Should Bush's Heisman Be Stripped?
Of course not.
If Reggie Bush was the Most Outstanding College Football Player In
America (at least before the bowls) in 2005, then that's it. Done. The
award has been handed over, the speech was made, and the portrait was
painted. I'm anti-revisionist history because of the bad precedent it
sets and the Pandora's box that can be opened.
Considering how rampant payouts, perks, and gifts have been throughout
the history of college football, you'd have to start taking away Heisman
after Heisman if you wanted to really start digging deep. And then
there's the assumption that Vince Young, the runner up in the 2005, was
100% perfectly clean during his time at Texas.
Now, I would have a much different feeling if Bush was in trouble for
doing steroids. I have no issue whatsoever if Brian Cushing, the Rookie
of the Year for the Houston Texans, with the idea of stripping him of
the award for enhancing his performance (after the vote was taken, he
gets to keep the honor). He was great on the field partly because of his
cheating, while Bush benefitted off the field in ways that wouldn't be a
problem in almost any other walk of life in our capitalistic society.
Money? A sweet SUV? A job for mom? Whatever.
Here's my deal with the Heisman types. I'll officially change my vote to
give Vince Young the Heisman only if you hook up every living winner to
a lie detector and ask him if he ever violated the rules and/or took an
improper benefit. Then, Heisman powers-that-be, you have to strip the
offending legends of their awards, too, and then you have to hook up the
machine to the No. 2 vote getters.
In the meantime, accept Bush's great year in 2005 for what it was: a
brilliant performance. He earned the Heisman.
Should Reggie Bush be stripped of his 2005 Heisman?
To begin with, let's remember that this has nothing to do with the NCAA, rather a decision that might be considered by the Downtown Athletic Club, which is being thrust into a very awkward situation. Listen, I'm not naïve about these types of scenarios. Talented athletes have been taking improper benefits ever since there have been agents and boosters. It's an unfortunate part of the landscape, but it doesn't make it right or beyond personal severe repercussions. The difference between Bush and everyone else is that he got caught. He and his family showed blatant disregard for the school, his teammates, and the entire sport. So if he could be so selfish toward his own Trojan brothers, why should you or I even bat an eye if his trophy case gets lighter?
Hey, this really isn't about Reggie Bush in the long run. His life goes on just fine regardless of the college hardware. No, it's about the Heisman Trophy being able to send a message that violating NCAA rules has ramifications and that ineligible players should not included in the most venerable fraternity in American athletics. The Heisman is better and bigger than Reggie Bush, which it ought to exercise when all of the facts are disclosed. Oh, and do not go O.J. on me with a rebuttal, which is an apples and, well, oranges comparison. As bizarre as Simpson may be, his problems came decades after he left Troy and did not occur during his playing days.
If it turns out that Bush is declared retroactively ineligible, the Heisman folks will have an opportunity to do what's right and mete out its own brand of justice. Go ahead and send a bold statement to current and future amateur athletes that while it may be impossible to eradicate all cheaters, the cost of breaking the rules will be more than just a slap on the wrist. It's messy and controversial, but you'd be doing a service to the game and all those who play by the rules.
Reggie Bush should have lost the Heisman Trophy… in a ballot battle with Vince Young. He shouldn't be stripped of his trophy if he's ruled to have been ineligible.
The college sports community seems to widely – if not unanimously – think that vacating wins or stripping old achievements is not the way to go in terms of punishing programs and individuals for violating rules and not playing fair. An emergent line of thought on this subject is that if current players are not the wrongdoers at a program, no penalties should be imposed until after that class of players graduates. (Basically, impose penalties four years into the future.) The idea of stripping a past title or trophy is silly.
Reggie Bush had his name called at the Downtown Athletic Club four and a half years ago. He made a speech. He received the limelight and the plaudits. He was celebrated, and he did some celebrating. Vince Young took the loss hard but used that snub as motivational fuel for the 2006 Rose Bowl. If Heisman voters had given Young the award then, perhaps the history of college football would have been forever altered.
It's too late now.
In a similar vein, are you going to tell UMass or Memphis basketball fans that the 1996 and 2008 Final Fours didn't give them immense pleasure? What does stripping achieve? That's the dirty little rotten question the NCAA doesn't seem intent on addressing with any wisdom or creativity.
It's no wonder that football schools are in the process of setting up their own mini-kingdom (with four or five 16-team superconferences) to create a moneymaker outside the realm of the NCAA. When an organization is bent on handing down retroactive punishments instead of real penalties, how are schools and conferences supposed to react?