Reggie Bush: 2005 Heisman Trophy Stripping Is Meaningless

Ben SteigerwaltCorrespondent ISeptember 7, 2010

Reggie Bush did, in fact, play college football
Reggie Bush did, in fact, play college footballHarry How/Getty Images

It is being reported that Reggie Bush will be stripped of his 2005 Heisman Trophy. Well, then. Allow me to be the first person to congratulate the Heisman Trophy Trust, for accomplishing nothing.

The Heisman itself has been irrelevant for years. In fact, you can draw a comparison between winning the Heisman Trophy and Reggie Bush’s NFL career. There’s a ton of hype, some statistical justification, then disappointment.

In the past 10 years, three non-quarterbacks have won the award. Soon to be two, assuming the report is accurate. Yes, such stars as Matt Leinart, Jason White, and Eric Crouch have brought home the famous stiff-arming statuette.

There’s precedent for this. From 1972-1983, the award was dominated by running backs. And in the history of the trophy, only one defensive player (Charles Woodson, Michigan, 1997) has won.

For a trophy that is intended to award the best player in college football, doesn’t it seem a bit off that in 74 years, an offensive player has been the best, all 73 times?

If I asked you objectively who was more important to his team, more dominant and a more skilled player last year, doesn’t Ndamukong Suh win out over Mark Ingram?

So I think we can all agree that an award that is equally as much of a crapshoot as the NFL draft itself is in determining player talent would fall to the side of symbolic rather than meritorious. In fact, it may be a more accurate predictor of a future with the CFL, UFL, or the Oakland Raiders.

Actually, that’s not fair. JaMarcus Russell didn’t win the Heisman.

At any rate, it is the epitome of a meaningless gesture to take away a trophy that has been devalued from a player who, as the record will show, never played college football.

Which brings us to the real issue here. Sports history, at least the experience of it, cannot be rewritten. Those of us who watched Bush play at USC were justifiably awed by his natural talents and electric playmaking.

And we remember. Even if we didn’t, there’s video evidence to back us up.

Pete Rose hit safely the most times in baseball history. Barry Bonds hit the most home runs. And Reggie Bush was a heck of a lot of fun to watch, so much so that he got a trophy for it.

Whatever did or didn’t take place (and it seams clear that something did), it doesn’t change the way that Bush played and what he did on the field. In fact, the only unfair gain in the whole scenario was by USC, in that they had Bush as a player. This, of course, assumes that USC was a part of NCAA rule breaking in their recruitment of Bush.

You can’t take away Bush’s name from any discussion regarding the 2005 Heisman Trophy (he will always be an asterisk, if not listed directly). In fact, he may now join Woodson, Archie Griffin (only two-time winner), and Ernie Davis (first African-American winner) as the most noteworthy winners in Heisman history.

There’s a fundamental issue with the way NCAA reacts to these situations. If they’re not policing the recruitment process (a daunting task, no doubt) in real-time, punishments like stripping wins, preventing current players from enjoying their time with a great football team, and reducing scholarships (the only one that actually makes sense) seem inconsequential.

If I try to explain acts and consequences to my two-year-old son 10 minutes after he’s broken a rule, he doesn’t get it. While athletic directors and coaching staffs are all grown up, the effect is the same if they’re not caught in the act.

Ultimately, the kind of meaningless gestures by the NCAA and Heisman Trophy Trust only show weakness, rather than control. If players and agents are the problem, then players need to be suspended/dismissed and agents need to be blacklisted from contact with amateurs. Same goes for coaches and athletic directors.

But as we can see, Pete Carroll and Reggie Bush are thriving in the NFL as you read this. Holding them accountable now (even if it were possible), would be every bit as pointless as to pretend as if they never existed in the college realm.

Or trying to take away a trophy that was earned.