When members of the Dick Butkus Award committee watched as Temple’s Tyler Matakevich took home another impressive piece of college football hardware on ESPN Thursday, it was dinner, not breakfast, time, but they surely had to have egg on their faces.
Left off the list of finalists for the Butkus Award given to the nation’s best linebacker, Matakevich won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s best overall player, which had to be embarrassing for the Butkus people. An uproar of epic proportions followed release of the Butkus finalist list with committee members peppered with emails and letters from Temple and AAC football fans who were wondering what the criteria was. Many of those same fans posted on social media that the committee claimed they had nothing to do with the selection of the finalists.
Matakevich not only took home the Bednarik Award, but it was his second such award as the nation’s best defensive player. Earlier this week, Matakevich won the Charlotte Touchdown Club’s Bronko Nagurski Award. That begs this question: If Matakevich, a linebacker, is named the top defensive player by two historically more prestigious groups than the Butkus one, just why was he left off the list of 10 finalists as the nation’s top linebacker?
The answer has to be that the Butkus “committee,” or whoever is in charge of pairing the list down to 10, did a sloppy job without a whole lot of homework done. Matakevich is one of seven players in the history of the FBS to have at least 100 tackles in four-straight seasons. With one game left in a soon-to-be 14-game season for Temple this year, Matakevich has 126 tackles and that is 13 more tackles than Butkus winner Jaylon Smith of Notre Dame. In a head-to-head matchup on Halloween Night, Matakevich was the clearly the best linebacker on the field as he had 13 tackles and an interception in a 24-20 loss, while Smith had 10 tackles. Matakevich had five more interceptions than Smith, who had none, and five more interceptions than anyone competing for the Butkus, Bednarik and Nagurski Awards.
The latter two groups took their jobs seriously, while it now apparent that the Butkus people shirked their responsibility. That is a hit on the credibility of their award from which it could be very hard to recover.