When Reggie Bush was voted as the nation’s top collegiate football player in 2005, there was little doubt as to whether or not he deserved the honor.
Sure, there were questions surrounding Pete Carroll’s University of Southern California football program, but nothing had officially been proven that suggested Bush had violated any NCAA rules. And really, why did it matter? With apologies to Vince Young, Bush was clearly the nation’s best collegiate football player for that one season as determined by the Heisman Trophy Trust.
But after an investigation that lasted nearly five years, the Trust decided it no longer wanted Bush to represent the select fraternity of college football history. Bush violated perhaps one of the most crucial qualifications required to receive the award — Integrity. So the committee did the only thing it thought should be done and revoked the honor.
Despite discussions of whether or not the trophy should be redistributed, and in this case given to Young, the 2005 award has been vacated and will forever be vacant. From now into the future, the history for college football’s highest individual honor will read: “…2003, Jason White, QB – Oklahoma; 2004, Matt Leinart, QB – USC; 2005, vacated…”
This year a new controversy has its arms wrapped firmly around the nation’s top player. From academic issues of cheating and later his arrest for the theft of a laptop computer while attending the University of Florida, to a webcam scandal that was or wasn’t a big deal, and the most recent accusations of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton’s father requesting pay in exchange for his son’s talents, Newton has seen controversy follow him every step of the way throughout his college athletic career.
The statements that have surfaced may in fact be true, and Cam Newton might have had nothing to do with his family receiving funds to play for the Auburn Tigers.
But whether or not the most recent dispute is accurate regardless of the degree of Newton’s involvement, the Heisman Trophy is an award said to recognize “the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”
Arguments against Newton’s integrity may have nothing to do with whether or not he has changed personally through his trials and missteps — and the hope is that he has certainly learned from his faults — but rather the character represented by the individual who receives the award.
His prior immaturity and lack of integrity can be blamed on youth, ignorance or a sense of entitlement. And those will likely be the excuses. But Newton’s lack of integrity and respect throughout his collegiate career unfortunately tarnished his public image.
Newton will no doubt go on to make millions and have a successful pro career. His first check as a pro football player will likely make the funds allegedly received by his family seem insignificant. But as for exhibiting his pursuit of excellence with integrity, he has not.
The Heisman Trust Mission Statement clearly reads:
“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. The Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and integrity of this award.”
If the Heisman Trophy Trust is determined to uphold the Mission Statement it represents, the Trust has without question got this one wrong.
Cam Newton was arguably the best college football player in the nation during the 2010 season. That can’t be taken away. But under the eyes of those who wish to uphold the integrity of “The Most Prestigious Award in College Football,” his trophy and the validity of his honor will forever remain in question.