Tennessee and Florida take different approaches in promoting the Heisman
On Wednesday, the school's athletic department unveiled a massive campaign strategy touting safety Eric Berry as a Heisman candidate. The campaign will include several electronic billboards - including one in South Florida - a Web site berry4heisman.com, a word-of-the-day calendar that will be sent to Heisman voters, and a 20-foot-high, 15-feet-wide, inflatable jersey that will be outside of Neyland Stadium on game days. It's an exact replica of Berry's No. 14.
Tennessee's approach to this Heisman campaign is in stark contrast to Florida's when quarterback Tim Tebow won the coveted award in 2007. The Florida communications department made the decision not to promote Tebow for the award. There were no notepads or DVD's shipped out to sportswriters across America. After the final regular season game, voters did receive a short e-mail detailing Tebow's stats and how he stacked up against other candidates.
Florida's communications director later explained that the school had decided to use a more grassroots form of communication. And frankly, Tebow was generating so much national media attention, UF didn't need to pay for more.
So they decided to let Tebow's play speak for itself. Last season, Oklahoma and Texas refrained from national campaigns for Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy. Bradford eventually won the Heisman.
That's not to say that Tennessee's approach is wrong. But it does bring up an interesting question: is this massive campaign about Eric Berry, or more about Lane Kiffin and the program?
The first-year coach has admitted that the only thing more important to him (than winning games), is getting Tennessee's name out across the nation. The program lost some luster over the past few years, and Kiffin is trying to bring it back. So with this Eric Berry Heisman campaign, Tennessee can promote one of the best defensive players in the nation - and perhaps more importantly, itself.
Because let's face it, unless Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford all get arrested in Vegas on the same night, and get kicked off their respective teams the next day, there's no way Eric Berry is going to win the Heisman.
The last 11 Heisman winners were quarterbacks or running backs. Charles Woodson was the last defensive player to win the award and that was in 1997 when he beat out Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning.
The nationwide billboards and all this media attention about the Heisman campaign won't win Berry the Heisman, but it most certainly can help capture the attention of some of the nation's best high school recruits. Especially in South Florida where the Vols are trying to make inroads. All of a sudden, that seems like $10,000 well spent.