The on-field reasons abound. Auburn was 8-5 a year ago without him. With him this season, the Tigers are 13-0, SEC champions and set to play Oregon for the Bowl Championship Series title.
He’s the first player in SEC history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in the same season. He has thrown, run and caught a total of 49 touchdowns.
The Auburn quarterback is by far the best player in college football this season, and even the handful of Heisman voters who have publicized their unwillingness to vote for him acknowledge that.
Cameron Newton will win the Heisman Trophy Saturday night in New York. Stiffarmtrophy.com projects from polling of voters that he will receive 86 percent of all possible points, the third-highest total in history.
So, it’s looking like a landslide and that those who believe that Newton deserves the Heisman Trophy make up the overwhelming majority of Heisman voters.
But six voters have publicized that Newton is not on their ballots. In breaking Heisman Trust policy by discussing their votes publicly before the winner is announced, they cite the Heisman Trust policy.
They say that Newton doesn’t deserve the Heisman because of an NCAA probe into his recruitment. They also raise the well-publicized laptop incident and allegations of academic impropriety, all dating back to his time at Florida.
Those six voters --- The Sporting News listed Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi, Philadelphia-based writer Michael Bradley, Gene Frenette of the Florida Times Union, David Whitley of AOL FanHouse, Kyle Tucker of the Virginian-Pilot and Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph --- have a right to their votes and opinions.
Those of us who disagree can cite myriad on-field reasons, but the argument surrounds off-field issues. Let’s tackle that part of his story.
The Heisman Trust outlines eligibility for its coveted trophy on Heisman.com.
“The recipient of the award MUST be a bona fide student of an accredited college or university including the United States Academies,” it says. “The recipients must be in compliance with the bylaws defining an NCAA student athlete.”
Newton is a student at Auburn.
As for his compliance with NCAA by-laws, the NCAA weighed in five days before the Heisman voting deadline. The governing body of college sports said Newton is in compliance, even if his father is not.
The NCAA found this past week that Newton’s father was involved in pay-for-play discussions with interests representing Mississippi State, the other finalist in Newton‘s recruitment. Based on that NCAA finding, a violation of amateurism rules occurred.
Auburn followed protocol and ruled Newton ineligible then appealed for his reinstatement. The NCAA reinstated Newton the next day, citing a lack of evidence “at this time” to show that Newton and Auburn officials knew of his father’s activities.
The probe is on-going, but the NCAA also said it has no evidence to show that Newton or his father ever received improper benefits from anyone.
The NCAA essentially said Newton is in compliance and differentiates between him and his father.
It’s an acknowledgement of a loophole in NCAA bylaws, one NCAA heads have pledged to plug. But no less than NCAA president Mark Emmert has staunchly defended Newton’s reinstatement, based on current information and existing bylaws.
So, based on the best information voters had by Monday’s 4 p.m. voting deadline, Newton is eligible to win the Heisman.
The trust also describes its mission to recognize “the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”
That’s the “integrity clause” cited by a handful of voters, and there’s a problem with that logic. Nothing anyone has cited happened during the 2010 season.
Not Newton’s buying a stolen laptop and throwing it out a window when confronted by police at Florida.
Not allegations of academic misdeeds while he was at Florida.
Not even discussions the NCAA says Newton’s father had with Mississippi State interests more than a year ago.
The Heisman is given annually and represents a season. By Monday’s voting deadline, there was not so much as an allegation that Newton has shown questionable integrity this season or even since he signed with Auburn.
To cite the integrity clause in Newton‘s case, one must make logic leaps or assume that the 21-year-old Newton we’ve seen lead Auburn through the relevant season learned nothing from youthful mistakes.
Hmmm. Ex-Heisman winners are voters. One wonders they would think about citing the integrity clause in Newton’s case.
We’ll soon learn whether they cast stones or votes.
The Heisman Trust also says, “Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance.”
Newton has shown plenty of those qualities. He’s played arguably his best games even as public scrutiny over his past dominated off-field talk for weeks.
He deserves to win the Heisman Trophy.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Jomedstar.