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Opinion: Cam Newton’s past not enough to negate Heisman worthy season

As Cam Newton’s past continues to be dug up the debate on what it means for this season’s Heisman race wages on. Let us settle this right now. Unless anything comes out that shows that the Auburn Tigers quarterback performed any illegal actions this season, he should be the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy.

Yesterday I referenced the Heisman Trust’s mission statement, which states, “The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.” It goes on to say “Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.” Reports suggest that Newton has done everything from steal a laptop computer from a dorm, commit academic fraud, and discuss a pay-for-play plan with Mississippi State. It should be noted that these infractions happened before Newton ever stepped foot on the campus of Auburn. Should you consider his past when evaluating his Heisman chances this season?

Thayer Evans of FOX Sports recommends that those with a Heisman vote not vote for Newton, but his logic is fundamentally flawed. Evans’ column essentially says that Newton’s path to redemption has been too good to believe and because Auburn has had seven major NCAA infractions in program history and he even goes so far as to say that ” former players receiving high grades in sociology classes that required little work and no attendance.” It is pretty much a blanket statement with no facts to support it. But a player in 2010 should not be punished for the actions of his university 20 years ago.

At least one sports writer with a Heisman vote has publicly said he will not vote for Newton because of these latest allegations. Mike Bianchi of Orlando Sentinel references the Heisman Trust’s mission statement in supporting his decision to not vote for Newton but I would like to remind Bianchi, and anyone else who relies on the mission statement as the basis of their decision, that the Heisman Trophy is an individual season award and not a career award. To me that means that what happened in 2008 or 2009 should have no impact on the voting for the 2010 season.

My advice to those with Heisman votes is to look at everything that has happened in 2010. Has anything improper been done in Auburn recruiting Newton? Has Newton received any benefits while suiting up in an Auburn uniform? Has he done anything that goes against the Auburn student code of conduct?

For now the answer to all of those questions is “no.” Considering he is one of, if not the, best player on the field this season there should be no discussion about withholding Heisman votes for Newton. Anyone who does would have the same level of common sense as baseball writers who do not vote for sure-fire hall of fame players like Nolan Ryan on the first ballot purely out of principle for not voting anyone the first time on the ballot. It makes no sense and voters who abuse the voting process like this should have their voting rights revoked.

Unless we learn anything about Newton that has happened since he arrived in Auburn, keep your bias out of the Heisman voting.

About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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