Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

14 Sep 2010

Reggie Bush Forfeits 2005 Heisman Trophy

Reggie Bush released a statement announcing that he has forfeited the 2005 Heisman Trophy due to "allegations dating back to my years at USC." It's a bit passive as a whole, but it suffices as an apology, acknowledgment, etc., of the fact that he received illegal benefits while at USC. Whether he reached this decision of his own accord, or whether the Heisman committee asked him to do it, the damage has been done.

Now to decide whether the award will go to somebody else (i.e. Vince Young, the 2005 runner-up), or whether it will be vacated. I personally think it should be vacated. Young got the national title trophy, and everybody knows how great he was -- being awarded a title five years after the fact won't change that. He has acknowledged that he will accept the trophy if it is offered to him, but still ... time to put this baby to rest.

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 14 Sep 2010

53 comments, Last at 18 Sep 2010, 7:24pm by The Ninjalectual


by Sophandros :: Tue, 09/14/2010 - 6:24pm

They should give it to some obscure lineman.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by Theo :: Tue, 09/14/2010 - 6:31pm

What was his signing bonus again?

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 09/14/2010 - 7:05pm

In the alternative, we could give up the fiction that money-sport college athletes are anything other than unpaid professionals, and drop all the nonsense rules about compensation. I mean, is USC's recruiting (or Alabama's) really in parity with Washington State's just because of scholarship limitations?

by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Tue, 09/14/2010 - 10:33pm

Wouldn't that be lovely? But it'll never happen.

This punishment is completely over-the-top, by the way. Reggie deserved to be punished somehow, but this is beyond the pale.

by D :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 12:03am

I disagree. Whether you like the rules or not the fact remains that Bush knowingly and willingly broke them with full knowledge of the possible repercussions of his decision including retroactive lose of eligibility and the effects thereof.

by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 09/16/2010 - 11:28am

I don't like the rules. If he knowingly and willingly broke stupid rules, good on him.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 3:41am


by johonny (not verified) :: Tue, 09/14/2010 - 7:44pm

I love these retroactive things. Like you will suddenly forget how good Reggie Bush was that year or that he won the award. It's like when the Olympics take a gold medal away years after an event. I guess it's good for Bush trying to restore a little of his image. Because we all are going to remember him as a Heisman Trophy winner if the thing is still packed in his closet or not.

by Levente from Hungary :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 2:45am

"It's like when the Olympics take a gold medal away years after an event. "

There is one major difference. Olympic golds are usually taken away because the athlete used illegal substances. That is, he couldn't have performed on that level without that extra help.
Is it the case with Bush? Admittedly I don't know anything about his situation during those days, but I doubt his skills and training (and therefore his performance) would have been substantially different without those payouts.

by rengewnad (not verified) :: Tue, 09/14/2010 - 7:58pm

this whole this situation (UCS striking bush from the school's memory, the returned heisman...etc) only serves to further emphasize the player, the season(s), and the drama over the entire event.

Think about it like this: when people run through heisman winners 20 years from now, they're going to have to explain why there is no name next to the 2005 year or * that holds that place (even if they award the trophy to Young after the fact, I'm sure there will be a *), and who's names will they need to explain that with? UCS and Reggie Bush.

When USC Sports writers are asked to compare the *insert latest great USC running back of the future* with players from the school's past, are they really going to overlook Bush's time at USC? or are they instead going to have to make some understated reference to a "player that is no longer recognized by the university, who also did, but then didn't, win the heisman..."

Nothing about this eliminates the fact that reggie was awesome that year, and that in the heiman voting that occured for 2005 he won outright against all the other players available. This is just creating the funny/nuanced history that makes sports so interesting over the long run. None of this makes it "right" or "better" than it was before, these actions only provide more fodder for sports news and trivia for me to recollect when I turn old and grey.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 09/14/2010 - 8:14pm

I've paid less and less to this award through the years, but when it got to the point that these halfwits, as a group, determined that Ndamukong Suh was the fourth most outstanding college football player in 2009, this prize became as interesting to me as the Olympic Gold Medal for synchronized swimming.

Hell, give it to Kim Kardashian, for all I care....

by JoeHova :: Tue, 09/14/2010 - 11:17pm

Agreed. When I heard Ingram had won in one of the closest votes ever, I assumed that Suh was the runner-up. Instead he came in 4th. Sad.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 3:43am

It means nothing.

by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 4:06am

Since the first one in 1935, there have been 75 Heismans awarded. 71 of those have been to a QB or RB. The wikipedia page for it is locked, but says that the trophy "is awarded annually by the Heisman Trophy Trust to the most outstanding player in collegiate football."

