Cam Newton is the best player in college football.
I just couldn't vote for him to win the Heisman.
This isn't some sort of protest vote. I'm not trying to make a statement about crooked parents or shady boosters or NCAA loopholes or cockamamie explanations or inexplicable exonerations. The reason I left the Auburn quarterback off my Heisman Trophy ballot is much simpler than that.
I'm not sure he's eligible to win the award.
On a night when Newton is sure to make several trips onto the stage at the College Football Awards Show, the trophies he wins tonight will be a precursor to Saturday night's coronation. Oh, I have no doubt that Newton will win the Heisman. He's a cinch, a shoo-in, a sure thing.
And I had every intention of voting for him when I sat down at my computer Monday afternoon to fill out my ballot.
I always like to take one last look at the candidates before voting, but Newton was a for sure No. 1. He not only threw for 28 touchdowns but also ran for 20 more, and he did it playing in the toughest conference in the land.
The only question I needed to answer was who else was going on my ballot. Oregon running back LaMichael James? Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck? Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon? Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore?
After poring over statistics and weighing my options, I finally decided how to vote: 1. Newton, 2. Luck, 3. Blackmon.
I typed in their names and their schools. I checked the spelling. All I needed to do was enter my email address so a confirmation letter could be sent my way, then hit the â€œSubmit My Voteâ€ button.
But I happened to glance at the top of the ballot and the bold words â€œRules Governing the Voteâ€ caught my eye.
I started reading.
â€œIn order that there will be no misunderstanding regarding the eligibility of a candidate, the recipient of the award MUST be a bona fide student of an accredited college or university including the United States Academies. The recipient must be in compliance with the bylaws defining an NCAA Student-Athlete.â€
An alarm went off in my head. Compliance with the bylaws?
According to bylaw 12.3.3., NCAA rules do not allow individuals or entities to represent a prospective student-athlete for compensation to a school for an athletic scholarship.
Those words come directly from an NCAA press release, an edict issued a week ago addressing Newton's eligibility. It went on to say that, â€œAccording to facts of the case agreed upon by Auburn University and the NCAA enforcement staff, the student-athlete's father and an owner of a scouting service worked together to actively market the student-athlete as a part of a pay-for-play scenario in return for Newton's commitment to attend college and play football.â€
To me, that sounds like a violation of the bylaws.
To me, that means Newton isn't in compliance and isn't eligible to win the Heisman.
Yes, I recognize the NCAA has declared Newton eligible, but it has also said that reinstatement often concludes before an investigation is closed.
This thing ain't over, sports fans.
But regardless of what may happen with Newton down the road â€” it may be hard to believe, but I gave no thought to Reggie Bush's vacated Heisman â€” I didn't decide to leave him off my ballot because of future considerations. I left him off because the Heisman rules say that recipients must be in compliance with NCAA bylaws, and in the NCAA's own press release, it said bylaw 12.3.3 had been violated in the Newton case.
I went back to my ballot and started hitting the delete button.
The ballot that I submitted: 1. Luck, 2. Blackmon, 3. Moore.
Newton will win the Heisman without me.
I just had to vote my conscience.