Heisman Trophy Balloting Info

The task of designating the most outstanding college football player is a daunting one, so a crucial decision was made early on to determine the best group of individuals to make that choice.

It was decided that sports journalists were the most logical group for this task. As informed, competent and impartial observers, they comprise the vast majority of the electors. The Heisman Trophy Trust governs the policies and procedures by which the balloting process is conducted. Specifically, six persons are chosen as Sectional Representatives.

The Heisman Sectional Representatives Are:

Dave Campbell, Waco-Tribune Herald
Southwest Representative, Waco, TX

Dick Weiss, Blue Star Media/NY Daily News
Mid-Atlantic Representative, Philadelphia, PA

Don Criqui, CBS Sports
Northeast Representative, New York, NY

Bob Hammond, Laramie Boomerang/WyoSports.Net
Far West Representative, Laramie, WY

Bob Hammel, The Herald Times
Mid West Representative, Bloomington, IN

Jimmie McDowell, Mississippi Sports
South Representative, Jackson, MS

The Sectional Representatives are responsible for the appointment of the State Representatives. State Representatives are given the responsibility of selecting the voters within their particular state. The amount of votes that a particular state is allotted depends on the size of the state and the amount of media outlets within that state. Larger states such as California and Texas will naturally have more votes than smaller states such as Vermont and Delaware.

The states are divided into the six sections accordingly:

  • Far West:AZ, CA, HI, ID, MT, ND, NV, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY
  • Mid Atlantic:DC, DE, MD, NC, NJ, PA, SC, VA, WV
  • Mid West:IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI
  • North East:CT, MA, ME, NH, NYC, NY, RI, VT
  • South:AL, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, TN
  • Southwest:AR, CO, KS, MO, NE, NM, OK, TX

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 continued this past season through a partnership with Nissan North America, bringing the total number of voters for the 2017 Heisman race to 929.

The actual ballots include a space for electors to designate three individuals for the Heisman Trophy. The first choice on an elector’s ballot receives three points in the overall voting tabulation, the second choice receives two points and the third choice receives one point.

Ballots are void unless signed by the elector. A first, second and third choice must be indicated on each ballot. The Heisman Committee created the point system in an effort to eliminate any sectional favoritism.

The ballots state that “In order that there will be no misunderstanding regarding the eligibility of a candidate, the recipient of the award MUST be a bona fide student of an accredited college or university including the United States Academies. The recipients must be in compliance with the bylaws defining an NCAA student athlete.”

The independent accounting firm of Deloitte tabulates the Heisman ballots. Deloitte is responsible for mailing the ballots and voting instructions. Since 2002, electors have the option of sending their completed ballot to Deloitte via a secured website, created and maintained by Deloitte personnel. Deloitte tabulates all ballots and tallies the votes according to the point system outlined above. The individual with the most points receives The Heisman Memorial Trophy.

Key Heisman dates for 2017

Monday, Dec. 4: Deadline for Heisman ballots to be submitted.
Monday Dec. 4: The 2017 Heisman finalists announced.
Saturday, Dec. 9: The ESPN televised announcement of the 2017 Heisman winner. (Private Event)
Sunday, Dec. 10: The 83nd Annual Heisman Dinner Gala. (Tickets Available)

Here are some frequently asked questions about Heisman finalists, with some answers:

1. What is a Heisman finalist?

A Heisman finalist is an active college football player who receives an invitation to attend the annual Heisman ceremony held in New York City each December. Whether that player shows up or not, he is considered a finalist.

2. Has there always been Heisman finalists?

No. Prior to 1982, only the winner of the Heisman was invited to New York, so there was no such thing as a ‘Heisman finalist’. Starting in 1982, multiple candidates were invited to take part in the live TV show that accompanied the announcement of the winner. Herschel Walker, John Elway and Eric Dickerson were the first Heisman finalists, though Elway did not attend that year’s event.

There has been 138 finalists since that 1982 ceremony, for a grand total of 141.

3. How many finalists are there every year?

It varies. There will always be at least three finalists invited in a given year, though the total did rise to as high as eight invitees in 1989 (though only four actually attended). Since 1982, the most common total to have been invited is five (11 times), followed by four (10 times) and three (nine times). In 1994 and 2013, there were six finalists invited to the ceremony. To date, there has never been more than six finalists to actually attend a ceremony.

4. How are the finalists determined?

This is one of the most misunderstood parts of the Heisman process. You will often hear media or fans complain that a certain player was snubbed by not being invited to the Heisman ceremony. But the finalists are not determined arbitrarily. Starting from the understanding that there will always be a minimum of three finalists, whether or not more will be invited is determined by how close the fourth-place finisher’s point total is to that of the third place finisher’s, how close the fifth-place finisher’s is to that of the fourth-place finisher’s and so on.

In the 2008 Heisman vote, for instance, Florida’s Tim Tebow finsihed third with 1,575 points. The fourth-place finisher, Graham Harrell of Texas Tech, totaled 213 points. Because of the huge gap between those totals, Harrell was not invited to the ceremony, which featured just three finalists. In 2010, Kellen Moore’s fourth place finish of 635 points brought him much closer to LaMichael James’ third-place finish of 916, so Moore was included as one of the four finalists. The fifth-place finisher in 2010, Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State, had just 105 points. There was a clear demarcation of support between him and Moore, so the finalists were capped at four.

In other words, the closeness of the point totals determines the final number of finalists. Where major gaps exist, that’s where you get a cutoff.

5. When are the finalists chosen?

The finalists are announced on the Monday prior to the Heisman Trophy presentation that takes place on a Saturday in early-to-mid December.