No Heisman hype for Geno from department, WVU official says
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Mountaineers fans expect more of the same from West Virginia University quarterback Geno Smith when he takes the field Saturday against Texas.
Regardless of how the star performs, fans shouldn't expect any calls from the WVU Athletic Department for Smith to win the first Heisman Trophy in school history.
"As far as Geno goes, we feel very comfortable with where we are in this stage of the game," said Mike Fragale, assistant athletic director for communications.
The Heisman Trophy is awarded each year to the top player in college football. Media members and former trophy winners account for the lion's share of the votes that decide who wins the coveted trophy.
Sometimes schools mount marketing campaigns to let those voters know about an athlete, said Tim Henning, coordinator for the award. He hasn't noticed any such movements this year and said it generally comes down to the school's preference.
Many WVU athletes are named to award "watch lists" every year, and the school promotes all of them, Fragale said. In the 1970s and 80s that might have meant sending a notebook about a player to people all across the country, but in today's social media climate Fragale said that's not necessary.
"Bobble heads and notebooks, voters aren't interested in that," Fragale said. "They're interested in results."
Smith leads the nation in passing touchdowns (20) and quarterback rating (208.4) and trails only Marshall's Rakeem Cato for total passing yards. The senior has repeatedly said he is only concerned with winning and not any awards.
Many national media outlets have already said the Heisman is his to lose though. The amount of national attention alone paid to the WVU football team, currently ranked ninth in the nation, generates a massive amount of buzz for all of the Mountaineers, Fragale said.
"We're a national program. We have national people that cover us every week," Fragale said, adding that the team's games are nationally televised each week.
"When you're ranked, when your team is successful, you have a chance to have individual success," he continued.
It's still very early in the season to discuss end-of-year awards, Fragale said.
That hasn't stopped Mountaineer fans from pushing Smith for the trophy.
The website genosmith4heisman.com compiles articles and videos from across the nation, and the corresponding Facebook page has more than 5,000 fans. Shirts and other merchandise that fans have designed promoting Smith as the Heisman frontrunner also are available online.
Fans won't find any "Geno for Heisman" garb at the Book Exchange in Morgantown, said merchandise manager Chris Belt.
Although the store in the heart of Morgantown is known for its Mountaineer gear, Belt said it stays away from selling items that promote individual college players due to NCAA licensing rules.
"We just don't even flirt with it," he said.
But jerseys bearing the number 12, Smith's number, have been flying off the shelves, he said. Belt suspects many fans take the nameless jerseys to printing shops to make them look like the "G. Smith" jersey the quarterbook dons on game day.
There's also plenty of chatter about Smith's chances for the award.
"Definitely everybody's talking about it every day," Belt said. "Every single day I talk to at least one person about it."
That buzz and more success should keep Smith and the rest of the Mountaineers atop the national conscience, Fragale said.
"Knock on wood. We have a long way to go," he said.
Saturday's kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. in Austin, Texas.