Last week as part of the NCAA 13 promotion, we took a look at a Heisman winner that could have been a good fit at Pitt. This week's theme is pretty much tailor-made for the Panthers.
Biggest Heisman Snub.
Bring up the Heisman around Oakland and even nearly a decade later, it's still a sore subject. Larry Fitzgerald had the greatest season for a wide receiver in Pitt history and one of the best in the entire NCAA. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to land him the prestigious collegiate award as Fitz was snubbed by even local media:
Sorry, Pittsburgh, but the Heisman Trophy voters got it right.
No matter how much you might have wanted Larry Fitzgerald to win -- because he's a terrific player, because he's a better person and, perhaps most of all, because he plays at Pitt -- it would have been an injustice if Oklahoma quarterback Jason White hadn't won last night.
In a nutshell Ron Cook's now infamous article went on to declare that White deserved the award for having a greater impact against better competition. But was he right to vote White as the winner?
In a word - No. Here's why ...Forget about the regional biases tied to the award as local media members tend to vote for their regional candidate. I'm with Cook on the fact that you should vote for the best player. But you can make a pretty easy argument that even beyond all of that, Fitzgerald still should have won the award.
Let's run through some of Cook's reasons for selecting White:
1. White was the most dominant player
Cook's just flat out wrong here.
White put up 3,846 yards passing. No one would dispute that he had a great year statistically. But that was only good for seventh among quarterbacks. And we're not just talking about him falling behind quarterbacks of ridiculous offenses like Boise State and Hawaii. He finished significantly behind North Carolina State's Philip Rivers, Miami of Ohio's Ben Roethlisberger, and Oregon State's Derek Anderson.
No, seriously - Derek. Anderson.
And if we're counting ridiculous offenses, White was 2,000 yards behind the passing leader that season, Texas Tech's B.J. Symons, who racked up nearly 6,000. Some quarterbacks don't even reach that total in a season and that was the margin between White and the top passer. Now, Cook pointed to White's incredible TD/INT ratio, which was 4:1 (40 TDs/10 INTs), but other quarterbacks had similar stats. Most notably, USC's Matt Leinert had an even better ratio with 38 touchdowns and only nine picks.
Larry Fitzgerald, on the other hand, led Division I in both receiving yards and touchdowns with 1,672 yards and 22 scores. In other words, there was no question that Fitz was the nation's best receiver. Hard to say without a doubt that White was the best quarterback. We can go round and round on everything else, but if you're not the best at your position, I have a hard time saying you're the best in the entire sport.
2. White had a greater impact than Fitzgerald
Cook was also sure to point out that White had a 'greater impact' than Fitzgerald. Really? It's true that as the quarterback, White had more control over every play. But then what do you do? Do you simply vote for the best quarterback every season?
Other than Fitzgerald, Pitt had one All American on the team - and it was a punter, Andy Lee. The Sooners, on the other hand, had seven including White. The bottom line is that if you take away White, Oklahoma still probably goes on to a very good season. But if the Panthers are without Fitzgerald, and eight-win team maybe turns into one that has a losing season.
There's absolutely no question that Fitzgerald had a greater impact and value to his team than White did on his.
3. White put up his numbers against better competition
But White put up his numbers against better competition, you guys ...
Well, that's true - but the difference in strength of schedules wasn't as great as you might think. The final strength of schedule ratings are in the Sooners' favor as theirs was 39th to Pitt's ranking of 55th. But the Panthers' schedule wasn't exactly filled with cupcakes, either. The Sooners faced five ranked opponents, including one in the top ten. Pitt, meanwhile, faced two top ten programs in Virginia Tech and Miami, and knocked off the Hokies. The Panthers also played eight-win West Virginia and Virginia teams that year while facing down Notre Dame and Texas A&M squads.
Now, no reasonable person would claim that the Panthers faced a tougher schedule. But Fitzgerald wasn't exactly putting up his numbers against a bunch of scrubs.
Look, this isn't about calling out local media. They report the news and do the heavy lifting while bloggers, for the most part, simply analyze it. Ron Cook's entitled to his opinion and as a Heisman voter, his is more important than mine when it comes to the award. But that doesn't change the fact that he had that one wrong.
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