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The college football regular season officially concluded this Saturday with the completion of the annual Army v Navy Game. With the 2021 season in the books, it was time to hand out the post-season awards and that means the annual award shows. Thursday night took care of the lion’s share of the trophies with the Heisman sitting alone on Saturday evening.
The Big Ten was well represented at both events with several players from three different schools bringing home some hardware. This was once again proof of the depth and talent of the Big Ten in 2021. Here is the list of Big Ten Award winners from the weekend:
Walter Camp POY Kenneth Walker III Michigan State
Rimington Award Tyler Linderbaum Iowa
Lou Grozo Award Jake Moody Michigan
Doak Walker Award Kenneth Walker III Michigan State
Broyles Award Josh Gattis Michigan
Ted Hendricks Award Aidan Hutchinson Michigan
Saturday night featured the Heisman Trophy presentation. The Big Ten was well represented with both DE Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan) and QB CJ Stroud (Ohio State) among the finalists. The Big Ten Blue Bloods comprised half of the finalist field. However, since QB Bryce Young entered the evening as the overwhelming favorite, it was more of a coronation than a ceremony.
The Heisman award show is typically a very professional affair with a few competitive jabs thrown. But since many of the past winners are in attendance, a sense of reverence and respect flows through the evening.
There are very few award shows that I watch anymore. Most of them drag long into the evening and are anticlimactic in nature with performances I don’t know or care for. The Heisman has always been different because of its brevity and because so many former greats grace the stage one more time. Watching Heisman winners from the past 50 years march — and in some cases, limp — across the stage revives the nostalgia that separates college football from the NFL.
Saturday night, some of the grace and reverence disappeared. The Heisman Trophy presentation is an award show, which essentially makes it a television program. It needs to fill a requisite duration of time so that all sponsors get their moment. That means that there is some “filler” time with interviews and some playful banter between hosts and finalists.
This is where the night got a little weird and lost a bit of its aura. Michigan’s dynamic DE Aidan Hutchinson was asked about choosing to return to Michigan for what turned out to be a magical senior season and why that decision was so important that was to him. His response was just as many would’ve expected. He said that he returned to complete the mission: beat Ohio State and win a Big Ten Championship. And that’s exactly what he and his teammates did.
As a Buckeye it’s tough to hear, but what he said was respectful and true. It’s part of the rivalry and what makes it great. The whole stage chuckled (as expected), and ESPN Analyst and Heisman winner Tim Tebow joked that he was glad that Pitt QB Kenny Pickett stood between Hutchinson and OSU QB Stroud.
All good. All fair. It even brought a little bit of levity to the situation.
However, UM alum, ESPN host and former Heisman winner Desmond Howard apparently felt the need to drive home one last quip against the Buckeyes and said, “Better than his offensive lineman.”
Now, you don’t need to be a psychologist to see how awkward it was for Hutchinson and everyone else on stage at that point. The joke came off as mean-spirited and didn’t elicit any laughs. Tebow even called Howard out for “throwing them under the bus now.” Hutchinson tried to abruptly finish his answer to avoid further awkwardness.
It was unprofessional and unnecessary from Desmond. All the finalists should be honored and get to enjoy the evening. Small jabs and competitive banter is entertaining and should be encouraged, but that shot was meant to embarrass others in attendance, including some on stage.
It seems after their third victory over OSU in 20 years that all the bravado has been restored to the Michigan alums and fan base. It’s what makes the rivalry the best in sports, but there’s a time and a place for everything. The Heisman Ceremony isn’t one of them.