Heisman Trophy

Heisman Trophy

The Heisman Memorial Trophy Award (often known simply as the Heisman Trophy or The Heisman), named after the former college football coach John Heisman, is awarded annually by the Downtown Athletic Club of New York City to the most outstanding player in collegiate football. Although it is not the only award honoring the best player in college football (The Walter Camp Award and Maxwell Award are also awarded to the "best player".) it is considered to be the most prestigious. It is awarded in early December before the postseason bowl games begin.

The trophy does not serve as a representation of a collegiate player's chances in professional leagues, but is rather an accolade for his accomplishments in college. However, essentially every Heisman winner goes on to play in the NFL, and most are among the top draft picks. Winning the Heisman Trophy does not guarantee future success at the NFL level. Only eight winners of the Heisman are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, [cite web | url=http://www.profootballhof.com/hof/story.jsp?story_id=1992 |title=Heisman Trophy winners in the HOF | publisher=profootballhof.com | accessdate=2008-02-19] but four winners have also been named Most Valuable Player in a Super Bowl. Some other winners have gone on to stardom in other professionals sports: Bo Jackson (baseball) and Charlie Ward (basketball). No Heisman Trophy winner has won any medal in the Olympic Games.

The trophy itself is modeled after Ed Smith, a leading player in 1934 for the now defunct New York University football team by sculptor Frank Eliscu.cite web | url=http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=3145185 | title=From the legendary to the little-known, Heisman history is never dull | publisher=ESPN | author=John D. Lukacs | date=2007-12-07 | accessdate=2008-02-19] The trophy is made out of cast bronze, is 13.5 inches (34.3 centimeters) tall and weighs 25 pounds (11.3 kilograms).


The prestige in the award stems from a number of factors. Balloting is open for all football players in all divisions of college football, though winners usually represent Division I-A schools. The closest that a player outside of the modern Division I-A came to winning the Heisman is third place. Steve McNair, from Division I-AA Alcorn State, finished third in the voting in 1994. Gordie Lockbaum, from Division I-AA Holy Cross, finished third in the voting in 1987. Archie Griffin of Ohio State is the only player to receive the award twice, winning it as a junior in 1974 and a senior in 1975. [cite web | url=http://www.Heisman.com/winners/a-griffin74.html | title=1974 & 1975 - 40th & 41st Awards | publisher=Heisman.com | accessdate=2008-02-19] The only colleges with two different players winning the Heisman Trophy in consecutive years are Yale University, West Point (Army) (1945–46), and the University of Southern California (USC). Three different players from USC won the trophy in just four years (2002-05). Only two high schools have produced multiple Heisman trophy winners: Mater Dei High School (1964 and 2004) and Woodrow Wilson High School (1938 and 1987).Fact|date=September 2008

Of all the schools where Heisman coached, the only one to produce a trophy winner is Auburn University, with Pat Sullivan in 1971 and Bo Jackson in 1985. The player who received the most votes and won by the widest margin was O.J. Simpson of the University of Southern California in 1968. In addition to vast personal statistics, team achievements play a heavy role in the voting—a typical Heisman winner represents a team that had an outstanding season and was most likely was in contention for the national championship or a major conference championship at some point in that season.

Although the University of Chicago abandoned football for a long time, and is now a Division III school, and Yale and Princeton are now Division I FCS, all three schools were considered major football programs at the time their players won the award. For a long time, West Point (Army) and Annapolis (Navy) have not been considered major football schools. However, West Point had an advantage in the years 1942–46 because so many college football players (and male college students in general) had left to go into military and naval service during World War II. So, besides having excellent teams then, West Point players won the Heisman Trophies in 1945–46. However, Annapolis didn't win any. The Air Force Academy didn't exist at the time, graduating its first class in 1959.


The fifty states of the U.S. are split into six regions, and six regional representatives are selected to appoint voters in their states (the regions include the Far West, the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, South, and Southwest). Each region has 145 media votes, for a total of 870 votes. In addition, all previous Heisman winners may vote, and one final vote is counted through public balloting. The Heisman ballots contain a 3-2-1 point system, in which each ballot ranks the voter's top three players and awards them three points for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place vote, and one point for a third-place vote. The points are tabulated, and the player with the highest total of points across all ballots wins the Heisman Trophy.


Further prestige is granted by experience: no freshman and few underclassmen have ever won the award. Tim Tebow (2007) is the only sophomore to win it, [Cite web | url=http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=3146714 | title=Florida QB Tebow is first underclassman to win Heisman | publisher=ESPN | date=2007-12-07 | accessdate=2008-02-19 | author=Associated Press] and only a few juniors have been awarded the trophy; the rest have been seniors. Before Tebow became the first sophomore to win the award, several came close. Angelo Bertelli, Glenn Davis, Doc Blanchard, Doak Walker, and Herschel Walker all finished in the top three of the Heisman voting as freshmen or sophomores before later winning the award. Clint Castleberry, Marshall Faulk, Michael Vick, Rex Grossman, Larry Fitzgerald, and Adrian Peterson also received top-three placement as freshmen or sophomores, but never won the Heisman. In 2006, Darren McFadden came in second to Troy Smith as a sophomore, and he is the only man to come in second twice. The first junior to win the award was Doc Blanchard for West Point (Army) in 1945.


