What I wrote on the site, I never would have envisioned coming from my brain just a few years ago. But times have changed and my outlooks on education and college athletics have been wildly recast.
Here's my take on why Cam Newton being awarded the Heisman Trophy would be both a sham and a shame.
Climbing gingerly onto the soapbox…
A few might be surprised at what I’m going to say and the fact I am saying it publicly. When I was a sports reporter, I would have looked at this from that perspective and said, “Newton, hands down.” Innocent until proven guilty, etc. would have served as my argument’s rationale. I was always a football fan first, critic second.
But this Heisman race has me more disenchanted with college athletics than at any other time in my life as a fan or follower.
When I look at that Heisman Trust Mission statement, I see the words integrity and diligence. Cam Newton is far and away the most valuable athlete in college football, no doubt. But, his integrity is easily called into question.
This isn’t about the alleged sins of the father. The NCAA believes Cam had no knowledge of his father’s actions, so be it. However, while at Florida, we know Newton was no Boy Scout.
Though the information was leaked illegally through UF, it’s well documented that he violated the university’s honor code by attaching his name to someone else’s work. When he was caught and given a chance to re-do the project, he didn’t even try…he bought it off the Net, according to multiple reports. There’s also the additional problem with his possession of a stolen computer. The stories revolving around those police reports are incredible.
He made mistakes; we all do. But the non-privileged majority of college students have to answer for those mistakes. Cam Newton did not. He was supposed to meet with UF’s Student Conduct Committee, but he bailed and went to Blinn College.
There is no integrity in cheating on a test, buying a paper online and ditching your comeuppance. None.
LaMichael James was suspended for a game for an altercation with his former girlfriend. He served his sentence with electronic surveillance and went through the system. No plagiarism or fabrication. James stood in court and handled it the right way. He’s clear in my eyes.
But, as for Newton, as talented as he may be, the adversity he has overcome has been solely due to his poor choices. His father never would have attempted (ALLEGEDLY) to get cash from Mississippi State if Cam followed the rules and actually tried to be a legitimate student-athlete at Florida. The overwhelming criticism that has been heaped on Auburn’s football program and the Newton family has its origin in his individual decision making.
The Pandora’s box of media speculation around Newton has led to a backlash and wave of support for him. He went from hero to villain to bystander and back to hero. Undoubtedly, he’ll ride that wave of momentum to the Heisman.
But he shouldn’t have been allowed to.
Clearly integrity really doesn’t matter to the Heisman Trust because they are fine with having him as a finalist. They may associate themselves with integrity, but when cash comes calling, they act just as the majority of the NCAA does…they shake the negative thoughts out of their heads, look the other way (preferably toward a camera lens) and take care of business. If the Trust cared about integrity, they would stand up and remove Newton as a finalist. But, sadly, they don’t.
Each voter has earned the right to vote because they worked to get there. And, if Newton is awarded with the Heisman, his athletic talent and indeed his hard work earned that trophy. But, integrity would not have been factored in.
Maybe I’m an old man now, but I would not write Cam Newton’s name on a ballot that I earned through professional merit. A vote I earned by doing my own work would not go to a person, even an amateur student-athlete, who refused to play by the rules and dodged the justice system.
Even if the Heisman Trust no longer stands for the principles in its own statement, I would because I do think we should weigh a person’s integrity and character into such high honors like the Heisman.
Cam Newton has the potential to be the next Matt Ryan. He also has the potential to be the next JaMarcus Russell.
If integrity and honor matter, and I think they do, Cam Newton would not win the Heisman Trophy. However…
On December 11 on ESPN, we’re all going to see, once again, those principles no longer apply to the highest individual achievement in college football.