Don't you just miss a good, old-fashioned surprise?
So Auburn's dynamo quarterback, Cam Newton, took home the Heisman Trophy as college football's best player Saturday night, complete with the requisite ESPN buildup and special to fete his greatness.
Not that I watched, mind you -- has there been a more foregone conclusion for the Heisman in recent years? I can't recall any that have been so vehemently proclaimed, almost angrily even, by the Mel Kipers (and Mel Kiper clones, of course) of the broadcast world. This collective howl emanated from ESPN's broadcasting conglomerate of television and radio, from their website and magazine -- ESPN proclaimed Cam Newton the Heisman winner weeks ago, and don't you dare challenge that.
If ESPN's stamp of finality wasn't enough to convince the average football fan, their pre-Heisman Awards show special ... uh, special ... announcing most of college football's other "major" awards should have erased any doubt.
Newton took home the Walter Camp Award as the nation's best football player (as selected by the Walter Camp Foundation), picked up the Davey O'Brien Award (top collegiate quarterback), and added the Maxwell Award (another nation's best player). Think there was much doubt heading into Saturday's Heisman show? Did Stanford's Andrew Luck, Oregon's LaMichael James or Boise State's Kellen Moore bother to write acceptance speeches? I'm surprised they bothered to show up, but I suppose the food was good and hey, a free trip's a free trip.
Speaking of free, that's certainly not a word that came up when Mississippi State was recruiting Cam Newton. OK, free plus $180,000, according to his father's math was enough to make Cam Newton a Bulldog and reunite him with his former offensive coordinator at Florida and new Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen.
This is old news, of course. When the NCAA got wind of this potential scandal bubbling out of Mississippi, the crack investigative team descended on sleepy Starkville to sort out the mess. This was no half-a decade-long probing ala USC, either; the NCAA found a fire in record time (don't know if the NCAA keeps those records, but it should) and kicked dirt on it even quicker.
Cecil Newton, Cam's father, quickly admitted his part in the pay-for-play ploy. Cam denied knowledge of it, the NCAA couldn't find any evidence to refute that, so that's that. Cam Newton was cleared to play right before the SEC title game, remained in the clear for all those awards including that shiny Heisman, and will in all likelihood lead the undefeated Tigers against Oregon in next month's BCS National Championship game in Glendale, Ariz.
Cam Newton could win there, too, as top-ranked Auburn is likely at least a slight favorite to deal the high-powered Ducks their first loss. Then again, he might eventually hand No. 2 Oregon the national championship -- albeit years down the road, if they don't win on the field -- if the NCAA's still-open investigation turns up more evidence of Cam Newton's complicity in the recruiting scandal.
The whole scenario brings to mind the Reggie Bush saga at USC, but this has a potentially worse outcome for college football. Underdog Texas -- mostly Vince Young -- derailed the Trojans' championship dream in the 2006 Rose Bowl in one of the more shocking title game outcomes.
Let's say the Tigers win the title, and the NCAA does later find clear violations on Cam Newton's part, enough to render him ineligible. Never mind Bush's Heisman handback; Auburn could be looking at forfeiting the national championship.
All this is speculation, of course; Cam Newton is clear to play, nothing has been proven, etc., etc. The Heisman voters overwhelmingly determined that it was unfair to penalize Auburn's superstar for something his father did (a blatant, clear-cut, without-a-doubt NCAA violation if ever there was one) and made him a landslide winner as Cam Newton more than doubled Luck's runner-up point total. That, despite 105 Heisman voters leaving Newton entirely off their ballots.
Did those 105 know something the rest of the Heisman voters did not? Do they really believe Kellen Moore had a better season than Cam Newton. No, and probably no again.
The NCAA won't say so, but an Oregon would be a much safer, satisfying outcome. Rest assured, though -- Oregon will have a few extra fans come late January -- 105, at least.
Make that 106 -- go Ducks.