The University of Southern California running back who is now the Saints running back should not have returned the 2005 Heisman Trophy last week in a move to get people off his back for holding onto it.
Earlier this year, the N.C.A.A. ruled Bush ineligible for the 2005 season after it was determined that he and his family had accepted large sums of money in gifts from two agents while he was in college. Of course, USC was handed down some serious penalties, including a two-year bowl ban and a loss of 30 scholarships, but Bush, who has kept fairly quiet about his acceptance of the money, decided to return his Heisman Trophy to the Heisman Trophy Trust because of his ruled ineligibility in 2005
According to The New York Times, there are only two rules listed on the ballot guiding 900 Heisman Trophy voters in the selection process for college’s best football player. One is that a player must be compliant with N.C.A.A. eligibility rules.
So once it was determined that Bush was ineligible in 2005 because of his actions, he really couldn’t win the Heisman Trophy, right? Of course, coaches, parents, sports talking heads and the usual boisterous people who demand justice in the world set out like a lynch mob, demanding that either the Heisman Trophy be taken away from Bush or that he return it himself.
I wasn’t so sure Bush was actually going to do it, but finally last week he gave into the pressure and notified the Heisman Trust that he would be returning his trophy because of his respect for it and not because any admission of guilt. Bush has a career in the NFL now and I think he finally decided to return it to get folks off his back.
While the distraction these people brought Bush was no walk in the park, there is no way in hell I would have returned that trophy. No way I would give the N.C.A.A the satisfaction of returning it. Deny ‘til I die, I say, or, as the late, not-so-great Charlton Heston (except for The Omega Man, that’s it) once said, “From my cold dead hands.”
Now I get that what he did was against the rules and he got caught. I get that. What I don’t want to hear is some high morality on the issue, especially from any N.C.A.A. officials who hand down punishments for taking monetary gifts because you know what the N.C.A.A. is all about? Let me give you a hint here. It’s not about turning student athletes into wonderful, productive citizens of the world or, as it says in its mission statement, “…to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.”
It’s about money. It always has been about money and will always be about money. The N.C.A.A. mission statement should read, “This organization will do everything it can to make as much money as it can on the performance of student athletes.”
To have the N.C.A.A. punish USC because Reggie Bush took money offered to him is the definition of the pot calling the kettle black.
Don’t agree? Then why does the N.C.A.A. stick with the awkward ranking system and the Bowl Championship Series system? How many college bowls are out there at the end of the season? Twenty? Thirty? The greed heads will have you believe that the current systems gives schools of all size the opportunity to enter the national spotlight in some season’s-end bowl like the fried chicken sandwich bowl, tortilla chips bowl and world-wide shipping bowl. Yeah, right. It’s all about sponsorships and television contracts. Money. Money. Money. There isn’t enough of that in an organized playoff system in college football, so we will never see it no matter how much sense it makes.
And then there are instances where small schools decide to schedule games against big time schools because they, too, want a piece of the television payout. Why does Portland State want to play a game against the University of Oregon? Money. At what cost? Well, it’s on the shoulders of the Portland State players who had to endure a humiliating 69-0 loss. But don’t worry. Losing like that builds character. They will survive.
Of course, college coaches can take all the perks they want when they accept a job. Two new cars a year for Clemson’s coach Dabo Swinney seems sweet, according to ESPN Magazine. Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops makes $4.1 million a year and that doesn’t count up to 45 hours of flying time on private jets.
My point here is that everyone, the N.C.A.A., the universities and head coaches, are all making a ton of money on the shoulders of student athletes, who, as Reggie Bush now knows, should not take money or gifts from anyone, because it is wrong.
I’m not saying that rules should be changed or players should be paid. I am simply saying that Reggie Bush is crazy for returning the Heisman Trophy because he was playing a money game in a money-run world of college football. Being a broke-ass college student (and still being broke), I too would have accepted the gifts like Bush did. I call it a sound business decision, and nobody should look down on him for doing what he did. If you do look down on him with some stupid high-minded moral frame of mind, take a look at the whole picture. It’s a whole lot worse than what Reggie did.