This fiasco has gone on far enough, and it’s time to stop beating around the bush.
Despite that horrible pun, Reggie Bush has gone through the NCAA investigation relatively unscathed. If he wants to continue that run, he should return his Heisman Trophy.
It’s not because he wasn’t the best player on the field in 2005. It’s because he shouldn’t have been playing in 2005.
USC realized the error of its ways, so why can’t Bush? They already handed back their onyx figurine and removed all traces of the tainted running back from campus to make sure no one associates the school with him
But until Bush hands his back, the Trojans and Bush are Siamese.
According to the NCAA investigation, Bush willingly and happily held his hand out for any agents or other scumbags to give him illegal benefits during his time at Southern California.
Now, Bush is willingly and happily holding on to his award. And he’s the scumbag.
Sure, he made the program millions of dollars in ticket sales, ad revenue and every other way imaginable. He made USC Football a mainstream television ticket almost weekly, and did things that some running backs only do in Madden.
But by not owning up to it and paying back the cash without a lawsuit being filed, he’s costing the university the money he earned, and possibly more.
So how does giving back the Heisman help?
First off, it makes him look human. Whether or not you agree with the level of penalties placed on USC, it’s pretty clear that some shady business went down with Bush, and it’s close to a consensus that Bush violated NCAA rule 18.104.22.168:
The prohibition of accepting extra benefits.
Even though it would be five years too late, returning the “extra benefit” of the Heisman shows he acknowledges his wrongdoing. It’s a lost art in sports nowadays, and every fan wishes they can hear it.
When Mark McGwire refused to confirm his steroid use in Congress, he lost the respect of thousands. When Barry Bonds did the same, the world turned against him. Bush has a chance to be a man without being the HeisMan.
But more importantly, the speculation about the school is running wild. There aren’t many people who think Bush is the first person to accept illegal benefits, and he certainly won’t be the last.
Bush’s need to protect himself, however, is costing his Alma mater dearly.
The sanctions imposed upon USC are bad enough, but those are talked about ad nauseum. The hidden factor is how people view the program and connects all their infractions together, making USC look like an breeding ground for this behavior.
Brian Cushing and LenDale White both have impending steroid suspensions. Pete Carroll bolted right before things got rough. This seeming trend not only hurts the program’s image, but the university as a whole.
And it all comes down to a few bad people becoming the face of the school.
That’s how Bush can save face. USC has become the butt of so many jokes and hate from around the sports world, and it’s mainly due to him (O.J. Mayo gets some credit too). But the program is the one taking all the flack, while he sits on his NFL millions.
If he admits to the allegations, the speculation of what other players may have done or how far Bush really went stops. The media’s view of USC goes from an entire football program being out of line to a single player’s bad decisions.
If he loves USC as much as he claims he does, this is his chance to take the heat of the school.
Yes, it requires tarnishing his own reputation a bit, but by now, he’s not exactly Mr. Clean. He escaped the NCAA’s clutches before and made his money in the NFL. His greed will level a bitter after taste in the mouths of the Trojan faithful.
However, The Heisman Trust shouldn’t make Bush give the trophy back. It should be his choice.
He can choose to keep it under the idea that he was the best player on the field, or he can choose to return it under the idea that he should have never been their in the first place.
Your move, Reggie.