Pitt star James Conner was, as expected, named to the Doak Walker preseason watch list, given to the nation's top running back. Conner was one of the top backs last year and is expected to compete for All-American status, so it's a no-brainer that he made the list.
The far bigger news (well, as much as a preseason watch list can be news, anyway) was that wideout Tyler Boyd was left off of the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the top receiver. That's not a misprint - the fine folks actually left Boyd, regarded as a potential first-team All-American player, off the list entirely.
At first, this seemed like a huge snafu - a complete oversight. But a spokesperson for the award gave a different reason, as provided in the Post-Gazette:
An email from a Biletnikoff Award spokesperson said "player conduct/misconduct is a criterion," which would seem to indicate that the DUI charge Boyd is facing is the reason.
To me, that just seems kind of silly. The off-field troubles aren't expected to hamper Boyd's season much. While his incident was a serious one, we're not talking a violent crime here where he's expected to miss most of the year.
While it's a somewhat admirable stance, the big problem I have with it is this. This is a preseason watch list where we're talking about players that have a good chance to win the award. Boyd, legal troubles not withstanding, certainly has a chance to do just that. If the award committee wants to hold his charges against him and use that as criteria in determining if he should win, I have no issue with that at all. It's fine to take a player's character into consideration, in my opinion. But to use that and essentially say that you don't see him as a candidate to win the award is preposterous.
Then we come to the 'misconduct' factor since that was what was mentioned by the spokesperson. I did a little digging and while misconduct may be an issue, it's not exactly laid out that way in the award criteria on the site. The closest you really come to misconduct is probably this clause:
5. The candidate must display leadership and self-discipline; and he must have a significant, positive impact on his team’s success.
Even if you interpret that to count as issues of misconduct, again, if Boyd was expected (or if even the possibility existed) that he would miss a huge chunk of the season, it would make more sense. But realistically, he probably has just as much chance to win it as if the drinking and driving charges didn't occur.
In the end, none of this really matters. Players find their way to contention for awards when they weren't even being considered for preseason watch lists, so this isn't something that should keep him from winning the award if he has a big year. Boyd will either earn the award through his play on the field or he won't. Still, it was a curious decision worth pointing out nonetheless.
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