The Heisman is usually awarded to a running back or a quarterback; very few players have won the trophy playing at a different position. Two offensive ends have won the trophy, including Leon Hart. Also, Desmond Howard and Tim Brown won as a wide receiver and a kick returner, respectively. Charles Woodson is the only primarily defensive player to win the award, doing so as a defensive back and occasional wide receiver for University of Michigan in 1997. No interior lineman on either side of the ball has ever won the award, although the offensive guard Tom Brown of Minnesota and the offensive tackle John Hicks of Ohio State placed second in 1960 and 1973, respectively, and the defensive end Hugh Green of the University of Pittsburgh finished second in 1980. Also, Kurt Burris, a center for the Oklahoma Sooners football team, was also a runner-up for the award.

Regional bias controversy

A number of critics have expressed concern about the "unwritten rules" regarding player position and age, as noted above. But over the years, there has been substantial criticism that the Heisman balloting process has ignored West Coast players. From 1981 (Marcus Allen) to 2002 (Carson Palmer), not a single Pacific-10 Conference or other West Coast player won the Heisman Trophy, although two from the close neighbor Rocky Mountains did, Brigham Young University's Ty Detmer in 1990, and the University of Colorado's Rashaan Salaam in 1994. Of course, three Southern California (USC) players have won the trophy in the early years of the 21st century and two won it subsequent to Palmer, but no non-USC player from the West Coast has won since Stanford's Jim Plunkett in 1970.

The "West Coast bias" discussion usually centers on the idea that East Coast voters see few West Coast games, because of television coverage contracts, time zone differences, or cultural interest. At Heisman-projection website StiffArmTrophy.com, commentator Kari Chisholm notes that the Heisman balloting process itself is inherently biased: [cite web|url=http://www.stiffarmtrophy.com/2003/10/west_coast_bias.html|title=West Coast Bias|publisher=StiffArmTrophy|accessdate=2007-11-20]

For Heisman voting purposes, the nation is divided into six regions—each of which get 145 votes. Put another way, each region gets exactly 16.66 percent of the votes. (Every living Heisman winner also gets a vote, but that's a good thing we'll set aside for this discussion.)

Unfortunately for the Heisman folks, the regions don't break down nicely into 1/6 of the population each. Instead, three regions (Far West, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic) have more population than that—and three have less (Northeast, South, and Southwest). In fact, the Far West has the greatest population at 21.1% of the country and the Northeast has the least—11.9%.

There has also been controversy about a perceived bias against players who play in the Southeastern Conference by critics who note the relatively small number of winners from that region.Fact|date=September 2008


Because of damage to the Downtown Athletic Club's facilities following 9/11, the award ceremony was moved to the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square. After the DAC declared bankruptcy in 2002, the Yale Club assumed the presenting honors at its facility in 2002 and 2003. The ceremony moved to the Hilton New York for 2004 and, as of 2005, is held at the Nokia Theatre Times Square.

The original Heisman Trophy's new home, the Sports Museum of America, opened May 7, 2008 at 26 Broadway in Lower Manhattan.Fact|date=September 2008 There is an entire gallery with the museum-attraction dedicated to the Trophy, including the making of the Trophy, the history of the DAC, and information on John Heisman and all of the Trophy's winners. There is also a dedicated area celebrating the most recent winner, and the opportunity for visitors to cast their vote for next winner (with the top vote getter receiving 1 official vote on his behalf).


The award was first presented in 1935 by the Downtown Athletic Club (DAC) in Manhattan, New York, a privately owned recreation facility near the site of the former World Trade Center. It was first known simply as the DAC Trophy. The first winner, Jay Berwanger, was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles but declined to sign for them. He never played professional football for any team. In 1936, John Heisman died and the trophy was renamed in his honor. Larry Kelley, the second winner of the award was the first man to win it as the "Heisman Trophy." [cite web
title=Heisman Trophy

The first African American player to win the Heisman was Ernie Davis of Syracuse. Tragically, he too never played a snap in the NFL, as he was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after winning the award, and died in 1963.

In 1966, former Florida player Steve Spurrier relinquished his Heisman trophy to the university president Dr. J. Wayne Reitz so that the award could be shared by Florida students and faculty. The gesture caused Florida's student government to raise funds to purchase a replacement for Spurrier. From that point on, the Downtown Athletic Club has issued two trophies to winners, one to the individual and one to the school.

Several Heisman trophies have been sold over the years. O. J. Simpson's 1968 trophy was sold in February 1999 for $230,000 as part of the settlement of the civil trial in the O. J. Simpson murder case. Yale end Larry Kelley sold his 1936 Heisman in December 1999 for the sum of $328,110 to settle his estate and to provide a bequeathment for his family. Charles White's 1979 trophy first sold for $184,000 and then for nearly $300,000 in December 2006 to help pay back federal income taxes. The current record price for a Heisman belongs to the trophy won by Minnesota halfback Bruce Smith in 1941 at $395,240. Paul Hornung sold his Heisman for $250,000 to endow student scholarships for University of Notre Dame students from his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Eliscu's original plaster cast sold at Sotheby's for $228,000 in December 2005.

Winners and runners-up

: "See: List of Heisman Trophy winners


External links

* [http://www.heisman.com The Heisman Memorial Trophy Award website]
* [http://www.stiffarmtrophy.com StiffArmTrophy.com] (attempts to project the Heisman Trophy winner through "exit polls" of actual Heisman voters)
* [http://www.heismanpundit.com HeismanPundit.com] (commentary and discussion)
* [http://www.sportsmuseum.com New Home of the Heisman - Sports Museum of America]

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