September 18, 2010
The USC saga has thrown some interesting consequences into the wind. Pete Carroll is up in Seattle, getting the Seahawks to buy into his positivity. Lane Kiffin is probably wondering why he ever left Tennessee. Vince Young(notes) is still in Tennessee, trying to get ready for the Pittsburgh Steelers and probably getting very tired of answering all those "Would you have accepted the 2005 Heisman Trophy if it hadn't been vacated?" questions. And Reggie Bush(notes), the man whose Heisman award doesn't exist anymore, was probably hoping he didn't scratch his Super Bowl ring when he was packing up the trophy he decided to return (which, of course, was the equivalent of jumping before he was pushed).
Bush said that the gesture was not an admission that he was guilty of receiving illegal benefits while at USC. Bush has been with the New Orleans Saints since the team selected him second overall in the first round of the 2006 draft.
"It's me showing respect to the Heisman Trophy itself and to the people who came before me and the people coming after," Bush said after Saints practice on Thursday. "I just felt like it was the best thing to do, the most respectful thing to do because obviously I do respect the Heisman. I do respect all the things it stands for."
When asked about the system that so frequently has players accepting benefits that lead to sanctions while schools make millions of dollars from their efforts, Bush told the media that the system - the current concept of amateur athleticism in big-time college football -- needs to change.
"It's going to continue year after year after year and you're going to see kids be ineligible," he said. "You're going to see great athletes missing their junior and senior year and seasons because the system doesn't work ... The majority of college athletes who come in on scholarship come in [with] nothing. That's where you have a problem. You're making all this money off these kids and you're giving them crumbs and then you're surrounding these kids with money and telling them not to touch it."
Agree or disagree, Bush's words seemed fairly reasonable. However, Washington Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian, who served as Carroll's quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for several years, couldn't help but pop off about Bush's comments.
"He had a chance to apologize, look like the good guy," Sarkisian told ESPN's Shelley Smith(notes). "But in giving it back and not apologizing, he just looks like an idiot again ... No matter how much money he got paid, that didn't affect how we prepared. We weren't the best team in football because of what he or his parents took."
Sarkisian is a very good coach who has done a marvelous job of turning the formerly horrible Huskies program around, but he comes off as mean-spirited and short-sighted with his comments. Whether he wants to admit it or not, he and the rest of Carroll's coaching staff (including Carroll himself) benefitted from the perks perceived by prospective prospects who came to USC after weighing their options. And among those perks, along with playing on a successful program and in a system that would transition well to the pros -- was an environment that may not have endorsed those more problematic benefits, but certainly didn't slam the hammer down or go full-bore to make sure such circumstances didn't exist.
"Don't ask, don't tell" may not create accessories after the fact, but Bush is not an "idiot" who stands alone in this case, and in trying to distance himself from a situation that he also benefited from, Sarkisian is missing the big picture.
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