"Just look at that pumpkin."
-John Madden, looking at the moon.

by ChaosOnion (not verified) :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 8:48am

Suh won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (top defensive player,) the Outland Trophy (best interior lineman,) and the Lombardi Award (best linebacker or lineman.) If a player is the top defensive player and best lineman in the college football, that player is not the best college football player. That honor was given to a running back, a position 75% dependent upon a good Offensive Line. Is that ironic or just unfortunate? Most of the voters never played a down, so should we care?

It is impossible for a lineman to win the Heisman Trophy.

by Brendan Scolari :: Thu, 09/16/2010 - 2:40pm

"That honor was given to a running back, a position 75% dependent upon a good Offensive Line."

Running backs are no more dependent on their offensive line than any defensive position is dependent on the rest of the defense.

by Big Johnson :: Sat, 09/18/2010 - 12:30pm

genius. may or may not be true (ive got a theory that safety is the most important defensive position) but gets the point across regardless.

by Dean :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 9:16am

I'm hardly an old man, but the way I see it, it stopped being relevant somewhere around 25 years ago.

It was a big deal when guys like Tim Brown and Vinny Testeverde and Doug Flutie won it. But by the time it got to, say, Gino Toretta, it was already irrelevant. Gino didn't make it that way, but by that time, the trophy no longer mattered.

by Mike Y :: Tue, 09/14/2010 - 8:18pm

Does OJ get to keep his?

by aRX (not verified) :: Tue, 09/14/2010 - 8:40pm

, but yes he did, because he was eligible. It's like cycling or track and field, if they catch you using PEDs or breaking their rules, yes that race still happened, but they'll strip you of your medals. If you later become a crook/killer etc, oh well, had nothing to do with them.

by Dean :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 9:18am

And in typical Reggie Bush style, he still refuses to take blame for his actions.

It's HIS actions that caused USC to go on probation. It's HIS actions that resulted in him having to testify in court as to why his family got all this money.

Yet it's somehow Big Media's fault that he has to give the trophy back.

Yes, he made some great plays in college, but at the end of the day he cheated, and that's why he's losing the award.

by Led :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 11:41am

Cheated? To quote Andre the Giant in The Princess Bride, "I do not think that workd means what you think it means."

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 11:54am

Andre didn't deliver that line, but your point still stands.

by Led :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 2:03pm

You're right, my bad. It was Inigo Montoya. I will now prepare to die.

by Dean :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 12:15pm


–verb (used with object)
1. to defraud; swindle: He cheated her out of her inheritance.
2. to deceive; influence by fraud: He cheated us into believing him a hero.
3. to elude; deprive of something expected: He cheated the law by suicide.
–verb (used without object)
4. to practice fraud or deceit: She cheats without regrets.
5. to violate rules or regulations: He cheats at cards.
6. to take an examination or test in a dishonest way, as by improper access to answers.
7. Informal . to be sexually unfaithful (often fol. by on ): Her husband knew she had been cheating all along. He cheated on his wife.

I’ll grant you if you’re looking at #’s 6 and 7, then no. But #’s 1-5, yep.

by Eddo :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 12:20pm

Yes, but he didn't cheat on the field, and the Heisman Trophy is an award for performance on the field.

by Dean :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 12:36pm

"the Heisman Trophy is an award for performance on the field."

No, it's not.

The ballots state that "In order that there will be no misunderstanding regarding the eligibility of a candidate, the recipient of the award MUST be a bona fide student of an accredited college or university including the United States Academies. The recipients must be in compliance with the bylaws defining an NCAA student athlete."


Hard to argue that “on the field” applies there. Quite the contrary, the recipient was not “in compliance with the bylaws defining an NCAA student-athlete.”

by Led :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 2:03pm

If you want want to say that Bush wasn't eligible to receive the award, fine. Not being eligible doesn't mean cheating.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 2:13pm

I may be wrong, but I believe that finalists are required to sign a statement in which they assert that they have complied with NCAA regulations. If this is true, Bush perpetrated a fraud. Eff'em.

by Frank (not verified) :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 12:20pm

What disturbs me is Reggie Bush going on Real Sports and flat out denying that he did anything improper. The subsequent settlement before he was to be deposed and now the forfeiting of the Heisman strongly implies that he is a lying sack of sh*t.

by nick_thunderdome (not verified) :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 12:54pm

He didn't do anything improper.

He got paid to play football.

The NCAA is the organization here that is in the wrong. They stand behind the principle that the people who make it possible for them to make billions of dollars must never be paid for it. Odd principle.

by Dean :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 1:05pm

Reggie knew the rules and delibrately broke them. Pissed on them, really. This isn't a case of a guy borrowing a coach's phone to call mom.

