Ten years after the NCAA mandated former USC football star Reggie Bush to completely separate from the USC brand, the Athletic Department announced Wednesday that it is ending its disassociation with Bush.
“I’ve dreamed of this day for 10-plus years, and I’m excited to come home!” Bush said in a USC Athletics press release.
According to a 2017 NCAA ruling by the Committee on Infractions, the mandated dissociation between a school and an athlete is limited to a 10-year period. Bush’s sanction started June 10, 2010.
For the past year, many have been clamoring for Bush’s return to USC, with “Free Reggie” becoming a rallying cry for USC students, fans and community members alike. The USC Athletics homepage Wednesday featured a full-screen message with the words “He’s Back” over a picture of Bush as well as a video highlighting his accomplishments both on the Coliseum field and in the surrounding Los Angeles community.
“Throughout [my hiring] process, one of the consistent themes that emerged from my discussions was how much Reggie Bush means to our former players, USC alumni, and fans everywhere,” athletic director Mike Bohn said in the same press release. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know Reggie and so many of his teammates, and I’m pleased his disassociation has ended so that we can welcome him back to our family. I’m confident that Reggie will use his incredible platform and influential voice to support and empower all of our student-athletes.”
Bush is one of the most accomplished athletes in college football history. He compiled 3,169 yards — the eighth most in USC history — and 25 touchdowns on the ground in his career, adding 1,301 yards and 13 touchdowns receiving. Bush also picked up four touchdowns and more than 2,000 yards on kick and punt returns, finishing fourth and sixth in yardage between the two. Many of his stats have been vacated as part of the sanctions.
Bush’s 7.3 yards per carry are the most in NCAA history. He led the nation in all-purpose yards in 2005 en route to winning the Heisman Trophy, which he forfeited in 2010. That trophy remains forfeited despite the disassociation.
“To say that I don’t want it back would be a lie,” Bush told Colin Cowherd on The Herd later Wednesday about his Heisman. “100% I want my Heisman Trophy back, but also, at the same time, I’m more focused on the kids now because what happened to me is in the past.”
The running back has been in the shadows of the football program as part of one of the harshest punishments the NCAA has ever laid down on a program and athlete. This followed the investigation of a four-year benefit program from his agent that provided cash, travel expenses and a San Diego home for his parents, among other benefits.
Bush could not be a part of the Trojans’ program in any capacity throughout the dissociation period — including an on-campus presence ban. However, he was allowed to appear at the Coliseum as a college football analyst with Fox Sports this past season, and his name and stats were part of a recent USC media guide — accompanied by an asterisk.
The program’s penalty included USC football being banned from two postseasons and losing 30 scholarship spots for three years, each beginning in 2010. The NCAA also mandated that the Trojans vacate 14 wins and one loss between 2004 and 2005 — a ruling that holds despite the dissociation’s end.
Former USC basketball guard O.J. Mayo’s dissociation with the University also ends today since both he and Bush were part of the same investigation probe. Mayo, who went on to play in the NBA and internationally, received Pac-10 Honors and averaged 20.7 points during his 2008 freshman year but is alleged to have also received illegal benefits. He is still the highest drafted player in the basketball program’s history.
It is still unclear what the full implications of reinstatement will look like for both Bush and Mayo. The possibility of re-retiring Bush’s famed No. 5 has been speculated, including Bush’s oversized jersey joining the six other retired ones on the staircases by the Coliseum peristyle entrance and his brand becoming a part of the football program’s effort to boost recruiting in Southern California.
“[I’m] excited to be back,” Bush said on The Herd. “Can’t wait to get to the University and get to know some of the young players there and start to help initiate change and just help bring back greatness to USC.”
This article was updated at 2:09 p.m. with quotes from Bush originally made on The Herd.