent until proven guilty.
And, I believe that.
But I also believe that where there is smoke, there is usually a fire, and with the amount of “smoke” we’re seeing with this story, there is a potential for – especially since a national championship and Heisman Trophy could be on the line – an inferno.
|Does fire accompany all smoke? We will find out one way or another.|
In my mind, the question isn’t whether Newton should win the Heisman; he has earned it 100-percent on the field.
The real question is whether or not we will learn all the facts surrounding Newton’s “alleged” off-the-field accusations before the trophy is handed out on December 11.
My guess, according to how long it took to investigate the Reggie Bush saga (nearly five years), the answer may be no.
The best-case scenario is that Newton claims the trophy and is exonerated from all charges and allegations.
However, the two alternatives are equally tragic as far as I am concerned, for Newton and the legacy of the Heisman Trophy.
The first has Newton winning, but later deemed ineligible for being represented by an agent and/or someone associated with Auburn furnishing monies for him to sign.
|All jokes aside, the Reggie Bush situation has changed how Heisman voters view the candidates.|
The second has Heisman voters – still feeling burned over the recent Bush incident – steering their votes away from Newton and then later it is determined that Newton and Auburn did nothing wrong.
In the latter, I fear that in the future, schools that have a dog in the Heisman fight will no longer stop at six-figure campaigns to help promote their star player for the award. They will now go to equally great lengths in an effort of digging up dirt on the competitors - even if it is only creating smoke with fire-less stories.
To be honest, I wonder if someone isn't already plotting to take advantage of the "what if" scenario just in case Newton does get snubbed.
|Could future Heisman races become cut-throat if potential trouble is effectively used against a candidate?|
What do I mean by that?
If Newton is out, isn't it conceivable that Oregon’s LaMichael James – currently second on most Heisman Trophy projections – could slip in and take the trophy?
James initially was charged with five misdemeanors: one count of strangulation, two counts of fourth-degree assault and two charges of physical harassment.
|This story ran on the west coast before the season, but how many people remember it?|
All charges but the one on physical harassment were dismissed and James agreed to 10 days in jail and 24 months of probation, including a one-game suspension.
Well, if you’re going to banish a guy for wrongdoings he “might” have committed (Newton), wouldn’t it stand to reason that since James has already pleaded guilty to one count of physical harassment in connection with a Feb. 15 domestic-violence incident he would be the next target?
At the moment, James probably suffers from the infamous “east coast bias” when it comes to garnering the perceived extra amount of exposure needed to win a Heisman, but being on the west coast has certainly kept his “transgressions” out of the national Heisman hyperbole.That is, until the third place guy starts fanning the flames, and so on, and so on...
If you had a Heisman vote, what would you do?
Next week, in Heisman Heresy Part 2, I’ll take a look at why I think the Heisman is awarded incorrectly, and how if it was awarded correctly, how it might have affected college football history as we know it.
Pittsburgh at UConn
Both teams have enjoyed a much-needed bye week and should come into the game with fresh legs for the first time snce September. Pitt hasn't fared well on the Thursday night prime time stage, and the game is Rentschler Field, where the Huskies are 4-0 this season. However, the Panthers defense is only yielding 19 points a game and are on a three-game winning streak. Pitt, 24-17.
No.24 Kansas State at No.17 Missouri
After jumping out to a 7-0 start and what seemed - at the time - a huge upset over then-No.1 Oklahoma, Mizzou has dropped its past two in a row. K-State became the latest mediocre team to whip up on Texas last week, and have quietly put together a decent season under Bill Snyder. This is only the second game this season for the Wildcats outside the state of Kansas. K-State, 24-21.
Georgia at No.2 Auburn
Could Auburn be more distracted? The game is at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but the road team in this series has won more than they have lost recently. This is the kind of a game Georgia coach Mark Richt, who minus Jacksonville, has a sterling road record, usually finds a way to win. Then again, some teams seem to have destiny on their side. War Eagle, 45-35.
Penn State at No.9 Ohio State
Joe Paterno got his 400th win last week against Northwestern as Penn State continues to get better each week with new QB Matt McGloin. The Buckeyes have had two weeks to prepare for the Nittany Lions, and are playing in the Horseshoe, where they are 8-0 this year. 401 may have to wait Joe Pa. OSU, 28-14.
No.19 Mississippi State at No.12 Alabama
We should learn a lot about the psyche of this Crimson Tide team now that for the first time this season they know they will not repeat as national champions. The Bulldogs have had a bye week to get ready for Alabama, but will likely need their best offensive performance to stay with the angry Tide. 'Bama, 35-14.
No.23 South Carolina at No.22 Florida
Three weeks ago, these two teams were headed in opposite directions. Three weeks later, they're doing it again, just on opposite ends of the spectrum. After upsetting Alabama, the Gamecocks are 2-2, with the two wins coming against Vandy and Tennessee. Things didn't go well for the last team (Georgia) who's only recent quality wins were over the Vols and Commodores. This one is a one-game playoff for the SEC East title and a ticket to Atlanta. Gators, 31-30 OT.
Last Week: 4-2
Your Saturday "Couch Schedule"
No.24 Kansas State at No.17 Missouri at 12:30 p.m. on FSN
Georgia at No.2 Auburn at 3:30 p.m. on CBS
"Night Remote Control Roulette Games"
No.23 South Carolina at No.22 Florida at 7:15 p.m. on ESPN
No.19 Mississippi State at No.12 Alabama at 7:15 p.m. on ESPN2
No.19 Mississippi State at No.12 Alabama at 7:15 p.m. on ESPN2