You can try to muddy the issue all you want, but just because you don't like the rules doesn't mean that they don't have to be followed.

Reggie could have always chosen to pay his own way through the local community college and not played football if he really wanted to make a stand on principal. Of course, he'd have to have principals first.

He knew them and he willfully and egregiously broke them. Sure, he's one of a thousand guys every year who break the rules. But he got caught. And he got caught because of his own greed/stupidity/ego, and promptly got his entire university in trouble while trying to weasel his way out of making good on the money that he essentially stole. Even now, when he's had to give the trophy back, he's blaming the media rather than accepting responsibility for his actions.

Cry me a river.

by tuluse :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 2:58pm

Yeah, he broke the rules.

He still didn't do anything that bad.

by Dean :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 3:30pm

"He still didn't do anything that bad."

In your opinion.

I really could care less that he broke the rules. Hundreds of athletes do that every year. What I've said all along, that everyone seems to ignore, is that his actions over the last 5 years after he left UCS have been revealing as to his character, or lack thereof. There is where you really see what sort of empty person he is. He turned his back on the people who (illegally) supported him. He sold his school down the river. Even now, he's blaming the media.

by tuluse :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 3:54pm

I see him like the woman in 1984. She breaks arbitrary rules to have fun, and that's all she really cares about. No she isn't noble or trying to change the world, she's barely even sympathetic. However, when compared to the institution trying to control her, you don't see anything wrong.

So, Bush may not be a nice guy, but the NCAA is so much worse, he doesn't bother me.

by Dean :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 4:00pm

Again, two wrongs don't make a right.

by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 09/16/2010 - 11:32am

Are you American? If so, you should definitely study up some about what our founding fathers said about the moral obligation to disobey unjust laws, etc.

Bush certainly wasn't taking a moral stand, but you are.

by Dean :: Thu, 09/16/2010 - 1:29pm

Perhaps you're the one who needs a refresher course? You can start with the difference between governments and businesses. Maybe follow it up with some remedial contract law 101 and you should probably head over to dictionary.com and look up the definition of "law" while you're at it.

by The Ninjalectual :: Sat, 09/18/2010 - 7:24pm

Ha! This nonsense argument is allowed to stay, yet my sane and coherent defense of unpopular drug use gets deleted. Gotta love the moderators on FO.

"Just look at that pumpkin."
-John Madden, looking at the moon.

by nick_thunderdome (not verified) :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 1:09pm

I'll cry a river for the "damage" to USC when they retroactively pay their employees the billions of dollars in revenue from television contracts and ticket sales.

by Dean :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 1:21pm

Reggie voluntarily chose to accept the scholarship. With it, in exchange for the benefits of the scholarship, he chose to accept the restrictions as proscribed by the NCAA. Nobody forced Reggie to do this. Nobody put a gun to his head. If Reggie did not believe it was a fair deal, he could always choose not to do it.

It’s a contract. Its restrictions are essentially no different than me agreeing not to exercise my freedom of speech down at the local protest while wearing a shirt with the company logo. If I want to continue to be voluntarily employed, I will accept that restriction as imposed by my employer.

If Reggie doesn’t think it’s a fair deal, he can always decline it. If he wants to be paid straight out of high school, he can attempt to make a CFL roster, or an Arena League roster, or possibly the UFL (I don’t know what their eligibility requirements are), or barring that, he can always do an Eric Swann and play for his local semi-pro team. He didn’t do any of those things. He voluntarily chose to accept the scholarship – which alone was easily valued over 6-figures – and all the restrictions that go with it.

Reggie then decided – like many other athletes – that the rules don’t apply to him. He then compounded his mistakes by trying to screw over the very people who enabled him to break the rules. When they sued, Reggie could have reached a quiet settlement, but his bloated sense of self-entitlement prevented him from doing so and his testimony directly lead to USC getting sanctioned.

You may not like the rules. I don't particularly care. Nobody does. It's not exactly a narrow limb you're out on there. But Reggie voluntarily agreed to play by them and willfully and egregiously violated them. Where the whole thing is really insightful isn't the NCAA rules (yawn), but it's insightful as to the nature of Reggie Bush as a person.

He is unworthy of any sympathy. Not because he broke the rules, but because of his refusal to accept responsibility or hold himself accountable for his own actions in the ensuing 5 years.

by nick_thunderdome (not verified) :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 1:32pm

Basically the only employer for someone with Reggie's skills is a collusive entity that agrees not to pay their employees. At all.

When dealing with an entity like that you have every right to agree to terms with them then violate those terms.

