United States Naval Academy quarterback Keenan Reynolds is far and away the leader of the ESPN/Nissan online fan poll for the Heisman Trophy. So why did he get booted from the online ballot?
Reynolds currently holds the FBS record for most career rushing touchdowns (he surpassed former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball in November), so it seems odd that such a successful player would be removed from the ballot, especially since he is currently leading the polls by a whopping 14 percentage points.
And it’s not like Reynold’s lead in the poll is anything new. He’s been in the lead for quite some time. According to a screenshot of the leaderboard which was tweeted on Nov. 21, he was in the lead by 11 percent last month:
Citadel won, Air Force won, and now Keenan Reynolds is atop the Heisman fan vote leaderboard. What a day for America pic.twitter.com/zhM2V98FO6
Andrew Conn (@aconn_12) November 21, 2015
Furious at the removal of Reynolds’ name from the online poll, the U.S. Naval Academy vented its frustration on Twitter:
#NavyFootball QB Keenan Reynolds was running away with the fan vote so @Nissan or @espn took him off the ballot: https://t.co/cwE4ZCLKGw
Navy Athletics (@NavyAthletics) December 1, 2015
According to The Washington Post, Reynolds had slipped in ESPN’s Experts Poll after Navy lost to Houston last week. The seven players who have received the most votes in the experts poll page are automatically generated as the choices in the ESPN/Nissan fan poll.
“When the names change on the ESPN Experts’ Poll, they automatically change on the Heisman House site. ESPN and Nissan have no control over what names are on the Heisman House ballot,” an ESPN spokesperson wrote in an e-mail to the Washington Post.
While ESPN at least offered a reason as to why Reynolds was removed from the list of default choices, the network failed to explain why its internal poll is used as the sole basis for options available in the fan poll. ESPN also failed to mention to the Washington Post that each of the 10 “ESPN Experts” used to rank the Heisman prospects are all ESPN employees. It is not known whether any of the “experts” were directed to alter their rankings in order to affect the outcomes of the poll.
ESPN’s excuses aside, it strains credulity to believe that ESPN, which runs the ESPN Experts poll (which itself consists of the opinions of ten ESPN employees) and also oversees the ESPN/Nissan online poll, has “no control” over whether the ESPN Experts poll is used as the sole source of data on who is listed as a default candidate in the ESPN/Nissan poll, which is hosted at ESPN.com.
Fans can still vote for Reynolds, but they have to go through the trouble of searching for his name before they can select it as an option.
The removal of Reynolds’ name from the list of default candidates has serious implications that go far beyond school or player bragging rights. That’s because the Heisman Trophy Trust, the organization that sets the rules for how Heisman candidates are selected, changed the selection rules in 1999 to allow the public to nominate a Heisman candidate. This year, ESPN and Nissan were granted the authority to run the process by which the general public voted for its preferred Heisman candidate:
Each Section within the United States has 145 media votes, totaling 870 media votes across the country. Additionally every former Heisman winner, 58 presently, has a vote as well. In 1999, The Heisman Trophy agreed to develop a special program to allow the public at large to become part of the balloting process by permitting one (1) fan vote eligible in the overall tabulation. This program once again continues this year through a partnership with Nissan North America, bringing the total number of voters for the 2015 Heisman race to 929.
As a result of ESPN’s completely arbitrary decision to use its own internal poll to decide who is and isn’t a default Heisman candidate for the ESPN/Nissan Heisman poll, a record-setting college quarterback may have just lost an opportunity to contend for the Heisman this year.
The Heisman trophy will be awarded on Dec. 14.