Everything seemed to go downhill after Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy. USC lost the following BCS National Championship game as Vince Young scrambled into the endzone on 4th and 5 for the touchdown. Although the defeat was shocking to the Trojan faithful, the ensuing NCAA investigation and sanctions were even more shocking. The most devastating portion consisted of the loss of 30 scholarships over 3 years and a two year postseason ban.
One of the less noticed clauses involves the “Disassociation of student-athlete 1“, Reggie Bush. Since USC has striven to stay on the NCAA’s good side after the sanctions, officials have removed all references to Bush including a replica of his 2005 Heisman Trophy. Consequently, this gesture has brought many Trojan fans to focus their collective anger at Reggie Bush.
The past couple of seasons should have shed more light on the inconsistent practices of the NCAA. Reggie Bush and his family received money and compensation for his status as a student-athlete, which are technically violations of NCAA rules. In most cases, money and gifts would be used to lure student-athletes to sign with their school. In Bush’s case, illegitimate sports agents used cash and gifts to tempt Bush to leave USC.
Reggie Bush was not a cheater on the field. He earned the yards, touchdowns and accolades. He earned the victories and national championships. He earned his Heisman trophy. However, he did something impermissible by NCAA standards. Olympic athletes do the same thing every day without any sort of backlash or notice. The last thing a Trojan should do is buy into the NCAA’s injustice. The NCAA should be the focus — not Reggie Bush. Reggie Bush did not decide to give us sanctions that were completely disproportionate to the violations. It was the NCAA.
While they imposed such abusive sanctions on USC, they hypocritically continued to profit off his USC image. Despite declaring him retroactive ineligible, stripping him of every record and even some awards, the NCAA kept selling jerseys and other memorabillia. They have only recently stopped selling these items. Bruce Feldman had a telling tweet on the subject.
— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) August 8, 2013
(The link now redirects to an NCAA release stating they no longer sell school merchandise.)
Meanwhile, Bush is still the punching bag and poster child of corruption. Yes, he made some mistakes. No more than most others would have in that position. What happened to the Trojan Family? So many effectively excommunicated him. Being under NCAA rule, USC is required to, but the fans are under no such obligation. Not everything in life is so binary. Reggie Bush should not be looked at as if he were holy nor as the personification of evil. Bush has done a lot for USC. He and his family also did wrong. As a result, he should be remembered for the legacy he earned; a mixed legacy, but not necessarily a negative one.
The phrase “Trojan for life” gets thrown around often by Trojans. Since Reggie Bush was a Trojan before 2010, he should still be a Trojan now. As a member of the Trojan Family, he should not be disavowed. Like all family members, he had his share of embarrassing moments, but the ruling of a corrupt, faux judicial body should never sever the connection.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith presents a thought provoking question on Bush’s situation, saying “Why would you need somebody to buy you a suit? Why would you need somebody to sit there and provide a home for you? Could it be because he didn’t have it?”
Before you point fingers and blame everything on Reggie Bush, please think twice.