Each summer, all NCAA Division I-A colleges and universities may nominate running backs from their respective football teams who satisfy the following selection criteria:
- Candidate plays predominantly at the running back position and has made extraordinary contributions to his team.
- Candidate is enrolled in a degree program, is in good academic standing and is on schedule to graduate.
- Candidate holds a record of good citizenship within and beyond the athletic sphere.
- Candidate has demonstrated a record of leadership.
- Candidate exhibits the characteristics of sportsmanship and fair play associated with Doak Walker.
In October, each Division I-A college or university is given the additional opportunity to nominate a candidate or to nominate a replacement for a preseason candidate who may not have performed according to preseason expectations.
Throughout the season, statistical updates are compiled by the Forum office and released to the media and National Selection Committee, which includes sportswriters, television commentators, analysts, radio sports personalities and former All-America and NFL All-Pro football players.
In mid-November, the PwC SMU Athletic Forum Board of Directors convenes to review the achievements of all candidates and votes to select ten semifinalists for the Award. The following day, the files of the semifinalists are forwarded to the Doak Walker Award National Selection Committee, who then votes to determine three finalists. The National Selection Committee will then cast a second vote to determine the winner.
The recipient of the Award is announced live on The Home Depot College Football Awards show on ESPN, and presented with the Award at the Doak Walker Award Presentation Banquet in Dallas.