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December 06, 2001

Give Heisman nod to Weinke
By Dan Patrick

If you have even a passing acquaintance with my opinion of the Heisman Trophy and the hype surrounding it, you know that I am not about to compose a love letter in this space.

Thanks to Chris Weinke's poise and maturity, Florida State is in the hunt for back-to-back titles. But could the same maturity cost him Heisman votes?

Until the definition of the best player in college football is updated, this award will hold no luster for me. They also need to address who votes for the award, but I digress.

Today I want to write a few words in support of Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke. Just because I don't think much of the award anymore doesn't mean I want to see an honest candidacy abused.

There have been whispers in the press that some Heisman voters are not even going to vote for Weinke because he is 28 years old. Here I am, thinking I have seen it all, and now we may be facing age discrimination in a college sports award.

In this day and age when we chastise players for leaving early, here is one who doesn't want to leave. What's the problem? So what if he's older?

Weinke did not play in a semipro football league. He spent a few years playing minor league baseball. And he lost significant time to an injury. So if he wants to go back and get his education, shouldn't we applaud that? Why should it be held against him, especially when there is no provision in the sacred Heisman texts that says his age should be of any concern?

So he's 28? Is there going to be a wave of 28-year-olds who won't graduate? Weinke could be a backup quarterback in the NFL by now. He passed up the money showing rare restraint in this age of money first, sports second.

The other players have nice stories too. I may as well go over them, but please consider this just some innocent college football talk. I would not be caught dead discussing the Heisman trophy.

Josh Heupel: His Oklahoma team is undefeated and ranked No. 1. They came a bit out of nowhere to contend for the national title. May not even be the best player on his own team but has had a good year and plays the right position. His school is also safe for Heisman winners. Has enough tradition and all that fuzzy, hard-to-define crap that makes this award so laughable.

LaDainian Tomlinson: He gained 2,000 yards at TCU. It's a great achievement but it has not guaranteed a Heisman in the past. Oh, yeah. TCU is not cool enough to have a Heisman trophy winner. It's a rule, you know.

Santana Moss: Why doesn't anyone mention Miami's best player? He means as much to his team as any player in the country. He's so smooth at wide receiver, as his namesake's song says.

Damien Anderson: Northwestern, another team having a much-better-than-predicted year, is a great story. Anderson has had a wonderful season, rushing for a single-season school-record 1,914 yards.

Anyway, I think it's a shame Weinke may lose out because some fools think he's too old. Still, it's an award I now detest because it's an award that I used to care about.

I'd care more if they admitted it was intended for 'the best player who plays a skill position on a top five team.'

I'd care more if they admitted it was intended for "the best player who plays a skill position on a top five team." Has no ring to it, but at least it would be accurate.

That way, if the best player in the country is an offensive lineman, we don't have to get up in arms about him not winning the Heisman. We'd know before the season that he had no chance, even more than we know it now.

Maybe we need some rules. You can't win the Rookie of the Year in the NHL if you are over 27. No controversy there.

Maybe Suzuki, the sponsor of the Heisman, could throw its marketing budget around and demand that this age question be addressed in the future. They could even ask the folks over at baseball for some advice. While the Heisman folks are chatting with Bud Selig, they might see that the American League gave its 2000 Rookie of the Year Award to a 32-year-old pitcher named Kazuhiro Sasaki. Even the Heisman guys can take it from there. I think.

So here we are in Florida with another voting controversy. Except this time the age problem may be with a candidate, not some of the voters.

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Dan Patrick and Chris Fowler talk about the anti-age sentiment against Chris Weinke.
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ESPN's Chris Fowler previews the Heisman Trophy candidates.
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