Tue Jun 01 12:02pm EDT
All signs point (tentatively) to Friday as zero hour for answers from the NCAA in its long-running investigation into Reggie Bush's eligibility at USC. But whenever it comes, the details in the report will only be the beginning of the fallout: If Bush is ruled retroactively ineligible in 2004 and 2005, when he and his family are alleged to have accepted nearly $300,000 in cash and prizes from would-be agents, we know already that USC's 2004 BCS championship could be at stake, and that there's some sympathy among Heisman voters to strip Bush of his 2005 trophy based on the (still hypothetical) ruling.
In the latter case, that sympathy seems to be in the slight minority, according to the Orange County Register, whose informal survey of Heisman voters has come back in favor of letting Bush keep the award regardless of the NCAA's verdict. Of the 50 voters polled (out of more than 900 voters overall), 29 told the paper they wouldn't move to revoke the trophy, compared to 19 who said the '05 shouldn't stand if Bush was ineligible and two who had no opinion ahead of any official ruling. For the most part, setting a precedent for historical revision is a can they have no intention of opening:
"My feeling is that unless they become specific in changing the rules, you can't lose your Heisman for discoveries made after you've won the award," said Mark Blaudschun, the Boston Globe's longtime national college football writer. "As long as O.J. (Simpson) still has his Heisman, all bets are off."
Said Ron Higgins, SEC football reporter for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis: "Bush put up the numbers and won the Heisman. The only thing he's guilty of is getting caught. I'd wager that every year among the Heisman finalists, there's an NCAA violation waiting to be found."
"Let Bush keep it," John Rohde, columnist for The Oklahoman, said. "Don't start casting stones, or we might end up stripping several Heismans."
Mmmm, that's good cynicism. Not that the idealists, of course, didn't have their own case for dialing up the repo man: SEC mainstay Tony Barnhart told the OCR that Heisman voters "have no choice," and the Tacoma News-Tribune's John McGrath deemed all honors earned by an ineligible player as "fraudulent," citing the NCAA's decision to strike both Villanova's second-place finish and Howard Porter's Most Outstanding Player award in the 1971 Final Four from the books and place an asterisk next to Porter's name in Final Four record books when it discovered he'd signed a pro contract during the season. (Even in that example, McGrath says, "an asterisk is a lame compromise for the Heisman Trophy.")
One line you definitely will not see at any point in the future, hypothetical or otherwise: Heisman Trophy winner Vince Young. Whether or not they though Bush should keep the award, only five of the 50 voters said they'd cede it to the runner-up, leaving Young to dwell dejectedly on his 2005 national championship ring and legendary effort against the Trojans in the '06 Rose Bowl. You know, taking pleasure in the little things.
- - -
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.