IF IT'S ANY CONSOLATION FOR BYU's most recent Heisman Trophy winner, there have been others who have been named "Best College Football Player in America," and then lost in their next appearance on the playing field. What Ty Detmer did Saturday night in Honolulu - when he and the BYU Cougars fell to Hawaii 59-28 - was not without precedence.
The most infamous instance was in 1971, when Auburn quarterback Pat Sullivan was named as the Heisman winner on national television on Thanksgiving Day. The announcement was made during halftime of the Georgia-Georgia Tech game and there was great joy at Auburn . . . until two days later, at the Alabama-Auburn game.Alabama won, 31-7.
"It was devastating for us," said Auburn Sports Information Director David Housel, "that was the only year the Heisman ever gave the award that way."
Rudy Riska, a publicist for the Downtown Athletic Club in New York, said Monday, "Except for that one year, the announcement has always been made the first Saturday in December unless Thanksgiving is close to the first. Then it's moved to a week later."
"There have been several times when the winner (of the Heisman Trophy) has lost after he's won the award," said Riska. "But we feel it's based on the effort for the season, not the final game."
IS THIS ANY WAY TO TREAT A WINNER?: Still, the DAC would have to admit that sending a Heisman Trophy winner out on the field just days after the emotionally-draining waiting period is over - or hours, as was the case with Detmer - is a lot like sending a player onto the field with a "Kick Me," sign on his back.
Detmer was a target all night long in Hawaii. As reported in USA Today, Hawaii fans spent the evening chanting "The Rocket should have won it," and one of the Rainbow players, receiver Jeff Sydner, struck a mock Heisman pose for the TV cameras.
JINX, CONT.: The game was just the start of it for the first Rocky Mountain football player to win the Heisman.
Here's what happened after Detmer won the award, was tossed into the hotel swimming pool by his teammates, and went to Aloha Stadium and threw four interceptions in the 59-28 loss:
He and his teammates went to the Honolulu airport for the flight back to Provo and had to sit on the ground an extra 45 minutes. It seems that a piece of the Space Shuttle had jettisoned off and was hurtling toward earth in the airliner's flight plan. A new flight plan had to be run off on the computer.
When the plane arrived in San Diego, a hyrdaulic hose broke upon landing, causing another 45-minute delay.
Finally, the plane got to the Salt Lake airport . . . but BYU's luggage didn't. The team drove to Provo as Delta Airlines put out an APB for the bags, and Detmer gave thanks for one thing: At least they hadn't given him his trophy in Honolulu.
WAIT, THERE'S MORE: And then, after all of the above, Detmer arrived in Provo to learn that the Today Show had cancelled a live Monday morning appearance that had been previously scheduled; and that Good Morning America was also forced to forego an interview with the latest Heisman winner. Developments in Iraq had caused them to change their plans.
"Sports Illustrated said that Ty's penciled in for the cover this week," said BYU Sports Information Director Ralph Zobell. "But they also said he could get bumped by the 49ers-Giants game."
HE WAS NOT ALONE: Detmer can have some consolation that the weekend road was also rough on other athletes from the Beehive State.
Coming home from Michigan Sunday afternoon, following an 81-65 loss Saturday to the University of Michigan, the University of Utah basketball team switched planes in Denver and barely got airborne when the plane was rocked by an explosion.
The pilot came on the intercom to report that the plane had blown one of its engines and would have to return to Denver.
"I've been flying for 18 years," said Utah Sports Information Director Bruce Woodbury, "and it's the first time I saw everybody reading the cards and listing to the stewardesses. We were all practicing the emergency position."
Fortunately, the plane landed without incident and the Utes were transferred to a Continental flight. They arrived in Salt Lake about two hours later . . . but their luggage didn't.
"They asked me how they could identify our luggage," said Woodbury, "and I told them it was easy, it was red-and-white and said `Utah Basketball' on it. The trouble was, the Washington Bullets had also been on the United flight, and they transferred their luggage instead of ours."
The Utes had to be flattered in a way.
They hadn't even won the Heisman Trophy, and they were still being treated as if they had.