Stiff Arm Trophy

Reggie Bush forfeits '05 trophy; should it be awarded to Vince Young?

Posted by Kari Chisholm on September 14, 2010 in News.
In short, it's impossible to know how voters would have adjusted their votes if Reggie Bush had been ineligible at the time.

Today, Reggie Bush announced that he would forfeit the 2005 Heisman Trophy. As a fan of the Heisman (and, personally, as a USC alum), this is a sad day.

Already, there are some arguing that the Trophy should be awarded to 2005 runner-up Vince Young. There are good football arguments for and against, and we'll leave the hollering and cajoling to others.

Here at Stiff Arm Trophy, we're the numbers guys. Here's some numbers:

  • As we noted then, Reggie Bush was the biggest landslide winner of all time - with 91.8% of a unanimous #1 vote.

  • The Heisman Trust reports the total number of 1-2-3 votes - as well as regional totals. In 2005, all six regions had it Bush-Young-Leinart-Quinn in that order.

  • The Trust does not, however, make available the individual ballots (either with or without names.) So, it's impossible to know just how many voters had the various vote combinations on their ballots.

  • Back in 2005, we tracked down 209 declared ballots that contained 529 votes. Of those, we know the 1-2-3 votes for 152 of them.

  • 82% of the ballots had Bush #1, Young #2, and someone else #3. (51% had Leinart #3, 18% had Quinn #3, and 13% had a non-finalist.)

  • 7% of the ballots had Bush #1, Leinart #2, and Young at #3. A further 3% had Bush #1 - and didn't have Young on the ballot at all.

  • Just 7% of the ballots had Young #1, with all but one of those having Bush #2.

So, it's certainly true that the 2005 voting had a large amount of consistency across the ballots and across the regions. Some will argue that the Heisman Trust consequently could determine that Vince Young would have won in 2005, had Reggie Bush been ruled ineligible then.

In my day job, I work in politics. And here's what I know. Every election - and the Heisman vote is an election - features an infinite number of dynamic decisions. Each individual voter makes their own set of calculations. At the time, lots of voters elevated Bush at the expense of Leinart - deciding that a 1-2 vote for one team didn't make sense, or that Leinart wasn't deserving of a second Trophy.

If Reggie Bush had been ineligible at the time, it's entirely possible that a large number of voters would have jumped Matt Leinart from #3 to #1. (After all, at the time, USC was being hailed as the finest team in American history -- since the vote happened long before the ensuing Rose Bowl loss to Texas.) Or perhaps, voters would have dismissed Matt Leinart and voted overwhelmingly for Vince Young.

In short, it's impossible to know how voters would have adjusted their votes if Reggie Bush had been ineligible at the time. This is especially true given tha magnitude of Bush's win. Removing his #1 votes simply leaves too big a hole to determine the alternate outcome.

Update, 9/15: Speaking on ESPN with Chris Fowler - Bill Dockery, president of the Heisman Trust - said that "it is too late to attempt a revote. Things have changed. Who would ever know if you remove Reggie from the picture. ... You could never recreate the exact scenario to recalibrate those votes."

That's the correct decision.