Attention College Football Fans: The Heisman Trophy Isn’t a Race

In the wee, wee hours of Sunday morning, I found myself unfortunately watching Danny Kannell on ESPN. He was joined by Joey Galloway, who I rather enjoy. But Danny Kannell? Not so much.

Somehow, in the wee, wee hours of Sunday morning, Danny Kannell inspired within me a furious sportsrant. Attention college football fans: college athletes are not horses, the Heisman Trophy isn’t a race. Stop treating it like one.

In the wee, wee hours of Sunday morning, Kannell began a hopeless, long-winded, ESPN-ish adjudication about the current state of the Heisman race. His bold conclusion? Neither Lamar Jackson or J.T. Barrett had helped or hurt themselves in action this week. Thrilling.

Sure, completely ignore the fact that Barrett defeated the #8 team in the country on the road, in overtime, primarily thanks to his play. Ignore the fact that Lamar Jackson barely defeated Duke this week. If you ignore both of those plain facts, Kannell is actually correct.

It’s not Kannell’s fault that 24-hour sports media like ESPN ruins the sanctity of an award like the Heisman Trophy. A lot of things are Kannell’s fault, but, to his credit, this isn’t one of them. College football’s dependence on rankings – AP, Coaches Poll, CFP, FPI, etc.  – creates a culture where analysts feel the need to adjudicate everything as far in advance as possible. Should that bother me? Probably not. But it does.

Remember last season, when the college football universe had all but anointed Leonard Fournette a Heisman trophy winner? Yeah, then Alabama happened. Continuously ranking players in respects to the Heisman ceremony defeats the purpose of the award. If Lamar Jackson can’t score six touchdowns in a given game, the talking heads like Kannell will declare it a regression. That’s not realistic.

Not only is it unfair to frontrunners like Jackson, but take a player like Christian McCaffrey for example. In 2015, McCaffrey wasn’t considered to be a pre-season Heisman favorite. After eclipsing 2,500 all-purpose yards, you’d expect McCaffrey to be a strong contender. That trophy, of course, went to Derrick Henry. I certainly don’t mean to take anything away from Henry, but if McCaffrey had been a favorite at the season’s beginning, would Henry have the edge? I think not.

Plus, calling the Heisman Trophy a “race” implies a comparison to, say, a 400-meter dash. That’s simply not the case. Greg Ward Jr. is turning in another impressive season, yet the most difficult part of his schedule has already passed. Jabrill Peppers, however, wishes he could say the same. The playing fields aren’t even at any given time, so the snapshots of a Heisman race at those times intentionally mislead.

Obsessing over day-by-day rankings for the Heisman Trophy pollutes one of organized sports’ greatest honors. Let the players play a full season of football. Then, when it’s all said and done, objectively review all statistics and accomplishments to determine a winner. The only need for weekly rankings is to provide Danny Kannell a paycheck.

From what I gather, he’s doing alright.

NOTE: Although this article documents my dislike for Danny Kannell, let it be known that I unequivocally consider Mark May to be the worst, major television analyst of my lifetime.

Email Cole Hankins at [email protected]or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins.

Photo courtesy – Wikipedia