Without a dog in the fight...

It's good to see some other folks take note of the problem we've been talking about for the last six years - that the distribution of H------ voters across the country is terribly skewed. Here's StatePaper.com's Samuel McKewon on the topic. (Ironically, writing from Nebraska - which is way overrepresented, with 16 voters, instead of the six that a population-apportioned method would offer them).

You know what else is a sham? Votes equally apportioned by region. Not only does that ignore the population quotient – the West Region has far more people in it than most of the geographical subsections – it hands 145 votes to the Northeast Region, which is, essentially, New England.

Want to guess how many Division I programs are in the entire region? Five. Army, Syracuse, Buffalo, Connecticut and Boston College. Even if one assumes that a decent percentage of the votes go to ESPN (located in Bristol, Conn.) you're still awarding votes to a region where baseball and college basketball reign supreme. How often – if ever again – will that region have a player in the Heisman running?

One-sixth of the Heisman race should not be decided by a region with no dog in the fight.

Kari Chisholm | December 13, 2009 | Comment on This Post (17 so far)
Permalink: Without a dog in the fight...



Yeah that nebrask way over represented...or is it the most educated college football fans in the nation.

Posted by: Double_K | Dec 13, 2009 11:56:53 PM

Seems like breaking it down by population would over-represent PAC-10 schools. Maybe someone can prove me wrong, but it seems like the number of BCS schools out west per population is lower. So perhaps instead of by population the votes should be distributed according to the number of BCS Universities. Or even the total number of BCS Universities.

Of course, this becomes much less important if we just accept the fact that the H---- is a joke. Perhaps it becomes less of a joke if the votes are distributed differently, but the credibility has already been blown.

Posted by: Zeke | Dec 14, 2009 5:14:21 AM

Or even the total number of *Division 1* Universities.

Posted by: Zeke | Dec 14, 2009 5:15:02 AM

Perhaps we must accept that we now live in the UCA (United Corporations of America) ... it is not where the potential winners live or even where the general population lives that affects these type decisions. Location of corporate headquarters and their corresponding outflows of money may be the more important factor. Your suppositions about ESPN's location being a factor in the Northeast are probably more accurate than you realize.

Thanks for a great job ... thoroughly enjoyed your thoughts this year.

Posted by: ThatCase | Dec 14, 2009 5:30:47 AM

I don't understand this argument that the voters aren't distributed properly. If you put a large number of voters in the Far West, then there would be a bias toward Pac-10 teams. The only fair way to do it is break the country into regions and give each region the same number of votes, which is what they do now. You could maybe look within those regions and redistribute those votes so an individual state is not overly represented. However, I don't really think that is making that big of a difference.

Also, how there is a bias against the West?? The last time I checked, USC has won 3 of the last 8 Heismans!!

Posted by: Brad | Dec 14, 2009 7:17:41 AM

Has anyone considered that perhaps it is a good thing that the Northeast Region had no dog in the fight? Perhaps that makes it more likely that those particular voters voted for who they felt is the best player, as opposed to the player they wanted to win. Can anyone say "objectivity?"

Looking at the final tally of H---- votes by region, guess who won every region (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest) that was not represented by a finalist? Mark Ingram.

The fact that Ingram won all regions that lacked a "dog in the fight" is the strongest endorsement I can think of to justify him taking home the hardware.

Congrats, Mark! You've made the Bama Nation very happy and proud. Now go get #13!!

Posted by: BamaGrad99 | Dec 14, 2009 7:33:12 AM

It was clear from the reported votes that people who voted for Suh were very proud of it and let it be known.....

The people who voted for Colt, were a bit ashamed.

Posted by: kirk | Dec 14, 2009 8:20:03 AM

I'm with BamaGrad on this one, not having a dog in the fight actually lends itself to MORE objectivity, not less. Gerhart had no competition in the West this year, giving him the edge versus Suh or Ingram who split votes to another regional competitor. The three "dogless" regions essentially decided the winner without bias...isn't that what we want? winners without bias?

Posted by: wonderkind | Dec 14, 2009 8:57:55 AM

I just did the math based on my proposed Heisman voting representation system of 3 votes per state plus 6 votes per Division I-A program, which, with 50 states (sorry, D.C.) and 120 programs in I-A, adds up to exactly 870 votes. I tend to think this is better than population, because really, does Connecticut deserve more votes for the Heisman Trophy than, say, Nebraska, just because it has more people? (I say this as a proud Connecticut native.)

Anyway, here's what I came up with. The top line for each region is the number of Division I-A programs per region. The second line is the point total. Then I break down the number of programs by state.

