Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Why Pitta Was Passed Over

By now you know that Aaron Hernandez of Florida was awarded the Mackey Award for the country's best tight end.  Dennis Pitta has publically said the right things, that he doesn't really care and that it was an honor just to be considered.  But, he likely feels somewhat disappointed, as fans surely do.

Here is a bit from the press release:
"The Nassau County Sports Commission has announced Aaron Hernandez of Florida as the 2009 John Mackey Award recipient. The Southeastern conference junior recorded 59 receptions for 739 yards and four touchdowns while leading Florida to the 2009 Allstate Sugar Bowl. Hernandez becomes the second junior to ever receive the John Mackey Award.

Hernandez was named first team All SEC in 2009. He also tied the single game Florida record for receptions by a tight end with eight in the 2009 SEC Championship game. Hernandez, who is well known for his blocking ability and receiving prowess has totaled 102 receptions, 1,271 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in his three year career with Florida."
In contrast to that, Pitta had 57 rec, 784 yards, 7 TDs  (in one less game than Hernandez) and 216 catches, 2,856 yards, and 20 TDs in his career (more than double Hernandez).

I like most, expected Pitta to be named the winner.  His nearly unanimous selection as an All-American first teamer confirms this.  However, it is interesting to note a few circumstances that likley contributed to him being overlooked...

NFL Bias--In scouring the John Mackey award website throughout the season in preparation for other articles, I couldn't help but notice that there was a heavy emphasis on NFL performance and success of previous winners.  This makes some sense, as they hope to gain prestige and donations from former winners.  My initial reaction was that this would be a disadvantage to Pitta, and although I thought he would be able to overcome it, in the end I think it hurt him.  Not that I don't think that Pitta can or will succeed in the NFL, he just doesn't look like an NFL first round draft pick to the rest of the country, and more importantly to the voters (see below). 

Florida Love--With Tim Tebow appearing an unlikey repeat Heisman winner, this was an opportunity for voters to recognize the Gator program in another way.

SEC Love--No SEC tight end has received the award previously, so this was a chance for the award to link itself to the bright stage lights of the SEC. 

Voter Slant--The Heisman Trophy is careful to have a representative national vote.  This award has 12 voters--seven of which are slanted toward the SEC or Florida.  The other five are based either in the midwest or northeast.  Not a single tie west of the Mississippi.  Even if they tried to be unbiased, they likely saw few if any BYU football games after Oklahoma.

Bruce Feldman — ESPN (SEC contract)
Marc C. Connolly — ESPN (SEC contract)
Lee Corso — ESPN College GameDay (SEC contract)
Tom Dienhart — Yahoo! Sports/ (midwest)
Keith Jackson — Former NFL tight end (3 years with Miami Dolphins)
Jerry Mackey — Committee Chairman (based in NY)
Sean McDonough — ABC Sports (northeast, BCS broadcaster, indirect contract with SEC)
Phil Steele — Phil Steele’s College Football Preview (based in midwest, put Pitta on 3rd team AA)
Tim Stratton — Inaugural John Mackey Award Recipient (played at Purdue)
Spencer Tillman — CBS Sports (SEC contract)
Dick Weiss — NY Daily News (primarily covers men's baksetball, based in NY)
Kellen Winslow — NFL Hall of Fame tight end (University of Miami, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

I don't know how these awards are regulated or certified, but it seems that if college football wants to recognize them as legit, or at least as what they claim to be (for the best players at respective positions in the country), then the selection committe or voting members should reflect a more national perspective.

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