Attendance isn't mandatory for Heisman hopefuls. But it's a really good idea.

Does failure to attend a conference’s annual media day void the integrity clause of the Heisman Trophy? And therefore, make significant players ineligible for college football’s highest award?

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Well, there. . . Now that I have your attention, . . J.T. Barrett, Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley.

The short answer is, no. The Ohio State quarterback, Penn State quarterback and Penn State running back undoubtedly are safe, even though, despite being three of the most media-worthy players in the Big Ten, they won’t be in Chicago for Big Ten Media Day.

But if you adhere to the literal description of Heisman qualifications, it should be a factor.

In other words, the case can be made if you really want to lawyer it up.

If you think like Big Ten commish Jim Delany negotiating a mega-television deal, or squeezing the last drop out of Indianapolis before taking the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament to Madison Square Garden, you can do it.

I would argue that the ``excellence with integrity’’ clause, and the ``diligence, perseverance and hard work’’ clause, carry weight on a candidate’s Heisman Trophy resume. Both are right there in the Heisman Trophy Mission Statement.

Failure to show up at Media Day diminishes a player’s integrity in my mind. And it certainly doesn’t fit in with diligence, perseverance and hard work.

Some people would argue, though, that flying in on the university’s private jet to grab some good meals and be fawned over in Chicago isn’t exactly hard work.

There was a time when stuff like not bringing the obvious media stars to Media Day really ticked me off.

Of course, in those days, even macho coaches wouldn’t have had the cojones to not bring the star attractions.

I get it. If you don’t bring your best players, they can’t get in trouble by saying something wrong. And it is nice to reward loyal seniors with a trip to Chicago. Bring five players instead of three. Ten, if you want. There’s room on the private jet.

Not gonna happen. I know. And you know what else? I don’t really care that much. If the high-and-mighty Big Ten wants to push around this generation of media, that’s their fight, not mine.

But I would like to point out to them that they have options.

For example, I have always been a strict constructionist when it comes to the Heisman Trophy Mission Statement:

``The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance and hard work. The Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and honor of this award.’’

Before everyone starts howling, I’m not saying anyone should DQ a candidate because his misguided coach doesn’t let him talk to the media. I’m just saying that’s a factor.

And if you don’t think so, you don’t know the history of Heisman Trophy voting. Everything is a factor.

Nowadays, you could be the greatest player in the world. But if you’re not on a top-five team, or better yet, a top-two team, your chances are slim and none.

In the old days, other things mattered. How else does Paul Hornung win in 1956 playing for a 2-8 Notre Dame? Although the stars aligned for Lamar Jackson last fall, even Tim Tebow striking the pose in 2007 for a 9-4 Florida is looking like a reach these days.

And don’t even get me started on Gordie Lockbaum, a two-way player at Holy Cross who finished fourth in the voting in 1987. That’s because those of us who try to hold college football to a higher standard thought Lockbaum should be honored with one of the three spots on our ballots.

I’m guessing that Gordie never failed to miss a legitimate media opportunity.

With my strict interpretation of Heisman qualifications, I have DQ’d Heisman winners who have spent too much time talking to DAs, and too much time denying that they accepted cash payments. I’ve ruled out a candidate who was not allowed to talk to the media until November, when his coach suddenly realized the kid was a Heisman candidate.

My only motive was to hold college football’s highest award to the highest standard.

As I said, this is no longer my battle. I may think it’s another unfortunate sign of the times, but it’s up to the current beleaguered generation of over-worked sports media people to fight the good fight.

Media-day chicanery isn’t merely a slap in the face to them; it’s a slap in the face to their readers, listeners and viewers. And they have way more space to fill than we did, although I would like to think that we filled it with very good coverage. We weren’t deterred or manipulated.

I’m not going to tell anyone how to vote. I just agree with the Heisman’s Mission statement. I think things like integrity and diligence matter.


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