Reggie Bush is welcomed back into USC family after decade-long disassociation

Reggie Bush is back.

On Wednesday, after 10 years, USC officially ended its disassociation with former superstar running back Reggie Bush. The school released a statement in which USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn expressed his excitement to reintegrate Bush into the fold.

“When I was hired to represent the Trojan Family as the Director of Athletics, I committed to listening and learning before leading. Throughout this process, one of the consistent themes that emerged from my discussions was how much Reggie Bush means to our former players, USC alumni, and fans everywhere. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Reggie and so many of his teammates, and I’m pleased his disassociation has ended so that we can welcome him back to our family. I’m confident that Reggie will use his incredible platform and influential voice to support and empower all of our student-athletes.”

USC President Carol Folt also wrote a letter to Bush, welcoming him back as a USC football alumni.

“I am pleased to inform you that all restrictions and prohibitions on your involvement in our athletics program are officially removed and you will be afforded the privileges and courtesies extended to all Trojan football alumni.”

Said Bush in response:

“I’ve dreamed of this day for 10-plus years, and I’m excited to come home!”

Bush’s journey to reinstatement has been a long one to say the least.

In 2010, the NCAA determined that Bush and his family received improper benefits from Lloyd Lake and Michael Michaels of New Era Sports and Entertainment, a sports management company hoping to sign Bush as a client once he entered the NFL.

Lake and Michaels provided, among other things, money and a home for Bush’s family during his time at the university, and major sanctions were levied against the program, including a mandate that USC disassociate itself from Bush for a minimum of a decade.

In addition to the mandated disassociation, Bush was forced to return his Heisman Trophy from 2005, the Trojans were stripped of their 2004 National Championship and forced to vacate all of their wins from the 2005 season, and the program was docked 30 scholarships from 2010 to 2013, in addition to being bowl ineligible in 2010 and 2011.

The sanctions were officially levied on June 10, 2010, making Wednesday the first day that Bush could be reinstated, and current USC coach Clay Helton welcomed Bush back to the program.

On the field, Bush is regarded as one of the greatest athletes in USC history, and his Trojan highlights have become the stuff of legend.

His 2005 Heisman season was one for the ages. In 13 games, he rushed for 1,740 yards (133.8 per game) and 16 TDs on 200 carries, an average of 8.7 yards per carry. He also caught 37 passes for 478 yards and 2 TDs, and returned 18 punts for 179 yards and a touchdown.

From 2003 to 2005, Bush and the Trojans put together a 35-2 record, which included a Rose Bowl win in 2003 and an Orange Bowl National Championship win in 2004.

In light of Bush’s reinstatement, several pundits and other members of the sports world took to television and social media on Wednesday to criticize what they deemed to be a harsh punishment in the first place, one that many thought was meant to send a message across the college sports landscape.

Former Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley is one member of the camp that believes Bush was unfairly punished.

Interestingly enough, Barkley took over as the USC quarterback in 2009, one season before the sanctions came down on the program, meaning his time at USC was marred by the NCAA’s punishment for Bush’s off-the-field actions.

That season – Pete Carroll’s last at the helm – USC put together a 9-4 record and in 2010, the Trojans went 8-5.

Since 2010, USC has only won 10 or more games four times and has only finished atop the Pac-12 South three times, after winning the Pac-10 seven consecutive times from 2002-2008.

What makes Bush’s case an interesting one is that he was not paid as a means to lure him to USC or to keep him there. He was actually being paid on his way out.

And as the conversation regarding paying college athletes – at least for their likeness – continues to evolve today, the position that Bush’s punishment was too harsh only gains steam, considering he was arguably the most popular athlete in the Los Angeles market during his time starring at USC.

In 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Fair Pay to Play Act, which will come to life in the state in 2023.

Our Joel Klatt explains what the Fair Pay to Play Act means and what it will do for student-athletes.

“Opening up avenues so that college athletes can monetize their own name, image and likeness is a positive step and we should all be applauding it … What it says is that in California, 4-year schools cannot punish a student-athlete if they are able to monetize their own name, image and likeness. It also opens up the ability for those student-athletes to hire an agent so that they can go out and monetize their own name, image and likeness.”

Some of the nation’s most well-respected and successful college coaches are onboard with the Act, including Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney and Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, and it’s safe to say that if the Fair Pay to Play Act existed during Bush’s days at USC, he would have been one of the highest-paid student-athletes in the land given his immense popularity, which Colin Cowherd points out.

“Reggie Bush was the most scintillating college football player in the last 20 years … He was the most glamorous. USC’s dynasty is the last dynasty in college football where we talked about the players … To give you some idea of what Reggie Bush did – overwhelmingly, 98 percent of big college football programs are in small towns. The coach is the highest-paid state employee. Pete Carroll wasn’t the highest-paid guy in Los Angeles on his block. And Reggie Bush took over the city … You would go to USC games and you would see Will Smith, Will Ferrell, Snoop Dogg on the sideline … The sanctions against USC were outrageously unfair.”

Bush joined Cowherd on Wednesday’s edition of The Herd to discuss his reinstatement and his time at USC, and Colin asked the former USC superstar if he felt like he was taken advantage of during his days as a Trojan, to which Bush replied “100 percent.”

“At the time did I feel that? No … It was just about ballin’ on the football field with your teammates … You’re not thinking about the money, none of that stuff … Once you leave, then you start to really understand what college football is all about. Then that’s where you say, ‘Ok, there was a big significant injustice that happened here.’ Not just to me, but to everybody that came through the college system.”

Bush expanded on his feelings regarding paying players and the Fair Pay to Play Act that is in the works, saying that some athletes have their best opportunity to make money during their college years as opposed to their professional years.

“We’re not gonna be able to change everything that happened with that situation, but what we can do is learn from it. That’s why I’m so happy that kids will be able to make money off of their name, image and likeness because that is what’s fair and that is what they deserve. In no other form of work can a company say, ‘Hey, you come and work for us, but you can not make money off your name, image and likeness, but we can.’ And that’s unfortunate, because you’re hamstringing a lot of families and a lot of kids when they’re in their prime … That’s a critical time for some of these kids to be able to capitalize.”

Bush also touched on the sanctions that were levied against the school based on his off-the-field actions and said that he wants his Heisman Trophy back, even though he won’t lose sleep over it.

“100 percent I want my Heisman Trophy back … Would I love to have it back? Hell yes. But at the same time, is it my focus right now? Absolutely not.”

Bush isn’t the only one that thinks the Heisman should once again belong to him.

Many in the sports world believe that at the very least, the Heisman should be his once again.

Bush went on to enjoy an 11-year career in the NFL, but said that his college experience and the sanctions haunted him during his time in the professional ranks.

“It was tough. I went through a lot as a man. A lot of my confidence as a man was shot down. I had some struggles throughout my career in the NFL because of the things that happened at USC … I had to deal with the backlash from everything that happened … It’s the thing that kept me up late at night, almost every night. It kinda haunted me.”

Now it appears, the nightmare is over for Bush.

And now that he’s back, Bush has one thing on his mind: giving back.

“[I’m] excited to be back. Can’t wait to get to the university and get to know some of the young players there and start to help initiate change and just bring back greatness to USC.”