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Heisman Trust dropped the ball

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Thayer Evans

Senior College Football writer Thayer Evans previously wrote for The New York Times and Houston Chronicle, as well as contributed to The Economist, USA Today, The Washington Post and more. Follow him on Twitter.

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So Reggie Bush has decided to forfeit his Heisman Trophy.

And in doing so, the New Orleans Saints running back showed the same elusiveness that won him the award in 2005 while starring at USC.

 

Because despite the NCAA determining that Bush received improper benefits in college and issuing harsh penalties against the Trojans in June, the Heisman Trophy Trust simply didn’t have the guts to strip him of his Heisman as it was reportedly considering after its own investigation into the matter.

Instead, Bush issued a contrite 340-word statement on Tuesday in which he announced his “difficult decision” to return his Heisman, the first time that’s ever happened in the history of the award. In it, he said, “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.”

Bush in his statement also said that he intended to turn “a negative situation into a positive one” by working with Heisman Trophy Trust’s leadership to establish an educational program to help student-athletes and their families “avoid some of the mistakes that I made.”

That all sounds great and redemptive, but if the Heisman Trust really “ensures the continuation and integrity” of the Heisman as its mission statement says, Bush’s award would have been taken away before he could return it.

POLL

  • What should become of the 2005 Heisman?
    • Give it to Vince Young
    • Leave it vacant

Now, for the first time since the allegations first surfaced four years ago that he and his family received nearly $300,000 in improper benefits from an agency soliciting marketing and memorabilia deals for him, Bush doesn’t look as disgraced as he’s acted for his repeated denials of any wrongdoing. In fact, some might actually say that his forfeiture of his Heisman is honorable.

Not that any of this really matters. After all, even with Bush giving back his Heisman, we’re still all going to remember that he won the award in 2005.

Back then, he was voted the “outstanding college football player in the United States” for what he did on the field, not off it. Granted, the Heisman’s rules specify that the recipient must have complied with the NCAA’s bylaws for a student-athlete.

Yet when Bush won his Heisman, he was believed to have been in compliance. Now that it’s been determined otherwise, sports’ disturbing recent trend of revising history continues.

And it’s far from over. The campaign to give Bush’s Heisman to former Texas quarterback Vince Young, the runner-up for the award in 2005, had already kicked in to overdrive with Longhorns coach Mack Brown’s battle cry, and Texas fans are already probably working on an airplane banner for its game Saturday night at Texas Tech.

Soon, we’re sure to have Texas lawmakers passing a resolution that recognizes Young as the winner of the 2005 Heisman.

But think about this: With 73 others having received the Heisman, do you think Bush was the only Heisman Trophy winner to ever receive improper benefits? Not likely.

 

CONTACT THAYER EVANS

 
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Again, not that any past winners should be worried, because Bush’s forfeiture decision highlights that the Heisman Trophy Trust would be too cowardly to do anything about it.

Need further proof? Here’s what the Heisman Trophy Trust President William J. Dockery said Tuesday in a statement after Bush’s announcement: “The Heisman Trophy Trust will issue a statement in due course. Until that time we will have no further comment.”

That’s it. That’s all the Heisman Trust had to say on perhaps one of the most important days for its award. Bravo to its integrity.

But let’s not forget how minimal this all is to Bush. His forfeiture of his Heisman just takes an award out of his trophy case. No big deal, because he’s always cared the most about money, which started this whole fiasco.

And while he may not have his Heisman any longer, just don’t plan on him discontinuing his practice of signing autographs with an “‘05 Heisman” inscription. After all, he didn’t turn down money before.

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