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Heisman voters face an ethical dilemma

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published December 05. 2013 4:00AM

Now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of their columnist.

No, really. I need your help to solve a moral dilemma.

The two-minute drill version:

I have a Heisman vote. I take the responsibility seriously. I believe the best player on the field this season is Jameis Winston of Florida State.

But I'm not sure I can vote for him.

I'm not sure I should.

I'm not sure I shouldn't.

I'd like to hear from you. You can tweet, text, e-mail, snail mail, call, send a telegram or use Morse Code. I'd like to know if you, Joe and Jane Average Fans, the people who pay the money to watch the games and follow along on websites, blogs and in the papers, whether you believe character belongs in the equation.

Happily, it looks as though I'll know whether Winston will face charges before I vote this weekend. It wasn't looking that way. But media reports from Wednesday said that investigation into sexual assault charges against Winston is complete. State Attorney Willie Meggs is expected to announce the findings today at 2 p.m. in a news conference.

So maybe this becomes more of a "what if" question and perhaps a clearer view for the future.

But what if no decision had been made? That would have left Heisman voters, or at least those of us tortured souls who contemplate bigger pictures, mulling a potential rapist or innocent young man as the face of college football for 2013.

My belief: You vote Winston first, because he's been the best player. Or not at all because of character issues. That is if you believe character is a factor in the first place.

Think about it. Until news broke about the completed investigation, we were preparing to vote without all the evidence. If you voted for Winston, you run the risk of rewarding a criminal. If you didn't vote Winston because of suspected character issues, you violate the concept of innocent until proven guilty.

And what happens if the victim is found to have made up the whole story? You might deny Winston the Heisman. Based on conjecture.

If there's such a thing as a moral dilemma in the toy department, this is Exhibit A.

Character, I believe, is an issue for two reasons: 1) I was raised that way; and 2) the first line of the Heisman mission statement:

"The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity."

Integrity.

That word is there for a reason.

Kind of hard to link the concepts of "integrity" and "sexual assault." Be assured, though, that a chunk of voters will practice benign neglect of the integrity word, preferring to make this award about on field exploits.

The moral dilemma has another layer for me. There's a kid from Boston College I want to vote for.

Andre Williams leads the nation with 2,102 rushing yards, the ninth-best rushing season in the history of college football. He averaged more than 100 yards per game against Florida State, Southern Cal, Clemson and Virginia Tech. He has 17 runs of 30 yards or more this season while no other player in major college football has reached 10.

Then there's this: Williams, per a piece on Sports Illustrated's web site, is a teaching assistant at BC in a class about diversity, justice and faith. BC's offensive linemen call him "Edgar," as in Edgar Allan Poe, because he likes to write.

He's already written 80 pages of a book titled "A King, a Queen and a Conscience."

"If I had to put it in a genre," Williams told Sports Illustrated, "it's a philosophical memoir."

OK. How many football players do you know that have ever used the words "genre," "philosophical" or "memoir" even once?

OK. I'm a shameless BC guy. Guilty. But this kid is the essence of "the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity," is he not?

And he shouldn't get my first-place vote ... why?

Still, I believe Winston is the guy until I hear otherwise. I can't punish him for something he may or may not have done off the field. But one thing I know about sports debates: The gray area is usually the size of Idaho. So I'd like to know from you. Do you believe character is an issue? Should it be?

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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