Far West: 22
13 states x 3 + 22 programs x 6 = 171 votes
Alaska 0
Arizona 2
California 7
Hawaii 1
Idaho 2
Montana 0
Nevada 2
North Dakota 0
Oregon 2
South Dakota 0
Utah 3
Washington 2
Wyoming 1

Mid-Atlantic: 17
8 states x 3 + 17 programs x 6 = 126 votes
Delaware 0
Maryland 2
New Jersey 1
North Carolina 5
Pennsylvania 3
South Carolina 2
Virginia 2
West Virginia 2

Midwest: 24
7 states x 3 + 24 programs x 6 = 165 votes
Illinois 3
Indiana 4
Iowa 2
Michigan 5
Minnesota 1
Ohio 8
Wisconsin 1

Northeast: 5
7 states x 3 + 5 programs x 6 = 51 votes
Connecticut 1
Maine 0
Massachusetts 1
New Hampshire 0
New York 3
Rhode Island 0
Vermont 0

South: 28
7 states x 3 + 28 programs x 6 = 189 votes
Alabama 4
Florida 7
Georgia 2
Kentucky 3
Louisiana 5
Mississippi 3
Tennessee 4

Southwest: 24
8 states x 3 + 24 programs x 6 = 168 votes
Arkansas 2
Colorado 3
Kansas 2
Missouri 1
Nebraska 1
New Mexico 2
Oklahoma 3
Texas 10

So, the end result is...

South 189
Far West 171
Southwest 168
Midwest 165
Mid-Atlantic 126
Northeast 51

Feels about right. Would be interesting to see what this year's results would have been, reapportioned thusly.

Posted by: Brendan Loy | Dec 14, 2009 10:26:36 AM

Upon further review, Connecticut and Nebraska were a bad example, since they have the exact same number of Division I-A programs (1) and thus account for the exact same number of Heisman votes (9) under my system.

A better example would be Massachusetts (ranked #15 in population, has 10 House members, but just 1 Division I-A program) having more votes, under a population-based system, than Alabama (ranked #23 in population, has 7 House members, but 4 Division I-A programs). Under my system, it'd be Alabama 27, Massachusetts 9. Which would be very wrong if we were talking about electing a president, but when we're talking about the Heisman Trophy, it seems about right.

Posted by: Brendan Loy | Dec 14, 2009 10:30:25 AM

i'll bring up my previous comment that i'm not sure why it should be tied to US population, and i think it is better tied to number of schools, students, football players, etc.

another issue is whether state population equality would be fair. let's say every state has the "right number" of voters as proposed by kari elsewhere. what if all of TX voters are in austin instead of lubbock. is that more fair? This would also apply in CA, FL, and any state with multiple schools (ie, most). so now you have to have number of voters per university town region equal? soon, it's unmanageable.

finally, i agree with the previous poster that since when has having "objective voters" ever been a knock on a system? in my opinion, the problem is the voters who DO have a dog in fight, and play games by leaving obvious finalists off the ballot to aid their native son.

by the way, is there any such geographic balance in AP voting, harris voting, USA Today voting, BCS computer ownership? i doubt it. so it seems there are bigger fish to fry. there probably is not on the other PoY and positional awards, either.

Posted by: blinky | Dec 14, 2009 12:36:02 PM

The real issue is not voter location bias, it is time-zone bias. The teams out in the west (unless they are USC -- which gets broad television coverage during prime time in the east) are on late at night most of the time. Whereas BIG-10, SEC, ETC. games are on TV between 1pm and 5pm eastern, PAC-10 games are on TV as late as 10pm (start-times). A majority of Stanford's home games this year were at 7pm PST on Saturday night. Lack of TV exposure is the #1 reason why/why not votes get cast. Not a bias towards a local team. (Which I do agree is an issue, just not the biggest one.)

Posted by: nodoginthisfight | Dec 14, 2009 12:54:26 PM

NDF, I agree that the time zone thing is a problem. But it's an insurmountable one that's human nature - right up there with SEC folks thinking Pac-10 teams are soft, and Pac-10 folks thinking Big-10 teams are slow, and everybody thinking WAC teams are pass-happy.

But what's not acceptable is having the same number of votes in the Far West and the Northeast - when the West has nearly twice the population and more than four times the number of Division I-A programs.

And please, would someone explain to me why South Dakota is in the West when Colorado isn't, and why South Carolina isn't in the South?

Frankly, in an era of email and conference calls, I don't see any reason to have regions at all - just fairly apportion the H------ votes by state and be done with it. (A good start would be making public the number of votes in each state. Why that detail is a secret is a mystery to me.)

Posted by: Kari Chisholm | Dec 15, 2009 1:51:30 AM

These are some numbers I put together based on the H------ voting and based on the regions. These numbers are to show the bias of the different candidates over the different regions. I have taken the numbers and turned them into percentages so you can see more clearly how they voted. I also took these percentages and subtracted them from each other to show the differences of the final order of the candidates and the order in which the regions voted them. This way I hope to show the biasness (or lack there of) between the regions and also between the different candidates within the region.


