By Steve Eubanks
December 11, 2010
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton won the Heisman Trophy as college football's best player. And, as predicted, it wasn't close.
Newton, the third player from Auburn to win the Heisman, received 729 first-place votes and outpointed runner-up Andrew Luck of Stanford by 1,184 points.
Oregon running back LaMichael James was third, followed by Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, the other finalist.
"Honestly, it's a dream come true for me, something every child has a dream (about) that plays the sport of football, and I'm living testimony that anything is possible," Newton said.
Even Captain Renault from Casablanca would have found it hard to be shocked by this outcome. Everybody knew it. On the field, Newton was the best by miles.
"You had to vote for him; it wasn't close," said Scott Michaux, a Heisman voter from Augusta, Ga. "I filled out my ballot before (the Southeastern Conference championship game) because that game didn't matter. He had it locked before showing up (in Atlanta)."
The let's-get-this-over-with expressions on the faces of Moore, Luck and James said it all. Their role was that of the Washington Generals at a Harlem Globetrotters game: Play it straight and accept your fate with dignity and grace.
The more pained expressions leading up to the announcement came from those who cast Heisman ballots. Unlike any other time in recent memory, this Heisman presented voters with the kind of moral dilemma that once spawned John Milton poems.
The conundrum went like this: If you pulled the lever for Newton, as most did, you risked the prospect that more information on the pay-for-play scandal would come out later. That could lead to the Heisman being rescinded less than 12 months after the Reggie Bush scandal that resulted in his trophy being returned.
On the other side, if you didn't vote for Newton, because, hey, where there's smoke there's fire, you risked being a party to the biggest sporting travesty since the 1972 Olympic basketball finals. Newton was eligible at the time the ballots were due. If he hadn't won and was later cleared completely, the Heisman would lose all credibility.
"I don't know what I would have done if I were still voting," said Furman Bisher, who was the Southeast Sectional representative for the Heisman Trust for 40 years. "Newton is the best college football player I can remember seeing, and when you get to be my age (92) you've pretty much seen them all. But the investigation isn't complete. I just think until the investigation is over, you leave yourself open for all kinds of trouble if you vote for someone with all this information still outstanding. So, I'm glad I don't vote anymore. My guess is I would have abstained."
That was what former Detroit Lions quarterback Gary Danielson suggested.
"If you don't want to vote for (Newton), you shouldn't vote. Leave the ballot blank," Danielson said after Newton's spectacular performance in the SEC championship game.
Some votes probably went the Tim Brando route and voted for Newton "reluctantly," while wishing for more information. It's unclear if reluctant votes counted less than enthusiastic ones, like the vote Bo Jackson cast for Newton "with an exclamation point." But at least the announcer hedged his bets with a furrowed brow and some navel-gazing public angst.
It's as close to "Paradise Regained" as college football will ever get.
What that means is unclear, but Cecil Newton did not attend the Heisman Trophy ceremony Saturday night. In a statement released by his lawyer earlier in the week, he said his presence could "rob Cam and the event of a sacred moment."
Before winning the award, Cam Newton said: "He gave me some words of encouragement before I came here and I know he's with me in spirit."
If crystal balls went out with ballots, Peyton Manning probably would have a Heisman on his mantel and O.J. Simpson probably wouldn't have had one to pawn. But, with apologies to carnival owners, fortune tellers aren't real. Heisman voters go with the information they have on the day they mark their ballots.
FOX analyst and former Tennessee defensive back Charles Davis said: "Here's how I go about deciding who makes it onto my Heisman ballot: I go by, is this person eligible under NCAA rules? Is he eligible under his school's rules? And is he eligible by his conference rules? If so, then he has a chance to be on my ballot.
If anything comes out after that, so be it. We'll deal with it then. But I can't un-ring a bell by voting against a guy with evidence that we don't know is true or not, and later find out it wasn't true and we can't go back and recall the vote."
After all the wailing and moralizing, most voters agreed with Davis and voted for Newton. If something comes out later, the Heisman Trust will deal with it then.
But no matter what, Newton is the best college football player in the country in 2010. Without question. No one comes close. And, for the time being at least, he is also the Heisman Trophy winner.
One of those titles could be taken away from him in the future if new information comes to light. The other is cast in stone forever.