When the 2019 college football season began, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was not expected to be in the Heisman Trophy conversation, let alone win college football’s highest individual honor. As of Saturday night, it is official—he did win.
Joe Burrow won the Heisman Trophy. But he didn’t just win; Burrow won it in record-setting fashion. With a landslide win, he set new marks for margin of victory (1,846 points), percent of first-place votes (90.7), and was on 95.5 percent of all ballots.
That 4.5 percent must have been hiding under a rock the entire season.
So, he did it. Joe Burrow won the Heisman. But the question many have now is what winning the Heisman will do for him. It’s not as if the trophy is going to enhance his draft status. His game has already made him the No. 1 quarterback in the draft and the likely No. 1 pick.
The rookie wage scale has already decided how much money he will make as the No. 1 pick. Winning the Heisman will have no real impact on that.
So, what does winning it do for the players?
Back before the rookie wage scale was implemented, winning the Heisman could give a player some leverage in contract negotiations. But that tactic can’t be used anymore. Many past winners have auctioned off their trophy for a nice, little financial windfall.
Ricky Williams recently sold his at auction for a record $504,000. Tim Brown had previously held the record when he sold his for $435,763 last December. Clint Frank’s (the 1937 winner) trophy netted $312,000, and Rashaad Salaam’s went for $399,000.
O.J. Simpson’s went for $230,000 after his wrongful-death verdict back in 1999.
But winners can no longer get that nice little cash windfall because The Heisman Trust now has them sign something stating they will not sell the trophy.
It is a relatively new rule, one that was put in place after Ricky Williams won the award back in 1998. Just why the new rule was implemented has not been made public. Rob Whalen, the executive director of the Heisman Trust, has refused to answer questions regarding the prohibition.
Since the Trust doesn’t want to tell us why they will not let winners sell the trophy, we can only guess. But it is not hard to come up with plausible theories. Maybe they want the winners to treat the award with the respect it deserves rather than profit off it.
It’s intended to be something honoring their achievements on the field. It’s something for the player to have, so the Trust implemented the rule to make sure it stays with the player. But in the process, they deny players from doing something meaningful with the trophy.
Paul Hornung sold his to fund a scholarship at Notre Dame. Larry Kelley sold his so he could split the money between his 18 nieces and nephews. Not everyone who has sold their trophy did so for altruistic reasons, but it is their trophy.
If the Trust is worried about the trophy getting the respect it deserves, then they may want to talk to Matt Leinart. His has been in a closet at his parents’ house since he won it. Or maybe Marcus Mariota, who keeps his in a storage locker. Carson Palmer had his in storage until loaning it to sports talk show host Dan Patrick.
When guys do sell the award, it’s going to someone who’s going to display it for the world to see. It is certainly a much better fate than the back of Mom and Dad’s closet.
Last modified: January 22, 2020 11:41 PM UTC