**** Negative numbers indicate the region voted players against the grain of their final placing****

NORTHEAST Total Points: 823
1. Mark Ingram, 238 28.9%
2. Toby Gerhart , 219 26.6%
3. Colt McCoy, 179 21.7%
4. Ndamukong Suh, 104 12.6%
5. Tim Tebow, 83 10%

Difference between final H------ #1 and H------ #2 2.3%
Difference between final H------ #2 and H------ #3 4.9%
Difference between final H------ #3 and H------ #4 9.1%
Difference between final H------ #4 and H------ #5 2.6%

MID-ATLANTIC Total Points: 758
1. Mark Ingram, 222 29.2%
2. Toby Gerhart, 187 24.6%
2. Colt McCoy, 187 24.6%
4. Ndamukong Suh, 105 13.8%
5. Tim Tebow, 57 7.5%

Difference between final H------ #1 and H------ #2 4.6%
Difference between final H------ #2 and H------ #3 0%
Difference between final H------ #3 and H------ #4 10.8%
Difference between final H------ #4 and H------ #5 6.3%

SOUTH Total Points: 814
1. Mark Ingram, 254 31.2%
2. Toby Gerhart, 176 21.6%
3. Colt McCoy, 165 20.2%
4. Ndamukong Suh, 113 13.8%
5. Tim Tebow, 106 13%

Difference between final H------ #1 and H------ #2 9.6%
Difference between final H------ #2 and H------ #3 1.4%
Difference between final H------ #3 and H------ #4 6.4%
Difference between final H------ #4 and H------ #5 0.8%

SOUTHWEST Total Points: 897
1. Ndamukong Suh, 254 28.3%
2. Colt McCoy, 216 24%
3. Mark Ingram, 214 23.8%
4. Toby Gerhart, 180 20%
5. Tim Tebow, 33 3.6%

Difference between final H------ #1 and H------ #2 3.8%
*(difference between M Ingram and N Suh: -4.5%)*
Difference between final H------ #2 and H------ #3 -4%
Difference between final H------ #3 and H------ #4 -4.3%
Difference between final H------ #4 and H------ #5 -24.7%

MIDWEST Total Points: 784
1. Mark Ingram, 214 27.2%
2. Toby Gerhart, 206 26.2%
3. Colt McCoy, 173 22%
4. Ndamukong Suh, 146 18.6%
5. Tim Tebow, 45 5.7%

Difference between final H------ #1 and H------ #2 1%
Difference between final H------ #2 and H------ #3 4.2%
Difference between final H------ #3 and H------ #4 3.4%
Difference between final H------ #4 and H------ #5 12.9%

FAR WEST Total Points: 845
1. Toby Gerhart, 319 37.7%
2. Colt McCoy, 214 25.3%
3. Mark Ingram, 153 18.1%
4. Ndamukong Suh, 93 11%
5. Tim Tebow, 66 7.8%

Difference between final H------ #1 and H------ #2 -19.6%
Difference between final H------ #2 and H------ #3 12.4%
Difference between final H------ #3 and H------ #4 14.3%
Difference between final H------ #4 and H------ #5 3.2%

Now you can read over these results all you want, but they clearly show that the WEST has the most bias. According to your thoughts, the west needs MORE representation. Although the Southwest had the Final #4 candidate at #1.

Posted by: digital bliss | Dec 15, 2009 12:31:05 PM

I think splitting across regions is the best way to do it, who cares if the East Coast writers don't have a dog in the fight? Maybe a little objectivity is good. A much bigger problem is that 10% of people voted before the Championship games, and I guarantee you most of them were those who were embarrassed later to announce their votes.

It's 2009, there's no reason they should allow anyone to vote before the Championship games are over. Those 10% votes probably had a lot higher percentage of Gerhart, Tebow and McCoy's than the remaining 90%; which hurt Ingram and Suh.

Posted by: MJ | Dec 16, 2009 7:21:12 AM

First thought - it's their trophy - "their" being the Downtown Athletic Club. It's not the NCAA's, not the government's nor ours (we "Joe the Plummer" types). They can choose how to distribute the votes or, for that matter, not have votes at all. They could have a meeting with a few of the administrative people and the caterers and decided whom they want to win it, and we would just live with it and/or ignore it.

They don't claim "this is the best college football" or even "the most outstanding college football player." It's whom the voters select as "the most outstanding college football player."

However, assuming that they (Downtown Athletic Club) are somehow beholden to us fans to produce an accurate and fair selection of a player as THE most outstanding player in college football, let me make a few comments. The notion that the voting be apportioned based on states' pure population is absurd. Can we seriously expect the percentage of the population that actually cares about college football - much less who is its most outstanding player - is consistent from state-to-state? My guess is that Alaska would get more heavily represented than Alabama - not number of votes, but proportional number of votes for people who even care.

The bigger problem that needs to be fixed, IMHO, is who votes, not where they live. Should a sports writer in Connecticut who is on the TV Daily, has a column on a well-known and heavily-visited website, and on the radio often be able to use those forums to promote a candidate for a significant part of the season and then be able to cast a vote in the end as well? I realize those guys have analyzed the players more than most people, but they also have their favorite after touting him for so long.

Just accept this trophy for what it is - an award for the selection made by some more-knowledgable-than-most, albeit biased, people and move on. For that matter, make up your own trophy organization, sculpt a little statue and present it to your player. You can have a committee of 1 and do it the way you want.

Posted by: Wayne | Dec 16, 2009 12:26:07 PM

First thought - it's their trophy - "their" being the Downtown Athletic Club.

The Downtown Athletic Club went bankrupt in 2002. It's the H------ Trophy Trust now. But point taken.

Posted by: Kari Chisholm | Dec 17, 2009 11:16:53 PM

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