The Long, Strange, Sometimes Sad, Mostly Honorable, Still Ongoing Saga Of The Well-Respected But Orphaned Heisman Trophy
August 4, 2009: Considering its status as one of the most revered trophies in sports, the original Heisman Trophy has been without a home more often than Little Orphan Annie. The 2009 Heisman Trophy announcement will be televised live on ESPN from the Nokia Theatre on Dec. 12, and the 75th annual Heisman Presentation dinner will be held on Monday, Dec. 14 from the New York Marriott Marquis.
But the trophy itself, which was first presented in 1935 to Jay Berwanger, a running back out of Chicago, has no official home. Most recently, the Heisman Trophy was housed in a section of the Sports Museum of America in New York that was dedicated to Heisman winners and lore. When the short-lived SMA closed its doors this past February due to financial reasons, members of the Heisman Trophy Trust in New York, the group that presents the annual award and maintains the Heisman Trophy legacy, scrambled to get the original trophy and its other artifacts back before they went into storage awaiting deposition. It has been kept in a secure, but non-public location, since then, but will make its public reappearance in September as part of a four-month tour sponsored by Sports Illustrated and Nissan that will lead to the award presentation. And then, the original trophy goes back behind closed doors until a pubic home is found.
For the first 66 years of its life, the original trophy was in the possession of and proudly displayed by the Downtown Athletic Club in New York. It was designed by sculptor Frank Eliscu, modeled after Ed Smith, a leading player in 1934 for the now defunct New York University football team and named after the DAC's first athletic director, John Heisman. But the Heisman Trophy has had an unfortunate history over the past eight years. The Downtown Athletic Club was located less than half a mile from the World Trade Center and suffered major damage on 9/11. The DAC never recovered and declared bankruptcy in 2002. The original Heisman Trophy, which was not damaged, was moved uptown to the Yale Club, where it was kept under qwraps until just before presentations were made in 2002 and 2003.
The ceremony moved to the Hilton New York in 2004, to the Nokia Theatre Times Square in 2005, then back to the Hilton in 2006, 2007 and 2008. This year, Nokia will be the site of the announcement and the Marriott Marquis the site of the dinner.
At the Sports Museum of America, which opened in May 2008, there was an entire gallery within the museum dedicated to the trophy, including the making of the trophy, the history of the DAC and information on John Heisman and all of the trophy's winners. There was also a dedicated area celebrating 2007 winner Tim Tebow, but there was not enough time or money to add 2008 winner Sam Bradford.
The ten-stop Sports Illustrated Heisman Tour Presented by Nissan, now in its third year, begins Sept. 5 at Oklahoma State and concludes Dec. 5 at the site of the SEC championship before heading to New York. SI also will print a custom publication dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Heisman Trophy and SI.com will feature a video of "Greatest Heisman Moments." According to Christian Meunier, vp-Nissan marketing, "Partnering with Sports Illustrated is the perfect way to bring 75 years of college football history to life while offering fans a closer look at Nissan's exciting vehicles."
The Sports Illustrated Heisman Tour Presented by Nissan will make the following game stops during the 2009 college football season:
• September 5, 2009: Georgia at Oklahoma State
• September 12, 2009: USC at Ohio State
• September 19, 2009: Texas Tech at Texas
• October 17, 2009: Cal at UCLA
• October 31, 2009: Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville
• November 7, 2009: Ohio State at Penn State
• November 14, 2009: Michigan at Wisconsin
• November 21, 2009: Cal at Stanford
• November 26, 2009: Texas at Texas A&M
• December 5, 2009: SEC Championship
Source: Sports Illustrated