September 07, 2010
For today's retroactive USC history lesson, class, Yahoo! Sports aces Jason Cole and Charles Robinson are here to tell us that the Heisman Trust has decided to officially strip Reggie Bush of his 2005 trophy:
Two sources close to the Heisman trust said the body’s investigation is coming to a close, and will ultimately concur with the NCAA’s determination that Bush was ineligible during his Heisman-winning season in 2005. Because of that independent conclusion, sources said the trust will relieve Bush of the award and leave the honor for that season vacant. The sources said Bush met with Heisman representatives last month at the New York law offices of Emmet, Marvin & Martin. The sources would not reveal details of that meeting.
The process apparently came with considerable debate – in part because of the trust's quest for due process, but also because of the unique nature of the decision. Never in the history of the award has the trust been forced to retroactively rule on the eligibility of a past winner. That reality, along with the NCAA’s findings, created a tangled knot of deliberation regarding the trust’s place in the role of enforcement. Sources said the prominent issues discussed included accountability, on-field vs. off-field conduct, implications of retroactively stripping an award and possible impact on future athletes and the NCAA.
Two factors outweighed all others, sources said: 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.
As far as the Heisman's reputation goes, it's not like the list of past winners is a squeaky clean dossier: Most prominently, Heisman alums Billy Cannon and O.J. Simpson have gone on to serve jail time for counterfeiting and robbery, respectively, and 1956 winner Paul Hornung was suspended for gambling. Many, many others have gone on to bowl games that refuted their claim as the "most outstanding" player in college football, if it wasn't in question already. But on a strictly legal basis, no other Heisman winner has ever been declared ineligible by the NCAA.
The trust has already reclaimed USC's copy of the trophy, on the voluntary contrition of incoming athletic director Pat Haden. The Football Writers Association of America followed suit by revoking the Grantland Rice Trophy for the Trojans' No. 1 finish in the FWAA poll in 2004. Next on the hit list: USC's 2004 BCS championship, which is scheduled to vacate the premises at the end of the appeals process, barring a stunning reversal that finds Bush eligible during the '04 season, after all (where the Heisman is concerned, even USC agrees Bush was very, very ineligible in 2005). At that point, the 2004 Associated Press championship will be the only remaining evidence in Heritage Hall that, yes, that really happened.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.