A crash course in selection for the Heisman

By By Stan Torgerson / sports columnist
Dec. 8, 2003
Now that we know which two schools will play in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship, the next great mystery is who will win the Heisman Trophy, football's most prestigious individual award. I didn't have a vote in the LSU-Oklahoma-USC controversy. I do have one in the race for the Heisman so we'll stick to that.
The Heisman Trophy Committee is national in scope. It is a project of the New York Downtown Athletic Club and this is the 69th year for "football's greatest individual award."
The Committee has six sectional representatives who recommend the appointment of the various state chairmen in their sections. Each state chairman then appoints the voters in his state.
The six sectional representatives are Jimmie McDowell, Mississippi Sports, South representative who lives in Jackson.
Dave Campbell, Waco Tribune- Herald, Southwest representative, Waco, Texas.
Beano Cook, ESPN, Mid-Atlantic representative, Pittsburgh.
Don Criqui, CBS Sports, Northeast representative, New York.
Pat Haden, NBC Sports, Far West representative, Los Angeles.
Bob Hammel, The Herald Times, Mid West representative, Bloomington, Ind.
Mississippi is in the South section which also includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Tennessee.
To avoid regional bias, each of the six sections has an identical 145 media votes. That's a total of only 870. The amount a particular state is alloted depends on the size of the state and the amount of media outlets within that state. Larger states such as California and Texas will naturally have more votes than smaller states but overall their section has exactly the same number as any other section. No more. No less.
In addition to the 870 media votes nationwide, every former Heisman winner, 51 presently, has a vote as well. In 1999 for the first time in history, the Heisman Committee joined with the American Suzuki Motor Corporation in a special program to allow a member of the public at large to becoming part of the balloting process by making one fan vote eligible in the overall tabulation. This special program continues this year, bringing the total number of voters for the 2003 Heisman to 922.
The actual ballots include a space for electors to designate three individuals for the Heisman Trophy in order of the voter's preference. The first choice of an individual's ballot receives three points in the overall voting tabulation, the second choice receives two and the third choice receives one point. If the voter does not make all three selections his or her ballot is discarded.
The individual with the most points receives the Heisman Memorial Trophy.
The 2003 Heisman ballots were mailed out Nov. 12. The ballots are due in New York on Wednesday. The poll closes at 5 p.m. The winner will be announced Saturday.
As Mississippi state chairman, I make certain the votes are spread around from the Gulf Coast to the northern end of the state, from the western portion to Meridian.
I have received many requests for a list of the Mississippi voters during my 11 years as state chairman but I have never released their names. Obviously, those requesting the voters identity want to hype the voting and influence them to vote for their candidate. That is forbidden and you can understand why.
The voting privilege does not carry over from year to year. If a designated voter fails to get his ballot to New York on time, or if he does not cast the vote at all, he will probably lose his vote the following year.
I've been forced to do that on several occasions. Each year the list is selected anew, but those who have voted in a timely manner the previous year are likely to get their vote again. Also, if they change jobs there is no guarantee they will be placed on the voters list again.
I've never known a voter who did not consider a vote for the Heisman to be anything less than an honor. I've also never known a voter who didn't take that vote very seriously. To be one of only 922 who determine the identity of the finest football player in the country is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.