Senior Writer

Bush losing Heisman would hardly be precedent, just eye opener


Is anyone surprised Reggie Bush could lose his Heisman Trophy?

Well, yes.

By now we've been conditioned for the next stop on the Reggie Bush Farewell Tour. It's not how he planned to say goodbye. USC has expunged any visual evidence around Heritage Hall that he ever actually enrolled. In the school's first post-NCAA penalties act of contrition, AD Pat Haden returned the school's copy of Bush's trophy. The Football Writers Association of America vacated USC's 2004 championship citing Bush's cheating. The BCS says it will do the same if USC loses its NCAA appeal. Mack Brown has unashamedly been lobbying for runner-up Vince Young to get the 2005 award in case Bush loses it.

Reggie Bush might not hold onto his Heisman Trophy for long. (Getty Images)  
Reggie Bush might not hold onto his Heisman Trophy for long. (Getty Images)  
All that makes it easier for the Heisman to pile on. There were conflicting reports Tuesday centering around the Heisman Trust preparing to strip Bush of his 2005 award. If it happens, it will be more than the next step, it is the step. There is a certain holiness to the Heisman. It's never been taken away. It's never come close to being taken away.

Just imagine a blank spot in the pantheon of heroes where Bush's picture used to hang, scorched earth on a tableau of legends to remind us how heinous Bush's crimes were. The evidence has been out there for, literally, years. The Heisman Trust didn't have to, but one report said it conducted its own independent investigation. Makes you wonder if Bush was worth it. No, but the honor of the Heisman Trophy was worth it.

We've always wondered about the language on the ballot, how the winner "must be a bona fide student." Read the next sentence, the one that could hang Bush: "The recipient must be in compliance with the bylaws defining a NCAA Student Athlete." Now we have some definition and a defiler to go with it.

You might wonder: If all it takes is NCAA wrongdoing to vacate a Heisman, then a large portion of the winners should have their trophies ripped. We can't be naïve enough to believe that some of these campus heroes didn't get their share of extra benefits from boosters, agents, even coaches. Don't forget that the 1968 winner still is considered a double murderer in a lot of folks' minds.

The difference is, Bush didn't just break the rules, he spit on them. Took the NCAA manual and ripped it up, figuratively, in front of the association, his teammates, USC and everyone he competed against while on the take. It appears that three sources -- Yahoo! Sports, the NCAA and the Heisman Trust -- now have conducted their own exhaustive investigation and basically came up with the same conclusion. Bush embarrassed himself and the trophy.

If the Heisman decides to vacate the award from that year, it hardly sets precedent. How many of the past winners were into would-be marketers for mid-six figure payouts? How many recipients sought, and got, a house for their parents? How many greats screwed their teammates by competing basically as a high-paid professional? How many schools had a Heisman and national championship removed from their trophy case as a result?

No, the Heisman Trust hasn't broken new ground by becoming judge and jury. It is attempting to become grave digger, laying to rest a tragic piece of its history. To me, a Heisman decision to vacate carries more weight than anything we've seen to this point. In the past, the trust has been wary about getting into this sensitive area, perhaps because it was afraid of what it might find. Perhaps because it was afraid of tarnishing the award. Perhaps both. Bush pushed the trust over the edge with his misconduct. The Heisman will retain its dignity. Bush long ago lost his.

It's still laughable that perhaps the greatest player of the decade went from a) denying any wrongdoing to b) offering to help in the school's appeal to c) offering a disputed apology to USC's new AD Pat Haden. Which is it Reg? Tuesday's report states that Bush met with the Heisman folks during the investigation. What could he possibly have said in his defense?

I didn't owe Lloyd Lake $300,000. It was more than $280,000?

That's one situation where Bush should have politely declined the meeting and let his reputation settle at the bottom of a morally bankrupt sinkhole. Or could it be that Bush was still proclaiming some sort of innocence? Was it about damage control? He has nothing to lose since to this point it seems his hubris knows no boundaries.

Faced with the ultimate disgrace, was Reggie Bush begging to keep his trophy? If so, he has descended to a Pete Rose-ian level. Deny, deny, deny then lie, lie, lie, until maybe an appealing book deal comes along. Might as well make a buck out of coming clean.

As with Rose, we should be thoroughly skeptical of anything Bush says at this point. It's now clear, though, that a similar fate awaits the running back as has defined the deposed Hit King.

It is one final disgrace on a trail littered with many.

Same as Rose, it seems that Bush also won't make his sport's hall of fame either.

The difference is Rose would give his left thumb to someday be eligible for Cooperstown. Does Reggie Bush even care?

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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