It’s a waste of time.
The University of Washington has begun a Jake for Heisman campaign. Meetings, plans, strategies. Included in the approach is to spin the school’s efforts to boost quarterback Jake Locker’s Heisman exposure as a “senior year celebration.”
Call it what you want, but none of it will matter to the voters.
Locker’s late June press tour where his aw-shucks persona was across from New York media and the Bristol big wigs of ESPN?
The postcard already mailed out by the university with a large picture of Locker surrounded by effusive quotations to members of the Football Writers Association of America at the end of April?
The footage of the Dawg Pack chanting “Jake for Heisman!” during a lull in February when ESPN’s College Gameday was in town for basketball?
Assigning one person from the school’s cash-strapped media relations department to solely handle all things Jake this fall?
We know this because strategy after strategy has been attempted in the past to influence the award.
Schools were moronic about it. One of Notre Dame’s PR gurus altered the pronunciation of Joe Theisman’s last name to rhyme with Heisman. Theisman finished second to Jim Plunkett in 1970 and was rewarded with a mispronunciation of his name for the rest of his life. His parents must be proud.
Schools threw excessive cash at it. Like Oregon’s deep-pocketed display of former quarterback Joey Harrington. The fervor was built early in 2001 with the memorable “Joey Heisman” billboard in Times Square. Harrington finished fourth in the Heisman voting that season. Perhaps he kept the billboard as a consolation prize.
Schools have been cute about it, sending out clever mailings playing off of names or styles. Some coaches have even used promises of a Heisman campaign as a recruiting tactic.
No matter how it is done, none of it will matter without wins, something Washington no longer can market. To recruits born in the 1990s, the Don James Era can’t be differentiated from the Rick Neuheisel Era.
Locker has not won more than five games in a season with the beleaguered Washington football program. With a brutal schedule in front of him this season, it’s doubtful the team will win more than seven. No Heisman winner has ever lost more than four.
Washington can e-mail, fax, paste and paint his face from the Puget Sound to the Bayou. No wins, no trophy.
So why bother? The school cut meals (also known as pizza) for the press last season during basketball games because it could not be justified in the budget. They’re counting pennies but will ship Locker around for what will be an useless exercise unless Washington wins at least nine games.
This is about future cash, recruits and exposure. This is about trying to expand the Washington brand while it has something positive at which to point.
The whole season will be a marketing frenzy and boon for the university while bringing its polite young man with freight train legs through the media circuit. It’s the ultimate exposure of an amateur athlete.
Locker, projected as the top pick of the 2011 NFL draft, doesn’t need this. His money is coming regardless. This is for the school and football program.
It’s Jake Locker 5.0: The Last go ’round.
That’s why the school has been planning since Locker and his dog strolled into Steve Sarkisian’s office in December to say he was coming back.
Senior associate athletic director O.D. Vincent and anyone else who has met Locker knows the quarterback would rather get poked in the eye then purposely turn cameras his way. The school will attempt to manage accordingly.
“The thing we want to do most of is we want to be authentic to Jake Locker,” Vincent said. “We want whatever campaign there may be to be Jake, and we want him comfortable with it because Jake Locker is the last guy who wants individual recognition and wants to be the poster boy for anything.”
Trouble is, he’s literally a poster boy. His face on mailings, every online ad, even filling a window in the shiny new downtown Husky Central store.
He hasn’t had much of choice since arriving at Washington. Locker’s skill overwhelmed his cooperative yet reticent personality.
If you ask Vincent, the campaign is a necessity forced by geography.
“More than anything else our philosophy is we are up here in the corner of the country,” Vincent said. “In the Pacific Northwest, not necessarily the hub of all media, we just want to make sure we promote and we want to protect and make (others) aware of all our student-athletes, whether it’s Danielle Lawrie, Nick Taylor, whoever it might be. We want to make sure their successes are recognized for what they should be.”
Right. Everyone must have missed Taylor’s SportsCenter appearance.
Despite spin-warping the basics, this is a Heisman campaign at its core. A spend-now-benefit-later attempt by the school.
It’s all fruitless. Locker can’t win without the team winning. The university can’t win without the team winning. No placard is going to change that.