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Heisman Trophy hijinks detract from integrity of game's top award

I honestly thought I'd seen everything in college football.

I saw a dreadlocked behemoth of a bride don a lovely lace wedding gown and tie the knot over the summer. With Mike Ditka. On the cover of a national publication.

I saw a 24-year-old woman single-handedly corrupt the most prestigious program in the game, a school that plays "like a champion" every Saturday right in front of Touchdown Jesus himself.

I saw what happens when an Alabama banker's ego goes unchecked and the deer caught in the headlights of the tycoon's big business operation happens to be named Bowden.

And don't get me started on the bowls - especially that one played on blue Astroturf in mid-December tucked away somewhere in Idaho. Is that a bowl game or a punishment?

Oh, and how dare I forget the epitome of confusion and the dream of Jeff Sagarin, known simply as the Bowl Championship Series. Too bad it's not as simple as it sounds. Just ask Kansas State about that.

But was I ever wrong. My innocent, naive gridiron eyes hadn't seen a darn thing until a couple of weeks ago when I scanned the morning sports section and came across the following headline: "Suzuki to Sponsor Heisman Trophy."

What?

I guess I should have known it was coming the second I heard that the Rose Bowl had a sponsor, or the moment I realized that the Poulan Weed Eater Independence Bowl is played on turf. Or the first time I noticed the Ford Motor City Bowl even existed. Shame on me for knowing that.

Yes, the Downtown Athletic Club, where names like Johnny Rogers, Mike Rozier, Gino Torretta and Desmond Howard reign supreme, has succumbed to the all-encompassing and unavoidable blight known simply as commercialism.

It wasn't that the Heisman Trophy ceremony was all that exhilarating, because frankly, it wasn't. The winner of the award was all but a foregone conclusion, and even if the outcome wasn't as obvious, fans didn't honestly care that much.

Charles Woodson ripping the prize from Peyton Manning's grasp didn't stunt my growth or appear repeatedly in surreal, Fellini-esque dreams. I honestly didn't care, except for the fact that it was football, and it was tradition, and it was great.

But now a group of notoriety-hungry jet skiing, Tonka truckers are spoiling college football's proudest tradition.

I think I'd rather watch the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards.

Forget the fact that every writer west of the Prime Meridian votes for the award, or for that matter, that Burger King used to sponsor a halftime Heisman update on ABC. It was still the Heisman Trophy.

Suzuki agreed to a three-year, $1.5 million pact with the Downtown Athletic Club, compelling some to chastise the DAC for getting ripped off worse than Ricky Williams in contract negotiations. One-and-a-half million dollars or a buck fifty, it's not about the money. Principles are being sacrificed, traditions jettisoned.

Which brings me to Thomas Jones. I badly want TJ, the embodiment of a student athlete, to bring the Heisman home to Charlottesville. I don't want to see him anywhere near John Heisman on jet skis.

After all, with Virginia's dismal parking predicament, where would he park the Suzuki?

The unheralded Jones quickly is earning a reputation as the nation's most underrated player. He deserves better.

To make Jones's name a little more household, why not pool some money together, say ... heck, I don't know ... $1.6 million? Then make it the Thomas Jones Heisman Trophy. Or how about the Heisman Trophy presented by Thomas Jones. It can be Jones's choice. After all, it's his award.

That way he'd forever be linked to college football's most coveted prize.

And for that matter, why not have the leading candidates each choose a company to represent them when they head to New York to vie for the honor of being college football's best player?

"From the University of Wisconsin, proudly presented by Kibbles & Bits, Ron 'Great' Dayne. (Crowd applause brought to you by the Clapper.)"

But seriously, Jones deserves better than this, and so does college football.

Hey, at least we can still count on Notre Dame.

Oops.

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