Dave Sittler tulsaworld.com
OU won't spend any money promoting the already-touted Adrian Peterson for the
2005 Heisman Trophy. Oklahoma sports information director Kenny Mossman believes
he knows the perfect way to push Sooner running back Adrian Peterson for the
2005 Heisman Trophy.
Mossman plans to do very little, and spend even less.
While some schools have already spent several months and lots of money brainstorming ways to sell their players to Heisman voters, Mossman has watched quietly while counting the money the OU athletic department is saving.
"We didn't do anything last year," reasoned Mossman, "and Adrian finished second in the Heisman voting."
And OU quarterback Jason White finished third, behind winner Matt Leinart of Southern California. White won college football's most prestigious trophy in 2003, so Mossman's credentials are proven.
"Most of these campaigns are designed to get more media attention," Mossman said. "And that's probably the last thing Adrian needs."
So while some schools worry about a lack of exposure, Mossman often has to make sure the Sooners aren't overexposed.
Life in college football isn't always fair or equal.
Powerhouse programs thrive off their reputations, while mid-major schools fight to survive through innovation.
OU and Memphis are examples of the wide gap that exists between the haves and have nots.
Memphis officials have already revealed their Heisman campaign for DeAngelo Williams. The school ordered 3,500 miniature race cars that cleverly feature the Tigers' running back.
"We wanted something that wouldn't go in the trash as soon as a voter received it," Memphis athletic media relations directior Jennifer Rodrigues said in a telephone interview. "Something that had a 'wow factor' to it."
OU will rely on the eye-popping numbers Peterson put up last season that had people going "wow!" Peterson had one of the greatest freshman seasons in history when he rushed for 1,925 yards and scored 15 touchdowns.
Williams posted comparable statistics. He rushed for 1,948 yards and led the nation with 22 rushing touchdowns.
With those gaudy stats, why is Memphis putting so much effort into promoting Williams? Like Peterson, shouldn't his performance suffice?
No. And therein lies the bottom-line difference between programs like Memphis and OU.
Memphis' must create marketing gimmicks to attract attention. The school allotted $30,000 for the selling of Williams to Heisman voters, while OU has budgeted zero dollars to push Peterson.
"We're up against larger schools that play for national championships," Rodrigues said. "We wanted to get DeAngelo's name out there."
Exposure's the key. While Memphis has become the latest school to seek it via a publicity stunt, OU knows Peterson will receive weekly attention via television.
Four of Memphis' games were televised last season, while OU football became a weekly series. All 13 games were on the tube either regionally or nationally.
"If we go out and win a decent number of games, and get the television exposure we've had the last few years," Mossman said, "that seems to take care of it itself."
Mossman believes White won the 2003 Heisman Trophy because of one televised game. Ditto for Peterson bursting onto the national scene in 2004.
"It really boils down to what our players do in two or three marquee games, and for us it's seemingly been the Texas game," Mossman said. "That's where Jason's candidacy was born, and where Adrian's was born last year."
The 2005 Red River Shootout in Dallas on Oct. 8 will feature two prime Heisman candidates in Peterson and Texas quarterback Vince Young. A strong performance could solidify their chances to stop Leinert from becoming just the second two-time Heisman winner.
Peterson and Young are on all the preseason Heisman lists, while Williams isn't. That's what drove Rodrigues to come up with something to tweak voter interest.
"Adrian was recently on the cover of ESPN the Magazine, which is one of the things the guy at Memphis doesn't have," Mossman said. "So those schools have to beat their drums a little bit louder than we do."
Rodrigues was the first to start drumming up support. Minnesota has also sent out postcards, and several others will soon join the Heisman publicity race.
Some previous Heisman gimmicks have included a bobble head doll, a tree leaf and a 10-story billboard in New York that cost $250,000.
Rodrigues has produced one of the most unique items with the 1:24 scale die-cast race car that is patterned after NASCAR equipment. The 7-inch model comes in the school's colors and includes Williams' picture, signature and jersey number, along with the message: "The Race Is On."
Three months before the season opens and six months until the Heisman winner is announced, the race is indeed already on. And there is more than one way to run it.
In alphabetical order, here are 10 potential candidates to win the Heisman Trophy:
RB Reggie Bush, Southern Cal
Perhaps the college game’s most-versatile player.
WR Ted Ginn Jr., Ohio State
Oklahoma State witnessed in last season’s Alamo Bowl what this explosive and versatile Buckeye can do.
CB Devin Hester, Miami, Fla.
Could become the Cinderella pick as the media looks for a worthy defensive player.
QB Chris Leak, Florida
Might be this year’s sleeper.
QB Matt Leinert, Southern Cal
It will be interesting to see how Leinert adjusts to the loss of offensive coordinator Norm Chow.
RB Laurence Maroney, Minnesota
Heisman chances improved dramatically when fellow Gopher running back Marion Barber III departed early for the NFL.
RB Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
Jason White is gone, and the Sooners need Peterson to carry the offense.
QB Brad Smith, Missouri
Has Coach Gary Pinkel finally figured out the best way to maximize Smith’s considerable talents? We’ll see.
RB DeAngelo Williams, Memphis
The school’s clever preseason campaign will get voters’ attention. It’s up to Williams to keep the media interested.
QB Vince Young, Texas
Young’s Heisman campaign will definitely end if the Longhorns lose again to OU.
Dave Sittler tulsaworld.com