By Dennis J. Freeman
Reggie Bush had it all. He had the fame. He had become a rock star in pads. He had the credentials to back up his play on the football field as one of college’s best. In fact, Bush was voted on by a group of sportswriters as the best college football player in 2005, capturing the prestigious Heisman Trophy award.
Now all he has is shame. Embarrassment and public ridicule now follow his path as a professional football player for the New Orleans Saints.
He has indirectly disgraced his former school so much so that now every resemblance of his name has been removed. He is no longer welcomed back to the USC campus. On top of that, the program in which he once starred is has been forced to sit out playing in the postseason for the next two years.
And that doesn’t include all the talent and scholarships that have been stripped away from the football team because of Bush’s decision to accept cash, cars and carry from rogue would-be agents. This is what greed, corruption, temptation and the lust for fame will get you.
Bush, however, should not be left to bear all of the responsibility alone for his actions. Pete Carroll, Bush’s coach at USC, has gotten away with a virtual free pass about his part in the fiasco. Carroll disserted the Trojans for a head coaching job in the NFL, basically leaving the program he resurrected, in shambles.
It’s a safe bet to say that there will be no Cardinal and gold homecoming for Bush in the near future. This is where this story becomes sad. Bush was still just a kid in college when he made the mistake of taking a wad of cash and gifts (reportedly as much as $300,000) that would benefit himself and his family.
Just about any kid would eyeball taking that kind of money being thrown at him. Why not? College sports is big business these days. Millions of dollars are being made off of athletes like Bush by universities and colleges. Their likenesses are sold unmercifully by the schools that hire their services in the name of an athletic scholarship, whether it’s in the form of a jersey or photo poster.
And yet, the athlete receives nothing but a room, board and a place to eat, all the while schools build and construct modern day plantations called athletic facilities.
It’s always the athlete paying the price of wrongdoing. Coaches continue to remove themselves from a situation relatively unscathed. They can walk away and are allowed to audition for their next million-dollar gig, while the NCAA, the governing body of many colleges and universities, continue to stand on the sideline and do nothing towards sanctioning these coaches.
They do a pretty good job, however, of leaving their imprint on clamping down on the student-athlete. Bush and the USC family now know this. Bush was recently ruled ineligible as a student-athlete during the 2004 and 2005 seasons.
This is why USC was stripped of 14 wins from 2004 and 2005, including its victory over Oklahoma for the 2005 BCS national championship. This is why 30 scholarships over the next three years have been voided from Heritage Hall because of NCAA sanctions. This is why the Heisman Trophy does not belong in Bush’s hands.
If he’s not eligible as a player, how can he be eligible to win the highest honor in college football? It’s a simple answer: it wasn’t his to claim in the first place. After four years of constant drama, Bush recently decided to forfeit his Heisman Trophy amid a furor of public backlash.
The saddest chapter to all of this mess is that when the fame is gone, when all the women are gone, when the cheering stops, all of this is going hit this young man like a ton of bricks. It will hurt that he can’t walk on the USC campus anymore. It will hurt him to know that whatever he accomplished as a collegiate athlete is now null and void.
When his children ask him what did he accomplish in college, this is where it will hurt the most.