I am one of the few fathers in American history, based on my experience, who can say I witnessed a sham eight years ago last Saturday.
The 2003 Heisman Trophy was presented that evening to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White — even though Pittsburgh All-American sophomore Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. was the consensus college football player of the year.
He was deprived his place in history because he was a sophomore and not a quarterback. I had a front row seat.
Why was he denied? Because the Heisman Trophy people are biased. The voters, the process and results — many times over they have not gotten it right. Go back and look at past winners.
Cam Newton, All-American quarterback for the 13-0 number-one Auburn University Tigers, won this year. Newton was the consensus 2010 Heisman Trophy winner.
Newton won despite the fact that his name and success was tarnished all year. His greatness and his legacy have been tainted for always with graffiti. His father, the Rev. Newton, a man of God from Atlanta in the Deep South, has been accused of shopping his son for cash — between $180,000 and $200,000 — to Mississippi State after he was transferring from a junior college.
Nobody has proven anything — not yet — no money trail has been found. Some say where there’s smoke, there’s fire. I say, God bless Rev. Newton if he did what he was accused of.
Why? If he did it, it’s not a crime because God will continue to bless him for doing it. Because the money would be used wisely by the church. In this country the separation of church and state forbids the NCAA — the most corrupt organization in sports — from checking the church’s books. Also Uncle Sam has his hands tied at the IRS.
I have watched my entire journalistic career seeing many athletes pimped by universities of higher learning get nothing while helping generate hundreds of billions of dollars for conferences and member schools: the SEC, Big Ten, Pac Ten, Big 12, Big East, ACC, independents — all of the 300 or more Division I schools. Not just in football but basketball, regular season and NCAA tournament.
Many schools athletes and coaches have violations of NCAA rules; they get put on probation — slapped on the wrist — banned for a game, post season play or suspended from bowl games. The hypocrisy of it all. The sheer illusion of amateurism stays on course.
Only a few athletes by comparison — between one and three percent — get the big payday of professional sports or even make it to the pros, and more never even get their educations. But mentally the ones that don’t are trapped the rest of their lives with what could have and ultimately what did happen — what they gave with no return.
Just like Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. was denied the Heisman Trophy in 2003, so was New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning denied it that same year. The winner, Jason White, never played in the NFL and was not drafted.
Manning was asked about the position he was in seven years ago, and who he thought should win this year. “Obviously Cam Newton has had the best season, I think, of any collegiate athlete,” he answered. “I know there is some controversy going around a few things but I think if you’re just looking at performance on the field and who’s had the best season, you have to go with Newton.”
Neither Father Fitzgerald nor the Manning family took a dime from anyone. Several suitors offered thousands to me to represent Larry, Jr. before he decided to go pro for the 2004 NFL Draft. Larry, Jr. did not win the Heisman, and he never accepted money — nor did his dad.
Sophomores had never won the Heisman before, they said. That’ was the excuse then; that all changed a couple of years later. Rev. Newton, I hope you did the right thing and took the cash for your church. You’ve done a remarkable job with your son. He’s the best college player and one of the best quarterbacks I’ve ever seen in college. Your son is being blessed with a National Championship game January 10, soon to come, and then the NFL ahead.
And why is that? Because you may have given the $200,000 to the only person who truly counts and keeps score: Almighty God.
Fitz Notes & Quotes
Congratulations to Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald Jr.: He grabbed nine catches last Sunday for 125 yards in a 19-12 loss at Carolina. Fitzgerald became the fastest and youngest player, at age 27, to reach 600 career receptions. And the second youngest in league history to reach 8,000 career yards. Randy Moss was 26 years old when he did it.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2).
Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.