Cartel agreements aren't legally enforceable; the NCAA is a cartel which exists for the sole purpose of ensuring that none of its members break ranks and dare to pay their employees.

by Dean :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 1:44pm

Except that he WAS paid. He received a scholarship. Tuition. Room and board. Books. All that’s covered. That’s 6-figures alone. Now add in the value of the vocational training he received, and try to put a price on that.

As a corollary, I went to college on an ROTC scholarship. The Army estimated that it spent over $1 million per Cadet (many years ago) in training them to become Lieutenants. I probably received 10-15 hours of training per week from the Cadre in my 4 years. Now factor in inflation and factor in the fact that Reggie’s getting 2 or 3 times that quantity of vocational training. He may not have received a cash paycheck, but he DID received something with a value in the millions in exchange for his services.

And the NCAA was NOT the ONLY prospective employer. As I already mentioned and you promptly ignored, he could have played in Canada, the Arena Leagues, or semipro. Instead, he voluntarily accepted a scholarship and all the restrictions that go with it.

And as for the supposed cartel (yawn), if he were a man of principal, Reggie could have always sued the NCAA to break it up. If he were acting on principal out of some sort of passive resistance/civil disobedience philosophy, he could easily have used his stature as one of the marquee stars of the game to round up his fellow athletes and file a class action lawsuit to change these rules that are so unfair.

Oh, wait. He didn’t do any of that. There was no principal involved here. Even if the NCAA rules aren’t “fair” (yawn), he still voluntarily agreed to them. Even if the NCAA rules aren’t “fair” (yawn), two wrongs don’t make a right.

And if the NCAA rules are illegal, why is Reggie Bush not using his millions to sue the NCAA now? After all, he believes it's the medias fault, not his own.

He just didn’t believe the rules applied to him. Guess what, Reggie, they do.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 1:54pm

I don't care about Reggie Bush, but let us not engage in the rhetoric of a "supposed" cartel. It is a cartel, period, which acts to put a ceiling on labor compensation in an industry in which managers are allowed to sell their services to the highest bidder, and thus make millions. The fact that it has not been found to be an illegal cartel doesn't change the fact that it is, indeed, a cartel which behaves in the manner I describe.

by Dean :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 1:59pm

It's not a cartel until someone has the stones to sue and have it declared a cartel. Until then, it's a bunch of hot air from people like you and I who don't like the rules but are powerless to change them.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 2:17pm

No, it is possible for a cartel to exist without a legal finding that it exists. O.J. Simpson is a murderer, no matter what a jury found.

by Dean :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 3:36pm

Technically no. It's a subtle distinction, but we're already debating nuance. We both believe he's a killer, but he was found not guilty of murder.

It doesn't change whether he did or did not kill the woman, but killing is the act, and murder is the legal state of doing so in a fashion unsanctioned by the government and our government found him not guilty of murder.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 3:46pm

Well, heck, let us wade deep into the metaphysical waters, and note that the question "Did x commit crime y?" is not synonymous with "Did a jury find x guilty of crime y?" One is question pertaining to what a person did, and the other is a question of the decision of a jury. Also, "not guilty" is not synonymous with "he did not do it" or "it was not a crime".

by Will Allen :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 1:56pm


by Whatev :: Sat, 09/18/2010 - 9:04am

Let me just step in and remind you that being a college athlete in a major sport is pretty much a full-time occupation, which is why concessions are always made for their academic performance. The idea that having his tuition covered is compensation for his work is a farce because the job he does to gain that compensation itself guarantees that he will not be able to make use of it.

by StanleyNeedsATan :: Fri, 09/17/2010 - 3:13pm

All this talk about what Reggie did wrong, not one mention of the sleazebags who are the ones exploiting the 18 year old kids in the 1st place - AGENTS. Mike Ornstein knew what he was doing by shoving fortune and fame in front of Reggie and his family. Of course Bush was going to "accept" the perks of having his family flown around to see him play, money, cars, houses, hos (sorry KK) and on and on. What 18 year old kid wouldn't be tempted by all that?

Sports agents will fight and claw for the next LeBron's, Bush's and so on since they know their pay day will be nice after the draft when getting their 10% of a big fat guaranteed signing bonus worth millions.

Since the NCAA isn't doing much besides slaps on the wrist to the Colleges/Universities, maybe the NFL can put a damper on things when a rookie pay scale gets implemented in the next CBA.

by justanothersteve :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 6:58pm

The Heisman is a beauty contest. Ergo, the runner-up should take over the title if the winner is no longer able to hold the crown.

by Jim D (not verified) :: Wed, 09/15/2010 - 11:13pm

I'm happy about this because finally college sports can go back to being about true student-athletes