Bush forfeits Heisman
In a move unprecedented in the 75-year history of the Heisman Trophy, former University of Southern California star running back Reggie Bush forfeited college football’s most prestigious award on Tuesday.
Bush, now a standout for the New Orleans Saints, released his statement through the NFL team. Bush admitted mistakes during his tenure as a collegian for the first time.
The move comes less than a week after Yahoo! Sports reported the Heisman trust was wrapping up its investigation into Bush’s alleged improprieties, and was expected to strip the trophy by the end of September. Trust representatives denied a decision had been made following that report. But only hours before a Tuesday night meeting, two sources close to the trust reiterated the award was expected to be stripped by the end of this month. The sources also reiterated the trophy will not be passed to second-place finisher Vince Young, and instead will be vacated.
The NCAA hit USC with major sanctions and a finding of lack of institutional control in June, due in large part to multiple violations committed by Bush. The infractions included the receipt of cash, a car, a house, hotel stays and other impermissible benefits, as first reported in a Yahoo! Sports investigation in September 2006. In his statement, Bush indicated that he considered the award’s “legacy” and “good name” in his decision.
“It is for these reasons that I have made the difficult decision to forfeit my title as Heisman winner of 2005,” the statement read. “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.
[Photos: Latest images of Reggie Bush]
“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 would like to begin in this effort by turning 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 some of the mistakes that I made. I am determined to view this event as an opportunity to help others and to advance the values and mission of the Heisman Trophy Trust.”
The sources close to the trust told Yahoo! Sports earlier this month that the body’s independent investigation was coming to a close and would concur with the NCAA determination that Bush should not have been eligible his Heisman winning season. The sources also said Bush met with representatives of the trust at the New York law offices of Emmet, Marvin & Martin in August.
In its June findings, the NCAA retroactively ruled Bush ineligible for part of the 2004 season and all of 2005. It also ordered the USC program to remove all references to Bush from sporting venues and promotional materials, and void his statistics from games in which he was ruled ineligible.
Following those findings, incoming USC president C.L. Max Nikias announced in July the university would return its copy of Bush’s Heisman to the trust, stating the Trojans would honor and respect athletes who “did not compromise their athletic program or the opportunities of future USC student-athletes.” New USC athletic director Pat Haden also stated in August that Bush should voluntarily return his Heisman.
[Related: Reggie Bush timeline]
Sources close to the trust told Yahoo! Sports earlier this month the group had been weighing a multitude of issues surrounding their decision including accountability for Heisman winners, off-field conduct as it pertains to NCAA rules, implications of retroactively stripping an award and the potential impact on future athletes and the NCAA.
Trust sources said two factors were paramount: The Heisman ballot necessitates candidates be in compliance with NCAA bylaws and concern over the Heisman’s reputation in the wake of the NCAA findings against Bush.
The status of USC’s 2004 Bowl Championship Series national title remains to be determined. BCS officials are awaiting the NCAA’s ruling on the Trojans’ appeal of the June finding.