Anyone that watched college football in the early 2000s would tell you one thing: Reggie Bush was the most electrifying player in the country. Scoring 18 touchdowns and running for more than 1700 yards, Bush easily won the Heisman Trophy despite outstanding performances from Vince Young and Matt Leinart. Then, everything came crashing down. Bush and the USC Trojans were upset by the Texas Longhorns in the national championship game and Bush was stripped of his Heisman Trophy because he received "impermissible benefits" from boosters. As a result, Bush was barred from interacting with the USC football program and he was forced to return his Heisman Trophy. Moreover, his stats from his final season at USC were vacated from the record books.
Nearly a decade later, Bush has had a successful NFL career and he is allowed to interact with his alma mater in an official capacity. Most importantly, the NCAA has altered its rules to allow student-athletes to earn money from their name, image and likeness. In theory, this rule change could have made the benefits Bush received as a star athlete permissible. As a result, Bush has campaigned to have his Heisman Trophy returned. The Heisman Trust, which operates independently of the NCAA, said it would consider returning his award if the NCAA reinstated his stats from his final season at USC.
"Bush’s 2005 season records remain vacated by the NCAA and, as a result, under the rule set forth by the Heisman Trust and stated on the Heisman Ballot, he is not eligible to be awarded the 2005 Heisman Memorial Trophy. Should the NCAA reinstate Bush’s 2005 status, the Heisman Trust looks forward to welcoming him back to the Heisman family," a statement from the Heisman Trust reads.
In response, Bush spent much of the month of July campaigning to get his stats reinstated. Unfortunately, the NCAA has stood by its decision despite its recent rule changes. The organization considers the benefits Bush received to be "pay-for-play" rather than him benefiting from his name, image and likeness.
"Although college athletes can now receive benefits from their names, images and likenesses through activities like endorsements and appearances, NCAA rules still do not permit pay-for-play type arrangements," an NCAA spokesperson said.
"The NCAA infractions process exists to promote fairness in college sports. The rules that govern fair play are voted on, agreed to and expected to be upheld by all NCAA member schools."
As expected, Bush is upset by this ruling and intends to continue fighting against it.
"The NCAA doubles down on its decade-plus draconian penalty of a teenage kid who had his award taken based upon a sham investigation," Bush's lawyer, Alex Spiro, said in a statement.
"You have to wonder if profiting from kids for this long has clouded the NCAA's judgment as to why we have student athletics in the first place.