Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The (almost) last chapter in the Reggie Bush saga

We all knew this was coming ...
USC will replace athletic director Mike Garrett with former Trojans quarterback Pat Haden, university president-elect C.L. Max Nikias announced Tuesday.

Garrett has been under fire since USC was hit with numerous NCAA sanctions and a finding of "lack of institutional control" after lengthy investigations into benefits received by Bush and former basketball player O.J. Mayo.

... although calling it a retirement is a joke if I've ever heard one. Garrett's had his head in the guillotine since the beginning of the NCAA investigation. It's also kind of weird that a guy most people under the age of 40 know as a Notre Dame color analyst -- or crazy-eyed Tom Hammond's sidekick -- is now the USC athletic director.

But this part of the announcement was what shocked everybody:

Nikias also said USC will return the Heisman won by Bush in 2005 to the Heisman Trophy Trust next month.

Wwwhhaaaaaa?!? Jaw, meet floor. ESPN provides additional information:

The decision was an extension of the self-imposed penalties, which stated USC would dissociate itself from Bush and Mayo permanently. The NCAA bylaws also stated USC would have to "show cause why it should not be penalized further if it fails to permanently disassociate [Bush] and [Mayo] from the institution's athletic program."

Bush still has his own Heisman Trophy. The Heisman Trophy Trust has not taken any action against Bush or made any request to have him return his copy of the trophy.

The school has to separate itself so distantly from Reggie Bush that it's removing the greatest individual honor in sports -- one of seven in the program's history -- from Heritage Hall. More than anything else that's happened so far, I think this shows just how serious Bush's transgressions were. (It's a sad and amusing coincidence that USC's first Heisman winner was none other than Mike Garrett back in 1965.)

The question now is what the trust decides to do with the actual award: Either Bush keeps it or the spot gets vacated. Like I said a few weeks ago, I don't think an ineligible player with an erased past should get to keep the Heisman. If he wasn't eligible to play, he wasn't eligible to win anything. Hell, even the school won't acknowledge it -- you think anyone will ever take "Reggie Bush, Heisman winner" seriously?

This is where the "but O.J. Simpson got to keep his Heisman" response typically comes in, to which I say, "weak comparison." Committing stupid crimes 30 years after you leave college doesn't have anything to do with your NCAA accomplishments. O.J. was an awesome football player with a whole bunch of impressive records that I could look up right now on the NCAA website. Bush -- at least according to the NCAA -- didn't exist in 2005. You won't find his name or stats in USC's media guide, the NCAA website or anywhere else. Some kid looking at a list of Heisman winners 20 years from now will be pretty damn confused when he gets to Reggie Bush and sees a list of zeroes in the stat column. Fortunately for him, Wikipedia will be implanted in all our brains by then, so it won't take long to to get the details (YouTube will also be transmitted directly into our corneas and cell phones will have been replaced by Facebook transmitters).

Where was I? Oh yeah ... if I were a betting man, I'd put my money on Bush having an empty spot on his gigantic mantel at some point in the next few months.

But if you think about it, it doesn't really matter matter what the trust decides. We all know what was going on: Bush's career was a sham, and the jokes about "U$C" will forever be attached to his name. His history has already been decided. The official removal of the Heisman would just be the final clump of dirt on a legacy that's already dead and buried.

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