Kevin Sumlin made it to New York to interview for the Texas A&M job with Aggies athletic director Bill Byrne. But Case Keenum cannot get to the Big Apple for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
There's something wrong with that juxtaposition. It's not that Sumlin doesn't deserve to be A&M's next coach (the Aggies would be fools not to hire him as expected) and these out-of-town neutral site interviews are the way of major college sports today. Keenum played a large part in getting his coach to New York to discuss A&M though — and he merits his own Manhattan moment.
No one expected Keenum to win the Heisman Trophy, not after Saturday, not after that shaky two-interception game with a BCS bowl berth on the line. This year's Heisman race more and more looks like Robert Griffin III's party, with the Baylor quarterback putting up the signature games in the season's closing weeks.
Keenum threw for 45 touchdowns and only five interceptions this season, numbers that should only be seen in a video game. He earned a trip to the Big Apple, a little moment in the spotlight.
But to not even get invited to New York as a finalist? That's a blow to Keenum and the University of Houston. A largely undeserved one.
Keenum threw for 45 touchdowns and only five interceptions this season, numbers that should only be seen in a video game. His Houston team went 12-1, a non-automatic qualifier school getting dragged into the national conversation by the strength of one man's right arm. Keenum is a sixth-year senior who personifies what is good about college football in a season in which the scandals have been beyond horrific (see Penn State).
He earned a trip to the Big Apple, a little moment in the spotlight.
Houston's been punished plenty for seizing up against Southern Mississippi. To take Keenum's Heisman trip away too just comes across as cruel and unusual. It's also misguided and uninformed.
The Heisman votes whiffed on this one, as surely as a defensive back trying to tackle RG3 in the open field, leaning on that old major conference arrogance when they should have opened their minds.
For if one truly looks at the five players invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony, Keenum clearly ranks above two of them. Griffin III, Alabama tailback Trent Richardson and Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball are no brainers. All three absolutely had to be invited.
But LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck? Sorry Honey Badger and Luck backers, Keenum's put up a more impressive season than both of these more hyped players. It isn't clear if Mathieu is even the best player on his own team, and the Tigers won one of their biggest games of the season with him suspended.
If your program wins one of its signature games without you, you're not a Heisman worthy difference maker.
Stanford lost by 23 points in its biggest game of the season with Luck throwing two interceptions. Houston lost by 21 points in its biggest game of the season with Keenum throwing two interceptions.
As for Luck, he's mostly going to New York because he entered the season as the overwhelming preseason Heisman favorite. The future No. 1 overall pick of the Indianapolis Colts (a Houston-area high school player) put together some nice stats (35 touchdowns and nine interceptions), but despite having every advantage as the front runner, Luck never wowed.
Stanford lost by 23 points in its biggest game of the season with Luck throwing two interceptions. Houston lost by 21 points in its biggest game of the season with Keenum throwing two interceptions. And Luck's a sure selection, while Keenum's left behind in H-Town?
Luck very well could be the next Peyton Manning in the NFL (Phil Simms is a fool to doubt his potential), but the Heisman isn't supposed to be about professional football potential. Both Luck and Mathieu will be far superior pros to Keenum, who figures to struggle to live up to the modest NFL legacy of Kevin Kolb. Let alone become a star.
That shouldn't decide Heisman finalists though. This is a college football award. It's what doing something special in college football. And few can compare to Case Keenum there. Certainly not Mathieu or Luck.
Keenum broke all-time NCAA records with the ease of someone crossing the street. He made UH the hottest story in college football for a while. He put Cullen Boulevard on the College GameDay map. He took a team that wasn't even ranked in the Top 25 in the preseason (one that finished below .500 once he got hurt last year) and had them in the top six.
That's special. That's extraordinary. That's Heisman worthy.
It's just not quite as much as what Griffin III did in Waco.
The Waco Winner
RG3 turned college football Saturdays into his personal highlight reel. No one produced more must-replay plays than Baylor's multi-threat quarterback. He's the biggest reason that Art Briles' program is 9-3 with wins over Oklahoma, Texas and TCU. He deserves the Heisman over Keenum. But Keenum absolutely should be there to see it, to joke with Griffin about what almost happened.
If Briles had stayed at UH when faced with a much tougher decision than Sumlin's (Texas A&M is a sleeping giant, Baylor is a spot that puts coaches careers to sleep) both Griffin III and Keenum would have been on the same Cougars team. Briles brought Keenum to Houston and he had RG3 committed there too, until he left for Waco and the quarterback recruit followed. It's fascinating to think about what might have happened if all three men stayed.
They didn't though. And Case Keenum didn't get invited to New York — even as his coach interviewed for a new job in the city.
College football is full of injustices. This isn't even close to one of the worst. But it's still wrong.
Keenum is everything college football claims to want to be about. If the Heisman cannot found a spot for this player among its final five, why even hold the award? Why not just start calling it the BCS Player of the Year?