September 14, 2010
A lot of people for years have envisioned stern, white-gloved men marching into Heritage Hall to confiscate Reggie Bush's tainted 2005 Heisman Trophy in the name of justice and compliance and not being relentlessly hyped by ESPN ahead of a loss in the '06 Rose Bowl. With the university's decision in July to forfeit its copy of the award, though – along with all other evidence of Bush's existence there – it didn't come to that at USC.
And despite speculation last week that the Heisman Trust was prepared to move on Bush's trophy, it won't go down that way for him, either, after Bush announced his decision Tuesday to become the first player in the award's 75-year history to give the trophy back. In a statement released by the Saints, Bush said:
One of the greatest honors of my life was winning the Heisman Trophy in 2005. For me, it was a dream come true.
But I know that the Heisman is not mine alone. 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.
It is for these reasons that I have made the difficult decision to forfeit my title as Heisman winner of 2005. The persistent media speculation regarding allegations dating back to my years at USC has been both painful and distracting. In no way should the storm around these allegations reflect in any way on the dignity of this award, nor on any other institutions or individuals. Nor should it distract from outstanding performances and hard-earned achievements either in the past, present or future.
For the rest of my days, I will continue to strive to demonstrate through my actions and words that I was deserving of the confidence placed in me by the Heisman Trophy Trust. [...]
I will forever appreciate the honor bestowed upon me as a winner of the Heisman. While this decision is heart-breaking, I find solace in knowing that the award was made possible by the support and love of so many. Those are gifts that can never be taken away."
Bush also said he would work to turn "a negative situation into a positive one" by working with the trust to set up "an educational program which will assist student-athletes and their families avoid some of the mistakes that I made." That may not amount to an admission of guilt, exactly, much less an apology, but it's probably as close as we're ever going to get – at least until some documentary or author finally drags Bush's side of the story out of him in 20 years, after everyone has mostly stopped caring.
I wish I could say the obligatory retrospectives are the last we're going to hear from this affair, more than 4 1/2 years after Bush and his parents were initially accused of negotiating a lucrative arrangement with a pair of would-be agents over his last two seasons in school. But we still await the fate of USC's pending appeal to remove the safe the NCAA dropped on the football program as a result, and of the Trojans' 2004 BCS championship, which will almost certainly be stripped unless the NCAA (improbably) overturns its decision to declare Bush retroactively ineligible for the 2005 Orange Bowl rout over Oklahoma.
And there's the matter of what happens to his soon-to-be-vacant Heisman itself. It's not like runner-up Vince Young is asking for it or anything, but if they're willing to give it to him, you know, he wouldn't say no.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.