Should Reggie Bush’s Heisman be taken away from him? Yes.
Should Vince Young get it? No.
Candy-coat it any way you want to, but Reggie Bush cheated. While a student-athlete at USC, Bush received gifts in the form of cash, cars, and even a house for his parents, all things that are considered against the NCAA rules.
During that same time he was one of the best college football players in the nation and was awarded the Heisman Trophy.
Five years later the truth that everyone knew but didn’t want to acknowledge finally came out: Reggie Bush was a cheater.
USC has already returned its copy of the Heisman Trophy, and reports are coming out that the Heisman Trust may ask Bush to do the same. So the question is what to do with the trophy.
One option would be to give it to Vince Young, that year’s runner-up. While many will say that Young deserved it in the first place, the best option is to leave the award vacant for that year.
If Young takes the award, it becomes Bush’s tainted Heisman. There will always be an asterisk beside his name, always a doubt that he really didn’t win it. The Heisman is not like the Miss America pageant; if the winner can’t fulfill his duties, the award doesn’t go to the runner-up.
A lot of media and pundits out there are arguing that Bush shouldn’t lose the award at all. They will all admit he cheated, but their argument is that it's not like those tens of thousands of dollars, cars, and houses helped Bush play football. It's not like he took steroids or bet on the game; he just took some gifts he shouldn't have, and Bush is the real victim here.
Sportswriter Joe Posnanski said on CNNSI Wednesday that if they take Bush’s trophy away, he’d no longer vote for the award. That’s OK, Joe, I’ll gladly take your vote.
Others have said if you are going to take away Bush’s you need to do the same to O.J. Simpson, Billy Sims, and any other past winner who ever got in trouble. The problem with that argument is that Simpson, Sims, and others got into trouble AFTER they finished their college careers. They never broke the rules while they played the game.
Bush knowingly broke NCAA rules, and for those who think that it really didn’t matter since it wouldn’t have affected his play on the field, you’re wrong. With those gifts Bush got peace of mind; he got stability. He didn’t have to worry about money, where his parents would be living, or if his old clunker would make it school each day.
Bush also did everything he could to disrupt and obstruct the NCAA's investigation into the mater. Not exactly the ideals that the Heisman Trust strives for.
The Heisman needs to remain vacant for that year to stand as a warning that no one is above the rules and that breaking them does have consequences. Vacating it doesn’t lessen the award but rather strengthens it by adding integrity back to the process.
While giving the trophy to Young may make a few Texas fans feel better, it still wouldn't erase the stain created by Bush. Now is the time to move forward and try to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.
The NCAA needs to investigate these issues in a more timely matter. Rumors about Bush had been swirling for the previous two years, but the NCAA decided to ignore them until after Bush had already graduated.
In the end the only thing that truly matters is that Bush cheated and didn't deserve college football's highest honor.