Reggie Bush is going after the NCAA. The former USC star running back and two-time All-American filed a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA on Wednesday stemming from a 2021 statement made by an NCAA spokesperson claiming Bush was involved in a "pay-for-play arrangement," Bush and his lawyers announced.
"Most recently, the NCAA has made a statement about me, accusing me of engaging in a pay-for-play arrangement, which is 100% not true," Bush said in a press conference Wednesday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. "Not only is it not true, but there is no evidence to even support that claim."
Bush, who racked up 3,169 yards and 25 touchdowns in three seasons with the Trojans, had his 2005 Heisman Trophy vacated -- forfeited on his end in 2010 -- and his collegiate records wiped following a high-profile NCAA investigation that determined he and his family members received impermissible benefits -- including cash, travel expenses and a San Diego home -- while Bush played in college.
A two-time national champion with USC (2003-04), Bush sought to have his Heisman returned and his records restored in 2021 amid newly implemented name, image and likeness laws that allow college athletes to be paid by third parties.
The Heisman Trust said it would welcome Bush back into its family if the NCAA reinstated his records from the 2005 season. Heisman eligibility requirements state that recipients "must be in compliance with the bylaws defining an NCAA student athlete."
The NCAA has declined to reconsider Bush's case, saying it does not reevaluate past penalties. In explaining the association's decision, an NCAA spokesperson mentioned "pay-for-play arrangements" in a statement to ESPN:
"Although college athletes can now receive benefits from their names, images and likenesses through activities like endorsements and appearances, NCAA rules still do not permit pay-for-play type arrangements. The NCAA infractions process exists to promote fairness in college sports. The rules that govern fair play are voted on, agreed to and expected to be upheld by all NCAA member schools."
It is that claim of "pay-for-play arrangements" that has prompted Bush's defamation lawsuit. Bush said the case is "about truth, getting the facts out and holding the NCAA accountable."
"I've got dreams of coming back into this stadium and running out of that tunnel with the football team," Bush said Wednesday. "I've got dreams of walking back in here and seeing my jersey and my banner right down there next to the rest of the Heisman Trophy winners. But I can't rightfully do that without my Heisman Trophy."
The NCAA in 2021 settled a decade-long defamation lawsuit with Bush's former position coach, Todd McNair, for his role in the infractions case. USC was forced to disassociate from Bush for a period of 10 years that ended in 2020.
Bush's lawyers have also launched an online petition aimed at the NCAA "to restore Reggie Bush's collegiate records so he can reclaim his Heisman Trophy." The petition's goal is to garner 10,000 signatures.