Judging by what sportswriters nationwide are saying, the race for the Heisman Award should end this afternoon in a Ty - or maybe even a tie. Or a Tyrade of controversy.
BYU quarterback Ty Detmer seems to have a slight edge in most sportswriters' minds and in polls of Heisman voters, but Notre Dame's Raghib "Rocket" Ismail is running neck-and-neck.The winner will be announced in a special on CBS beginning at 4:30 MST.
Utahns may be surprised at the reasons that sportswriters nationwide predict a photo finish between Detmer and Ismail, or why many say Detmer doesn't deserve the award. They include:
- A feeling - at least in the Eastern press - that BYU's passing offense and "weak" opponents in the Western Athletic Conference just naturally would make a star out of even the most average quarterback "this side of Venus de Milo," as one writer put it.
- Some argue Detmer shouldn't get the award because other BYU quarterbacks didn't have great professional careers - in their minds, anyway. In other words, whether Detmer wins may hinge partially on the professional stats of former BYU quarterbacks.
- Some argue that always-explosive Ismail is more exciting to watch than Detmer - even if Ismail ranks only ninth in all-purpose-yards and didn't finish among the nation's leaders in his specialties of pass receiving, rushing or kick returning.
- Some look at other omens to predict Ismail - or someone else - may win. Ismail this week won the Walter Camp Award as player of the year - and Detmer finished third. Only four of 23 times has the Camp Award winner not also won the Heisman. Virginia QB Shawn Moore finished second in the Camp Award, beat Detmer on the Kodak All-American team, and shared the QB spot with Detmer on the Football Writers Association of America team.
However, a USA Today poll Friday of about a third of the Heisman voters predicted Detmer would edge Ismail, and would win in all areas of the nation except in Ismail's Midwest.
Detmer also has plenty of defenders nationwide that argue Ismail is only a "part-time" player who wouldn't get much consideration if his team were not on TV every week, and say that Detmer's statistics show he easily deserves the award.
Detmer, Ismail, Moore, Houston quarterback David Klingler and Colorado running back Eric Bieniemy have all been invited to the Downtown Athletic Club for the award announcement. Detmer will be in Honolulu preparing for a game against Hawaii but CBS has arranged a satellite hook-up to have him on its show.
Following are examples of comments from sportswriters and other Heisman voters about why Detmer should or should not win:
THE "ANY BUM WOULD LOOK GREAT AT BYU" THEORY - Dan Daly of the Washington Times writes that Detmer is "sure to be hurt at the polls by the Brigham Young Quarterback Effect. A BYU quarterback has placed in the top 10 in the voting nine times in the last 17 years (it'll be 10 times after today), creating the impression that any passer this side of Venus de Milo can step into LaVell Edwards' offense and become a star.
"That - plus the Cougars' patty-cake WAC schedule - is why no BYU quarterback has ever won the award. Cougar QBs would have more credibility if one of them would proceed to pass the pros silly, but that hasn't happened."
Agreeing is Tony Kornheiser of the Washington Post. He wrote, "Detmer is another in an endless line of BYU quarterbacks whose impressive statistics accrue naturally within the BYU offensive scheme. In that regard, Detmer's 38 touchdown passes are mitigated by his 24 interceptions."
Kornheiser adds, "Also, I wonder - Jim McMahon's and Steve Young's successes nothwithstanding - if the ghost of Marc Wilson will rise up and beat Detmer among voters who can't help but cringe at Wilson's enduringly hollow performances in the NFL."
One writer who tried to debunk the "anyone-at-BYU-looks-good" theory was Ray Parillo of Knight-Ridder Newspapers. "Any argument that Detmer is simply a product of coach Lavell Edwards' imaginative passing offense doesn't wash. From 1986 to 1988, the same offense stalled without a quarterback of Detmer's caliber to run it.
"That Detmer plays in the defense-less Western Athletic Conference shouldn't be held against him, either. He devastated a good Penn State defense for 576 yards in last year's Holiday Bowl and picked Miami apart in September," Parillo wrote.
THE "ISMAIL IS SO EXCITING HE DOESN'T NEED GREAT NUMBERS" THEORY - Daly with the Washington Times explained his vote for Ismail writing, "We've been so numbed the past two years by Andre Ware throwing umpteen TD passes and Barry Sanders rushing for a jillion yards that Ismail's totals (537 yards rushing, 699 receiving, six scores) seem tiny. . ..
"Part of the reason Rocket doesn't get to stretch his legs more is that opponents won't let him. Has there ever been a college player so celebrated for being kicked away from?"
Jay Dunn with The Trentonian (N.J.) said, "I think Ismail can dominate a football game the way a lot of people can dominate a basketball game. Not very many football players can do that."
THE "DETMER SHOULD WIN FOR CONSISTENCY" THEORY - Bob Neal with superstation TBS in Atlanta said, "I think Rocket Ismail is perhaps the best athlete and big-play guy. I feel the Heisman Trophy winner should be an every-snap player. The man who meant the most to his team in an every-play situation was Detmer."
Chris Sager with TBS added, "If you watch an entire Notre Dame football game, there will be four or five plays where the Rocket makes a big impact; and that's what you see on the highlight shows on TV. If you watch BYU, you see that on every play Ty is a factor."
David Pickle with the Houston Chronicle wrote, "I was going to vote for Moore, but he broke his thumb. Detmer has his second sensational year in a row. When it was all considered, . . . he was the most consistent. I'm glad I waited."
Keith Dunnavant with The National said of Detmer, "He is such a phenomenal athlete, he's there on every play."
Parillo with Knight-Ridder wrote, "Detmer played through a midseason hand injury and still had a better year than Andre Ware, the Houston quarterback who won the Heisman last season with numbers that were then considered all but unapproachable.
"As for consistency, Detmer has thrown for 300 or more yards in an NCAA-record 23 straight games."
Gene Collier with the Pittsburgh Press wrote, "If forced to ballot, I'd have to go with Ty Detmer. If Rocket Ismail averages 14 yards every time he touches the ball, Ty averages 15 every time he completes a pass, and he has completed 339 of 'em, and he has thrown for 300 yards 23 games in a row. And if Rocket single-handedly destroyed Miami, Ty did, too, and he had to handle the ball on every play to do it."
THE "ISMAIL WILL WIN (OR LOSE) BECAUSE HE PLAYS FOR NOTRE DAME" THEORIES - Tom Weir with USA Today wrote, "If Ismail wore any uniform but Notre Dame's his television time would have been cut by 90 percent - and his Heisman votes maybe by half.
"A vote for Detmer is a vote against this age in which the tube has taken over our thought process. The Heisman needs to be decided on the field, not in the offices of the executives who make up the network schedules."
1945 Heisman winner Doc Blanchard of Army noted that all the past Heisman winners from Notre Dame - who all have Heisman votes - tend to vote for their school. "They're all taught at Notre Dame that if they don't vote for the Notre Dame guy they won't go to heaven."
Ty, Ty again
BYU quarterbacks in the Heisman Top 10
Year Quarterback Rank Pts. Winner
1989 Ty Detmer 9th 49 Andre Ware
1985 Robbie Bosco 3rd 459 Bo Jackson
1984 Robbie Bosco 3rd 443 Doug Flutie
1983 Steve Young 2nd 1,172 Mike Rozier
1981 Jim McMahon 3rd 706 Marcus Allen
1980 Jim McMahon 5th 189 George Rogers
1979 Marc Wilson 3rd 589 Charles White
1976 Gifford Nielsen 6th 45 Tony Dorsett
1974 Gary Sheide 8th 90 Archie Griffin