When Did Reggie Bush Get His Heisman Trophy Back?

    It's been nearly two decades, but it's finally happening: Reggie Bush is getting his Heisman Trophy back. What changed, and how good was his winning season?

    It’s back, and I’m not talking about Texas. For the first time since 2010, Reggie Bush will have possession of his 2005 Heisman Trophy.

    It’s been a long road since then. Bush was selected No. 2 overall in the 2006 NFL Draft, forfeited his Heisman title in 2010 due to reports that the Heisman Trophy Trust would eventually strip the award away, retired from football in 2017, and began a career as an on-field analyst in 2019.

    Reggie Bush Finally Gets His Heisman Back

    On April 24, 2024, the Heisman Trophy Trust announced they would reinstate Bush’s 2005 award:

    “We are thrilled to welcome Reggie Bush back to the Heisman family in recognition of his collegiate accomplishments. 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.”

    The Trust also returned the trophy to Bush and the replica to USC and will invite Bush to all future Heisman ceremonies.

    Just a year after winning the award, allegations surfaced that Bush and his family received improper benefits that violated NCAA rules. While the conference and the NCAA began their investigations, a probe was already underway with USC basketball star O.J. Mayo facing similar allegations. Thus, the NCAA merged the two investigations into a larger one that scoped the entire USC athletic program.

    The USC athletics probe concluded in June 2010, with the NCAA announcing major sanctions against the program. At that point, Bush was entering his sixth season in the NFL — his first with the Miami Dolphins, spending the previous five with the New Orleans Saints.

    The Trojans were banned from bowl play in 2010 and 2011, lost 30 scholarships over the next three years, and vacated their final two wins in 2004 (including the Orange Bowl) and all of their victories in 2005 (12).

    In July 2010, USC removed all items in Bush’s name from the campus, and the NCAA set a mandatory 10-year period where the school had to disassociate itself from the star athlete.

    Bush voluntarily forfeited his Heisman title in 2010 and returned the trophy two years later. And during an interview with The Athletic in May 2020, the USC star explained how he was still reeling with the NCAA’s decision:

    “One of the worst feelings in the world … felt like I died when I had to hear that there weren’t gonna be scholarships for kids because of me or because of something connected to me … I’m still not over that. It’s just something you learn to live with.”

    The Heisman Trophy Trust opted to leave the 2005 season without a winner — the only season in which one is not recognized. The Trust reportedly offered the award to both runner-up Texas QB Vince Young and third-place USC QB Matt Leinart, but neither accepted.

    Why Did Bush Get His Heisman Back?

    The NCAA’s implementation of the Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) policy in 2021 sparked heavy support for Bush and put pressure on the Heisman Trophy Trust to return his trophy.

    The Trust issued a statement in response: “Bush’s 2005 season records remain vacated by the NCAA and, as a result, under the rule set forth by the Heisman Trust and stated on the Heisman Ballot, he is not eligible to be awarded the 2005 Heisman Memorial Trophy.” Although, they said they would return the trophy with the NCAA’s blessing.

    Then, in August 2023, Bush held a press conference at the Coliseum to announce he planned to file a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA, with his attorneys stating, “The lawsuit is based on the NCAA maliciously attacking his character through a completely false and highly offensive statement that was widely reported in the media and substantially and irreparably damaged his reputation.

    “Specifically, on July 28, 2021, the NCAA falsely stated to reporters that because of Mr. Bush’s prior involvement in a ‘pay-for-play arrangement.’ The NCAA would not consider restoring his collegiate records that it vacated in 2010, which subsequently resulted in Mr. Bush having to return his Heisman Trophy. Within less than a day, this false statement was republished by no less than 20 different media organizations and circulated to readers around the world.”

    Bush shared he had dreams of running out of the tunnel with the football team and seeing his jersey and banner next to the rest of USC’s Heisman winners, but he “can’t rightfully do that without my Heisman Trophy.”

    The NCAA filed a motion to dismiss, saying the spokesperson’s statement was an accurate summation of rules, did not mention Bush by name, and even if it could be seen as being about the USC star, “it is still true and thus not defamatory.” The motion also argued Bush engaged in “misdirection” by quoting the spokesperson as saying “pay-for-play” when the full quote was “pay-for-play type arrangements.”

    While the case is still ongoing, the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame inductee can take solace in owning his Heisman Trophy once again.

    In the spring of 2024, the pressure compelled the Trust, which decided it didn’t need the NCAA’s approval anymore:

    “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.”

    How Much Would Bush Have Made in NIL?

    According to HuddleUp’s Joe Pompliano estimations, Bush could have made anywhere from $4-6 million annually. To put that into perspective, the former Trojan was earning no more than $1,000 in scholarship funds, and the improper benefits he received amounted to nearly $300,000, which Bush’s former sports agent Lloyd Lake said he provided in cash and gifts.

    Bush stated that after rent and bills, he was left with under $300 for food and gas for the rest of the month. In the same interview with The Atheltic, Bush explained how the NIL rule would have impacted him.

    “It would’ve made things a lot less stressful because it’s stressful when you’re trying to figure out ‘How am I gonna eat? What am I gonna eat when the cafeteria has closed?’”

    How Memorable Was His Winning Season?

    After going 13-0 and winning the national championship in 2004, the Trojans were riding high into the 2005 season. And they picked up where they left, bulldozing their way to another national title berth.

    Bush was the engine, producing mind-boggling numbers:

    • 200 carries for 1,740 yards (8.6 per attempt) and 16 touchdowns
    • 37 receptions for 478 yards and two TDs
    • 29 punt returns for 179 yards and a score and 28 kickoff returns for 493 yards

    Although USC came up just short in an all-time classic Rose Bowl vs. Vince Young’s Texas, Bush gave his all, rushing for 82 yards and a TD and taking six catches for 95 yards. And his overall play received the recognition it deserved.

    How Many First-Place Votes Did He Receive?

    Bush garnered 784 first-place votes for the 2005 Heisman Trophy, which is the fifth-most in the award’s history.

    Young was the runner-up with 79 first-place votes, and Leinert only had 18.

    KEEP READING: List of Heisman Trophy Winners by Year

    Bush broke the rules that were in place at the time and was punished for it. But with the introduction of NIL effectively making his “improper benefits” proper, it’s only right that the collegiate star is in possession of his Heisman Trophy.

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