If this were an ordinary college football season, the Heisman Trophy would be awarded to an extravagantly accomplished player — most likely a quarterback and almost certainly from a Power 5 program — on the evening of Saturday, Dec. 12.
If you were not aware before Tuesday that this will not be a typical season, surely the postponement of college football competition in the Big Ten and Pacific-12 shook you awake. They joined the Mid-American Conference and Mountain West in removing themselves from fall sports and presenting the spring as an option.
So what does the Heisman do if roughly half the players are active in the fall and the rest in the spring?
Would it be awarded to those who compete in the fall? Would it be delayed so that any athlete who competes in the coming academic year has a chance?
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Do they saw the trophy in half, and present the base to one player and the stiff-arm to another?
“Essentially, at this point in time, no decisions have been made,” Tim Henning, associate director at The Heisman Trophy Trust, told Sporting News.
The winner of the 2020 Heisman, whenever it is awarded, would succeed LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and join one of the most prestigious, exclusive clubs in sports. It includes such legends as Cam Newton, Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson, Tony Dorsett and Roger Staubach.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields is the lone returning finalist from 2019. If the award were presented in the fall, he would have no chance. It seems unlikely that he will compete if the Big Ten does pull off a spring season because of the proximity to the 2021 NFL Draft, but he has not indicated his preference. He is considered a first-round prospect even without another strong season for the Buckeyes.
Henning said a decision about any alteration to the presentation of the 2020 award would be made by the Heisman’s nine-member board of trustees, which is chaired by Michael J. Comerford. They conduct monthly meetings to discuss matters pertinent to the award, and it would be possible to call an emergency meeting if warranted.
“The Heisman Trophy presentation is aired on ESPN, so any decision in terms of a TV show would be made in conjunction with ESPN,” Henning told SN. “The board has not made any decision in terms of what Heisman 2020 is going to look like.”
The decisions of the Big Ten, Pac-12, Mountain West and Mid-American all came within the past week. Conference USA was expected to make a determination Wednesday. The SEC, ACC, Big 12, American and Sun Belt all are cautiously moving forward with plans for fall competition, but there still is a chance any or all could abandon them.
“As someone that works I college football,” Henning said, “we all want to see the game played. But at the end of the day, the health and safety of everyone involved is of paramount importance.”
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