With name, image, and likeness laws going into effect on Thursday in multiple states, college athletes are now able to earn a profit in ways that would have been considered illegal just days ago. Which brings our attention to former USC running back — and Heisman Trophy winner — Reggie Bush.
Bush, of course, is not counted among the Heisman Trust’s 85 winners after his 2005 award was vacated (and forfeited on his end in 2010) because of the NCAA’s investigation into impermissible benefits he received while with the Trojans. At the time, the Trust cited its eligibility requirements, which state that the “recipient must be in compliance with the bylaws defining an NCAA student athlete.”
Obviously, things have changed. So, too, could Bush’s status as a Heisman winner. In statement released on Friday, the Trust said that it would “welcome back” Bush to the Heisman family should the NCAA reinstate Bush’s 2005 status.
“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,” the Trust said. “Should the NCAA reinstate Bush’s 2005 status, the Heisman Trust looks forward to welcoming him back to the Heisman family.”
Also in the statement, the Heisman Trust offered its support for the NCAA’s waiver on bylaw 12.5.5, which covers a portion of its amateurism rules. In doing so, the Trust joined the chorus of voices calling an athlete’s ability to control their NIL rights a “positive step in the right direction,” adding that it “supports any legislation that will protect and benefit all student athletes.”
Time has healed many things related to Bush and the NCAA’s investigation. Public perception on player benefits has been softening for years and USC has since welcomed Bush back with open arms. Whether the NCAA would actually follow through on reinstating Bush’s (and USC’s) records is another story, since it would be forced to admit that its rules shouldn’t have been rules at all.
Bush was one of multiple former college athletes to weigh in on the NCAA’s forced change-of-heart regarding amateurism. Immediately, some demanded that he receive his Heisman again. It’ll be up to the NCAA or a change in the Trust’s rulebook to make that happen, which doesn’t make it seem likely. But it would be the right thing to do.