Heisman Trophy returned to Bush after 14 years

Sports

Reggie Bush is getting his 2005 Heisman Trophy back, as ESPN has learned that the Heisman Trust will announce Wednesday the formal “reinstatement” of the trophy to Bush amid what it calls “enormous changes in the college football landscape.”

The Heisman Trust’s decision comes after Bush forfeited his Heisman Trophy in 2010 in the wake of significant NCAA sanctions for USC, which included Bush receiving improper benefits during a Trojans career that spanned from 2003 to 2005.

As part of the decision Wednesday, the Heisman Trust is returning the Heisman Trophy to Bush and a replica to USC. Bush will again be invited to all future Heisman Trophy ceremonies, beginning in the 2024 season.

“Personally, I’m thrilled to reunite with my fellow Heisman winners and be a part of the storied legacy of the Heisman Trophy, and I’m honored to return to the Heisman family,” Bush said in a statement to ESPN. “I also look forward to working together with the Heisman Trust to advance the values and mission of the organization.”

The decision to reinstate the Heisman Trophy was based on a “deliberative process” by the Heisman Trust to monitor a sea change in college athletics in recent years. The Trust cited “fundamental changes in college athletics” in which rules that have allowed “student athlete compensation” to become “an accepted practice and appears here to stay.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Reggie Bush back to the Heisman family in recognition of his collegiate accomplishments,” said Michael Comerford, president of The Heisman Trophy Trust. “We considered the enormous changes in college athletics over the last several years in deciding that now is the right time to reinstate the trophy for Reggie. We are so happy to welcome him back.”

As rules allowing athletes to be compensated for their name, image and likeness were enacted in 2021, Bush began lobbying for his trophy to be returned. He released a statement in July 2021 that included criticism of the Heisman Trust, including Comerford not returning Bush’s calls.

There has been a flurry of recent support from Heisman winners for Bush to get the trophy back. The most public came from former Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel, who said earlier this year that he would skip the Heisman Trophy ceremony until Bush’s trophy was returned. Both USC’s Matt Leinart, Bush’s former teammate, and Notre Dame‘s Tim Brown are Heisman winners who have been outspoken publicly about Bush’s trophy being returned.

In its decision-making, the Heisman Trust noted the 2021 Supreme Court decision against the NCAA in the Alston case, which the Trust said “questioned the legality of the NCAA’s amateurism model and opened the door to student athlete compensation.”

“Recognizing that the compensation of student athletes is an accepted practice and appears here to stay, these fundamental changes in college athletics led the Trust to decide that now is the right time to return the Trophy to Bush, who unquestionably was the most outstanding college football player of 2005,” the Heisman Trophy Trust said.

USC will now officially have eight Heisman Trophies, giving it the most of any school in the country ahead of the seven each at Ohio State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame.

USC gave back the replica of Bush’s trophy in 2010, months before Bush announced he was forfeiting the trophy. That decision was one of the early actions of former athletic director Pat Haden’s tenure.

USC’s sanctions from that investigation included the Bowl Championship Series vacating the 2004 national title, the first time a major college football champion had been stripped of a championship. The NCAA stripped USC of victories in 14 games Bush played, including that BCS title blowout victory over Oklahoma after the 2004 season. (Bush filed a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA in August 2023.)

Bush’s play on the field at USC made him one of this century’s most transcendent college athletes. He averaged 8.5 yards per touch from scrimmage over his career, including rushing for 1,740 yards and 8.7 yards per carry on 200 carries in 2005.

He accounted for 42 career touchdowns over three seasons — 25 rushing, 13 receiving and four on special teams returns. Bush was selected No. 2 overall in the 2006 NFL draft, and only one tailback has been picked that high in the draft since: Saquon Barkley in 2018.

Bush was so dominant in 2005, accounting for 2,890 all-purpose yards, that his 784 first-place votes are the fifth most in Heisman Trophy history.

Nearly two decades after that peerless season, Bush again has his Heisman Trophy.

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