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Times the Heisman Voters Got It Wrong: Number One

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The worst decision in Heisman history looks worse in retrospect every year

Wisconsin v BYU Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

All week, we’ve been counting down the 10 worst decisions by Heisman voters in college football history.

Usually, they pick the right man to walk that aisle at the Downtown Athletic Club and hoist college football’s most coveted honor.

But sometimes, they don’t get it right.

With hindsight, here is the worst decision the Heisman voters ever made.

  1. Ty Detmer over Raghib Ismail (1990): The term “system quarterback” had not yet joined the college football lexicon. If ever there was a system quarterback, it was Brigham Young’s Ty Detmer. Detmer broke passing record after passing record against mediocre competition in the WAC. Many of the records he broke had been set just a few years earlier by other BYU quarterbacks, playing in the Cougars’ pass-happy system against WAC competition. Detmer’s records have since been broken time-after-time by quarterbacks playing in yard-guzzling, passing-oriented systems.

Detmer won by a comfortable margin over Notre Dame’s Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, the most exciting college football player of the late 20th century. Ismail made spectacular play after spectacular play as a runner, receiver, and returner against top-notch competition. Ismail ranks with Michael Jordan as the premier highlight film attraction of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Never was an athlete as made for Sports Center as “Rocket” Ismail.