USC football alum Reggie Bush rightfully reinstated as Heisman Trophy Winner

After voluntarily giving up his Heisman Trophy, USC football alum Reggie Bush has been reinstated as the 2005 recipient thanks to the ever-changing landscape of college athletics.
NCAA Football - 2005 Heisman Trophy Presentation - December 10, 2005
NCAA Football - 2005 Heisman Trophy Presentation - December 10, 2005 / Michael Cohen/GettyImages

Sometimes, doing the right thing actually pays off in the end. Such is the case with former USC football great Reggie Bush who is being reinstated as the 2005 winner of the Heisman Trophy.

Over ten years ago, Bush voluntarily forfeited his Heisman Trophy after it was discovered that he received benefits that were impermissible by NCAA rules during his playing career. That was the right move on his part at the time.

The fact is, Bush did blatantly break the rules of the era he played in. Therefore, consequences were necessary. Being that he was no longer a college athlete when the findings were revealed, the only punishment that would have impacted Bush was the loss of the coveted Heisman Trophy.

In deciding to willfully hand over his Heisman, Bush prevented any drawn-out legal drama that would have brought up old issues and potentially ended up with a judge deciding the fate of one of the most prestigious awards in all of sports. In other words, Bush put what was best for the Heisman Trophy ahead of what was best for himself.

Fortunately, times change and so does perception. The world of college athletics is now run by name, image, and likeness financial opportunities for athletes.

Had Bush played in the current era of the sport, the benefits he received in 2005 would have been not only permissible but they would have been encouraged. In fact, Bush would have certainly received far more in the way of financial compensation now than he did over two decades ago.

What's more, it isn't as if Bush was the only player in the nation receiving illegal compensation during his era. It would be naive to think that the one high-profile player who was caught was the only one taking benefits under the table. That's been going on for decades in college athletics and certainly, Bush isn't the only Heisman winner who has been the beneficiary.

In fact, recently, 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel admitted that he was paid as much as $3,000 dollars per item to sign memorabilia when he was at Texas A&M. However, there was never any substantial movement pushing for his Heisman to be returned.

It didn't seem as if Bush was ever going to get his trophy back, though. In July 2021, the Heisman Trust said that it would not evaluate Bush's case again despite N.I.L. compensation becoming legal in the college game.

"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," a spokesperson for the trust said at the time. "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."

That tone has changed, though. Now, Bush is back in the Heisman family where he belongs.

"We are thrilled to welcome Reggie Bush back to the Heisman family in recognition of his collegiate accomplishments," Heisman Trust president Michael Comerford said. "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." 

In 2005, Bush was the best player in college football (with all apologies to Vince Young of Texas). He ran for 1,740 yards and 16 TDs while catching 37 balls for 478 more yards and two scores as he helped the Trojans reach the BCS National Championship Game against the Longhorns.

Now, his accomplishments will be looked upon in a different light with Wednesday's reinstatement. Bush was a deserving Heisman winner in 2005 and he deserved to have that honor restored to his name in 2024. Though it took too long, justice was finally served and for once, it was served in a positive light for an athlete.