When the scandal-plagued Reggie Bush became the first Heisman winner to forfeit his trophy, the erasing of his name from the 75-year history of the award also knocked his former school from atop its Heisman perch.
Heading into the 2010 college football season, USC stood with Ohio State and Notre Dame as the schools that had produced the most Heisman winners. However, with the removal of Bush from the Heisman honor roll, USC’s downgrade to six Heisman winners now drops the Pac-10 school just behind the seven trophies garnered by Notre Dame and Ohio State.
While the Buckeyes and Fighting Irish have been long-time leaders in the Heisman race, USC’s lofty status was a fairly recent development. Bush winning the 2005 Heisman capped off a four-year blitz that resulted in three Trojan players hoisting the award in that span. Joining Bush in that time frame were QB Matt Leinart in 2004 and QB Carson Palmer in 2002.
Although the relinquishing of college football’s top individual award has diminished USC’s Heisman bragging rights, there are bigger fish to fry in the USC athletic department. That’s because the Bush-related NCAA sanctions dealt to the Trojans football program include a two-year bowl ban, four years of probation, scholarship losses and the forfeiture of games over a two-year period. The penalties resulted from NCAA findings that focused on a lack of institutional control that culminated with improper benefits being given to Bush and USC basketball player O.J. Mayo.
Although the finger of NCAA justice seems to be pointed directly at Bush, the current New Orleans Saint said that his relinquishing of his Heisman Trophy was not an admission of guilt.
“I just felt like it was the best thing to do at this time,” Bush said after making his decision public, according to NOLA.com. “Just to silence all of the talk around it, all the negativity around it. I felt like this would be the best decision right now.”
Bush being declared ineligible for part of the 2004 season and all of 2005 by the NCAA has also had an impact on the championships won by USC. The Football Writers Association of America went as far as to strip USC of the 2004 Grantland Rice Trophy, which it awards to the nation’s top college football team. There is speculation that the BCS will also force USC to vacate its 2004 national championship once the NCAA has heard the University’s appeal.
In an effort to move beyond the black eye associated with individuals responsible for creating the harsh punishment, USC officials tackled their association with not one, but two Trojan Heisman winners. The university removed its replica of Bush’s Heisman Trophy from its athletic headquarters and sent it back to the Heisman Trust. They also removed Bush’s No. 5 jersey from the school’s ring of honor. Longtime USC Athletic Director and 1965 Heisman winner Mike Garrett was also forced out from his position due to his lack of control over the USC athletic program.
(No author), Heisman Winners by Year, www.Heisman.com,
Nakia Hogan, Reggie Bush on returning Heisman: Now we can all move on. www.NOLA.com,
Associated Press (No author listed), Reggie Bush: No admission of guilt. www.espn.go.com