Over the course of the last few weeks, the question of “Will he or won’t he?” has been the big elephant in Heritage Hall. The question revolves around former USC star running back Reggie Bush and his now-infamous 2005 Heisman Trophy.
There were murmurs and increased speculation about whether Bush would lose his Heisman, but still the Heisman Trophy Trust had made no decision.
On Tuesday, the climax of this cat-and-mouse game finally came to a head-scratching halt when Bush announced he would concede his trophy, marking the first time in the prestigious award’s history that a recipient has given back the honor.
“For me, it was a dream come true. But I know that the Heisman is not mine alone,” Bush said in a statement. “Far from it. I know that my victory was made possible by the discipline and hard work of my teammates, the steady guidance of my coaches, the inspiration of the fans and the unconditional love of my family and friends. And I know that any young man fortunate enough to win the Heisman enters into a family of sorts. Each individual carries the legacy of the award and each one is entrusted with its good name.”
“I am determined to view this event as an opportunity to help others and to advance the values and mission of the Heisman Trophy Trust,” he said.
Bush’s role in the NCAA violations has contributed to the stranglehold over the athletic program for the next two years, in which the Trojans face bowl ineligibility and a reduction of 30 scholarships.
The former Trojan running back’s off-field activities, however, pale in comparison to the actions of previous Heisman winners.
The Oklahoma Sooners’ running back Billy Sims the 1978 award winner, was so far in debt and back child support he sold his trophy to clear almost $33,000 from his name. Billy Cannon, the 1959 Heisman winner from Louisiana State University, spent nearly three years in prison for his role in a counterfeiting scheme in the early 1980s. And who can forget arguably the greatest running back in USC history, O.J. Simpson, whose reputation needs no introduction.
But none of these men or any of the individuals with whom they share the renowned honor has ever given back the award, or been forced to give it up — except Bush.
In regards to the matter, USC coach Lane Kiffin stated flatly that it didn’t affect his memories of the 2005 season.
“He doesn’t have to give it back,” Kiffin said. “This is his decision to do and I respect that. I don’t think of that season any differently. I think it was a great year until the last 6 minutes of the game, when he were up 2 scores and gave it away. Other than that, I have good memories of that season.”
Kiffin also pointed out that Bush’s situation hasn’t affected the current team in any way, simply because of how much time has passed since the tailback attended USC.
“None of [the current team] was here when [Bush] was here,” Kiffin said. “So it’s not as big a deal to them as you might think. We didn’t even discuss it in the team meeting. The only reason I brought it up was so they weren’t surprised when [the media] asked them.”
Though it would not comment on whether the meeting was about Bush, the Trust was supposed to hold its monthly meeting Tuesday afternoon in New York City.
USC returned its copy of Bush’s Heisman Trophy to the Heisman Trophy Trust in July, shortly after the announcement of the NCAA sanctions against the school.
Though there is no way to erase the 1,740 rushing yards, 478 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns that Bush amassed during his junior season in 2005, his decision ends a drawn-out process that included himself, the university, and the Heisman Trust for months following the NCAA sanctions.