Taking The Heisman Away from Reggie Bush Sets A Dangerous Precedent

  • Tyler Reisinger

USC’s football program paid a heavy price for the hullabaloo surrounding Reggie Bush, losing ten scholarships per season for the next three years and being banned from postseason play for the next two.

In case you’re just joining us, Bush’s mother and step-father were given use of a house in San Diego in exchange for Bush agreeing to use the owner of the house as his agent.

Its easy to say that what Reggie Bush did off the field at USC was wrong. He was supposed to be an amateur athlete, but by taking benefits because of his athletic skill, Bush committed a cardinal sin for a college player. Let’s put that aside for a second.

In football terms, Bush was the best player in college football in 2005.  He did not cheat while he was actually playing the games, and that should be kept in mind. USC was forced to vacate wins from 2004 and 2005 when Bush was playing, but most college football observers will not note this when talking about the past.  Their 2004 BCS Championship may be tainted, but nobody can change the fact that it happened – they won.

But if the Hesiman is indeed taken from Bush, as Yahoo Sports indicates may happen, it will not be just him that is affected. The Heisman Trophy Trust is essentially changing history, and there is no way to tell where it stops. What if it’s revealed that Barry Sanders received a sweetheart deal on a car while at Oklahoma State? The committee set a standard with Bush, and will have to apply that standard to all of the former winners should issues arise.

What this means is that, essentially, no winner will be safe – even if they are dead. Even though they may be correct to punish Bush, it changes the game for everyone. What if it extends beyond what the players did while they were in school – O.J. Simpson’s murder charges, and the ensuing fiasco, come to mind.

If the athlete is under suspicion before the award is given, then depriving them of the trophy would be understandable. But to punish past sins after the voting, awkward pre-awards interviews, and teary speeches have already taken place just feels… unnatural. Giving it to someone else feels weird as well. The Heisman committee needs to be careful – they could be entering dangerous territory.

Image via Getty.