The internet has been abuzz today with reaction to ESPN and Nissan removing Navy quarterback and newly named AAC Offensive Player of the Year Keenan Reynolds from the main page of their Heisman House fan vote ballot and making him only eligible as a write-in candidate.
This is significant because for a couple weeks now, Reynolds has been leading the fan vote by a pretty wide margin over Alabama running back Derrick Henry. At the time of removing him from the ballot, Reynolds had 44% of the fan vote. Since then, he has fallen back to 38%, but has started to climb back as fans are continuing to write him in.
This update to the ballot led to the following response from the fan led @KR4Heisman twitter account and the official Navy Athletics twitter account:
#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, 2015Hey @espn @NissanUSA #HeismanHouse - Why is the leader in the online voting no longer an option? What a shame. @NavyFB @NavyAthletics
— Reynolds for Heisman (@KR4Heisman) December 1, 2015
Why was Keenan Reynolds taken off the ESPN Heisman House Voting? You now have to look for him manually. https://t.co/P0MiTmcgRS
— Navy Athletics (@NavyAthletics) December 1, 2015
— Navy Athletics (@NavyAthletics) December 1, 2015
Eventually, the story was picked up by national media from the Dan Patrick Show to Deadspin, Sporting News, and Drudge Report.
This begged the question as to why the leading vote-getter from the fan vote would be removed from the ballot?
ESPN’s response from their PR Department was as follows:
"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," the ESPN spokesperson wrote in an e-mail.
This raises even more questions and brings up a few concerns. I reached out to the man behind the @KR4Heisman twitter campaign to see exactly why the removal of Keenan from the main ballot was so concerning.
"When the #HeismanHouse ballot was first discovered by the Navy faithful, we had to manually nominate Keenan in order to vote. As time progressed, Keenan was towards the top and eventually in the lead. It was a short time later that we found he had earned his very own "hot button" on the main ballot. This made it very easy for fans of Keenan to vote for him. It has now been clarified by ESPN that the names on the main ballot are a direct result of their "Expert Heisman Poll" and due to his performance against Houston he was no longer receiving any votes in that poll and was thus removed from the main ballot. Mind you, that performance was 13/16 passing for 312 yards and a TD while rushing for 84 yards on 19 carries and a TD."
"The fact that ESPN and Nissan have agreed to create a main ballot that is based on the opinions of paid ESPN "experts" is the most outrageous part of the whole process. If this is a fan vote, a vote that the Heisman Trust deemed worthy of actually counting in the official ballot process, why is it being influenced by ESPN's opinions? If it is truly a fan vote, it shouldn't be adapted to whom they think is most deserving, regardless of who is in the lead for the fan vote."
So, who cares? It’s only one vote out of 900 something Heisman votes that will be submitted.
It matters because Navy players are not supposed to receive any votes from the most "prestigious" college football award in this day and age. What Keenan Reynolds has been able to do this season, guiding his team to a 9-2 record with the chance at the first 11 win season in program history, all while playing in by far the toughest Group of 5 conference is nothing short of extraordinary. Add in the plethora of records he has now broken to include tying Montee Ball last week for the all-time record for touchdowns scored with 83 career touchdowns and there aren’t really words to describe what he has accomplished.
I get that he will not win the Heisman this year.
I personally disagree with removing him from consideration after losing to Houston last week, because anybody who watched that game saw the triple option "system QB" throw for 312 yards and a touchdown and rush for 84 more yards and a touchdown, accounting for 86% of his team’s total yards. He proved in that game just how much more he is than simply the best triple option quarterback in college football history. Nothing he did last Friday should detract in any way from at least his consideration for the Heisman Trophy.
Yes, his team lost to a very good top 20 Houston squad, but he would be one of four players on the main ballot whose team has at least two losses on the season.
But really, at the end of the day, this isn't about if you think Keenan Reynolds deserves the Heisman or not.
This is about ESPN trying to control the narrative of who is worthy of the FAN’S VOTE for the Heisman Trophy.
ESPN, you want to know why Keenan Reynolds is number one in the fan voting? It’s not because of 83 rushing touchdowns or 4,279 rushing yards. It’s because Keenan Reynolds couldn't care less about the records or the Heisman Trophy. Anyone who is even a fringe follower of Navy football can see that through his actions. All he cares about is beating Army next week. He’s as selfless as they come, and so if he won’t tell you that he deserves to be considered for the Heisman Trophy, we will do it for him.