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Grip on Sports: The best receiver in the land isn’t eligible for the biggest award

Eastern Washington University WR Cooper Kupp runs for a score against Idaho State, Nov. 12, 2016, in Cheney, Wash. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Eastern Washington University WR Cooper Kupp runs for a score against Idaho State, Nov. 12, 2016, in Cheney, Wash. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It’s that time of year. When everyone is angry at everyone else because of their voting choices. No, not those choices. We’re talking about college football award choices. And this season, we are in the middle of it. Read on.


• The Heisman Trophy has been around seemingly forever. It actually dates back to the 1930s, when the University of Chicago’s Jay Berwanger won the first award. Then, not too long after, the school dropped football. Appropriate, no?

For years and years, though, the Heisman not only was the most prestigious college football award, it was the only college football award. That’s not the case anymore. It seems as if every organization in America has an award honoring every position.

Before you know it, we’ll have the Minot Chamber of Commerce’s Kicking Tee Collector of the Year Award brought to you by Ace Hardware. (And could you please come to Minot for the banquet next month?)

But I’m being a bit hypocritical here. After all, I agreed to be one of a whole bunch of voters for this year’s Biletnikoff Award, giving every year to the best receiver in college football.

Except, this year it won’t be.

Voting took place last week to pick the 10 semifinalists. There were truly great receivers on the list, from Washington’s John Ross to Northwestern’s Austin Carr and everyone in-between. But there was one name that was conspicuously absent.

Cooper Kupp of Eastern Washington University.

There is a simple reason for the omission. The Biletnikoff Award is for FBS players only. Those in the FCS need not apply. They have their own award. Which is fine, except for one problem.

Kupp is probably the best receiver in college football regardless of level. Numbers say so. NFL scouts think so, or at least that he is in the conversation. And the eye test, for those of us who have bothered to watch, is conclusive. Others may be flashier, faster, or more ballyhooed, but Kupp is as good at anyone at his craft.

But he won’t win the award given to the nation’s “best” receiver. As a voter, he wasn’t on the list I was presented. There was a spot I could have written him in, sure, but that would have been as effective as Ernie Johnson’s recent vote for John Kasich. So we passed on the opportunity, just as we will when we vote for the three finalists this week.

So consider this my real choice. If I could, I would vote for Cooper Kupp as the Biletnikoff Award winner. He deserves it. He is college football’s best receiver.


WSU: Air Raid? How about Ground Beef? The Cougars’ running backs are as productive as any group in the Pac-12. Jacob Thorpe lets you in on that secret with this story today. On the football side of things, Jacob also has his conference power rankings, WSU’s place in the playoff rankings and two blog posts, one on a commitment and one with the official game notes. … Jacob was in the Tri-Cities last night, covering WSU’s skin-of-its-teeth basketball win over Division II Central Washington. … Luke Falk is one of America’s most-heralded walk-ons. Now can he win the award given to walk-ons? (Yes, there really is an award for everything.) … Hey, why doesn’t Falk get more love nationally? One word. Pullman. Not one of America’s media hotbeds. … Colorado is even more of a surprise this season than WSU. Which is saying something.

Elsewhere in Pac-12 football, the Big Game is getting bigger. Did you know California’s Sonny Dykes never wears red? Or that Stanford is not overlooking its rival? … USC and UCLA will play a physical, take-no-prisoners type of game. They do every year. … Oregon will line up at Utah and play. We just don’t know how many players the Ducks will have. … Arizona State is so lucky, playing Washington after its first loss. Speaking of the Huskies, they dropped to sixth in the playoff rankings, so they still have a shot. … And the winner of the forgotten game of the week award: Arizona playing at Oregon State.

Gonzaga: Speaking of awards and honors, Nigel Williams-Goss is on the Wooden Award preseason top 50 list, five GU soccer players were honored and Michael Gulledge tells us the Zags will honor Native Americans with their uniforms this week.

EWU: Matt Sommer’s fortunes in Cheney have matched Eastern’s. Jim Allen explains in this feature. … Around the Big Sky in football, North Dakota continues to move up in the rankings. … Southern Utah is hunting consecutive winning seasons. … Cal Poly is still thinking playoffs. … It's rivalry week in Montana. And this is really big rivalry.

Idaho: A Vandal woman basketball player has earned a Big Sky award.

Whitworth: This former Pirate cross country runner has packed a lot in his young life. And he’s trying to pack a bit more.

Chiefs: In what was a tight game early in the third period, Seattle ended up defeating Spokane 5-2 at the Arena last night. Josh Horton has the story and Colin Mulvany has a photo report.

Seahawks: If you had Nov. 15 in the “when will the Seahawks release Christine Michael” pool, you win. That not-so-stunning move happened yesterday. It’s a tough profession. … And yes, it looks as if Thomas Rawls is ready to go. … The Pats and the Hawks really respect one another. … Chris Hansen may just be a genius. Whether he ever will be an arena operator, that’s another story. But having Russell Wilson on-board? That's brilliant. … Pete Carroll will always buck tradition.

Mariners: The 2017 roster is coming together. Will it include Kyle Lewis?

Sounders: Colorado and Seattle will meet in the Western Conference finals. Both will be without their best players. … This wasn't good.


• The “S” word was in play at my house this morning. On Nov. 16. Snow. Ah (insert another “S” word here). Sorry, but I'm not a big fan. Until later …

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