Texas Tech coach Mike Leach reacted angrily Wednesday when he heard that Red Raiders quarterback Graham Harrell was not one of the finalists for Saturday’s Heisman Trophy presentation in New York.
“If Graham is not invited to the Heisman, they ought to quit giving out the award,’’ Leach said. “It is a shameless example of politics ruling over performance.
“The other guys are deserving, but [Harrell] has earned a place alongside them.’’
Heisman organizers generally invite three to five finalists, based on vote totals.
Despite passing for 4,747 yards and 41 touchdowns and leading Tech to an 11-1 record, a No. 7 ranking and a berth in the Cotton Bowl, Harrell wasn’t one of the three finalists chosen to fly to New York for the ceremony.
The finalists were Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.
Since Harrell has been shown on ESPN's Heisman commercials for nearly two weeks, everyone associated with Tech generally assumed his ticket to New York had already been punched.
“I’m disappointed with the Heisman folks,’’ Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill said. “I don’t know if it’s a product of the economy and they were trying to save money on hotel rooms and flights.
“I’ve gone against Graham for five years and he’s the best quarterback in the country, bar none.’’McNeill said Heisman organizers probably haven’t taken into account the plans Harrell’s family already made to fly to New York.
“They’re going to tell him on a Wednesday [he’s not going],’’ McNeill asked. “What about his family? They planned on coming up there.
“He’s been on their commercials for two weeks. They’ve got pictures of him, they’ve got highlights of him, they’ve got his picture in the Heisman room. I don’t understand that.’’
Harrell is second all time in NCAA history in career passing yards with 15,429 yards. He also has 130 career TD passes and is only one away from tying Colt Brennan for the career lead in that category.
On Monday, Harrell won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which went to the nation’s top senior quarterback. He also is a finalist for the Davey O’Brien and Maxwell Awards, with those winners being announced Thursday night at a ceremony in Orlando, Fla.
“I’ve been coaching for about 28 years and I’ve seen a lot of quarterbacks,’’ McNeill said. “I’ve seen some good ones, I’ve seen some average ones and I’ve seen some great ones.
“Colt McCoy deserves to be there, Sam Bradford deserves to be there, Tim Tebow deserves to be there. Graham Harrell, for sure, deserves to definitely be there.’’
The folks in Lubbock see Harrell’s Heisman omission as yet another slap in the Raiders’ face. Despite beating Texas 39-33, and tying the Longhorns and Oklahoma for the Big 12 South title, the Raiders were shut out of the four BCS bowls, while OU is playing for the national championship and UT landed a berth in the BCS Fiesta Bowl.
Now comes the Heisman slap.
"Graham Harrell is the Most Valuable player on our football team and has done of a great job of not just being a great quarterback, but he’s also a great student-athlete,’’ McNeill said. “He’s excellent in the class room and excellent on the field.
“For him to not to be invited to the Heisman, I have no idea what any of those Heisman voters were looking for.’’
McNeill was on an airport shuttle when he heard over the radio that Harrell was not invited to the Heisman ceremonies. At first, he thought he mistakenly didn’t hear what he heard.
“When the news came on the radio I’m like, 'OK, maybe this is a mishap,' McNeill said. “But, no it wasn’t a mishap.
“I just know it’s strange not to invite one of the top quarterbacks in the history of the game to be a finalist in the Heisman race.’’