Former USC star running back Reggie Bush beat the Heisman Trophy Trust to the punch Tuesday when he forfeited his 2005 Heisman Trophy. That same day, he released a statement peppered with public relations-friendly phrases.
Bush talked about how winning the Heisman was “a dream come true” and gave credit for winning the award to his teammates, coaches, fans and family.
What a good guy.
But the thing that everyone had been waiting to hear was buried near the end of the statement: an admission of guilt.
“I would like to begin the effort to turn a negative situation into a positive one by working with the Trustees to establish an educational program which will assist student-athletes and their families avoid the mistakes that I made,” Bush said in the statement.
In the last five years, Bush has rarely spoken in public about the allegations concerning his dealings with two prospective sports agents during his time at USC. Even when the NCAA found Bush to have taken part in the wrongdoing, he only said that he was “disappointed by [the] decision” and “disagreed with the findings.”
Finally, Bush got off his Heisman high horse and admitted to his mistakes. It confirmed what we all already knew. We just wanted to hear it from him.
After watching the Trojans limp through their first two victories because of the fallout from Bush’s actions, many fans have expressed the desire to see Bush tangibly punished. Over the last week, everyone has had an opinion about what should happen to Bush’s Heisman Trophy.
Bush chose to go with self-flagellation.
If Bush had manned up to his transgressions earlier, there might have been some honor in his forfeiture. But at this point, when he was probably just a Trustees’ meeting away from losing the trophy anyway, I can’t commend Bush for his actions.
Bush (or his P.R. people, at least) clearly made this move to try to help his injured image. Unfortunately for him, it’s too late.
Essentially, Bush has been blacklisted and removed from USC football history as if he never existed, à la George Orwell’s government in 1984. USC fans also want to pretend that he never existed because they have already lost so much at his expense. Glancing around the Coliseum during Saturday’s home opener, you would have been hard-pressed to find a single No. 5 jersey among the crowd.
So does Bush’s veiled admission of guilt help his image at all? Not a lick. For those that called Bush a cheater, this just confirms that sentiment.
But let’s set the record straight: Bush did not cheat the same way Barry Bonds did. He was the best college football player in 2005 and thus deserved to win that trophy.
The fact that he received improper benefits, however, reverses that. If USC has to pay in very real ways — scholarship reductions, postseason bans — then so should Bush.
Whether Bush chose to give the Heisman Trophy back or was stripped of it is irrelevant. USC made up its mind about Bush’s legacy when it chose to send his replica Heisman back. So did his fans when they chose to leave his jersey at home.
The question now turns to what happens to the Heisman Trophy itself.
The Trust has not said whether there will be no winner for that year or if the runner-up, Vince Young, will receive the award. (Although Young has already stated he would accept the award if it were offered to him.)
But does it really matter? Bush has already been embarrassed enough. He is the first winner of the Heisman to return the trophy and he is no longer welcome at the school he brought so much money and so many accolades to.
Bush will be out of luck if he’s looking for sympathy. Compared to what his university is going through, he’s getting off easy.
At the very least, USC can now move on with the reassurance that the man already known to be guilty has finally come to grips with it himself.
“Middle Ground” usually runs Tuesdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Josh at email@example.com.