A multiyear investigation of Reggie Bush resulted in his announcement Tuesday that he will return the 2005 Heisman Trophy. We polled the writers who contribute to Commentary and Page 2 for their reactions to this unprecedented action.
Gene Wojciechowski: Rethinking 2005 vote
Did the Heisman Trust do its own "Bush Push" and strongly suggest that he "voluntarily" return his stiff-arming statuette, thus sparing him the embarrassment of the trustees revoking his 2005 win? Did Bush have an ethical epiphany? Who cares? All that really matters is that Bush and the trophy got a divorce.
Yes, he was the most outstanding player in the country that year -- on this there is little debate. I happily voted for him. But had I known he and his family were on the take, his name would have never appeared on my ballot. As corny as it sounds, the Heisman stands for more than touchdowns and yards.
LZ Granderson: Don't blame players for corruption
After his senior year in high school, more than 200 universities came after Wilt Chamberlain, according to the biography "Wilt: Larger Than Life". Among the, um, recruitment tactics used were promises of diamonds and guarantees of being a movie star. Did I mention that was more than 50 years ago?
Reggie Bush may have needlessly taken one for the team, but the game will never change. As long as big-time college sports are tied to big industry and big bucks, there will be individuals who will cross a line that shouldn't be there in the first place. If the NCAA were serious about cleaning things up, it would do three things: pay the players, ban coaches with poor graduation rates and stop letting its membership be used as a farming system for the pros.
Guys like Wilt and Reggie are not the villains in this story. Heck, this machine is so big they're barely bit players.
Roy S. Johnson: Give it to Young
Reggie Bush did the right thing. He should have given up the Heisman, no question. Now the Downtown Athletic Club should do the right thing, as well, and award it to Vince Young. He was a worthy runner-up to the then-USC running back, perhaps even better.
I was in the press box at the Rose Bowl as Young had one of the most dynamic performances in college football history to lead Texas over USC for the 2005 national championship. No one who witnessed that performance would have flinched had the DAC done a recount, snatched the trophy from Bush and handed it to Young.
Leaving the Heisman title "vacant" makes no sense. If a crooked politician is booted from office, someone is chosen to serve. There was a Heisman winner that season, and his name was Vince Young. Put it in the books. It's the right thing to do.
Adam Watson: Spineless move
Reggie Bush's decision to return the Heisman trophy at this time is pure cowardice. Where was he three months ago when the NCAA announced its sanctions on USC? Bush has now assured that he will face no personal repercussions from his college violations.
If you think giving back his Heisman counts as such, then this PR ploy has worked. Many will incorrectly remember this moment as when Bush showed such heart in the face of adversity. It should be remembered as his final desperate act to avoid becoming the only person to ever have his Heisman trophy taken back.
Jeff MacGregor: Return to sender
Did you know that to mail the trophy back from New Orleans to Los Angeles will cost Reggie Bush over $95, parcel post? Plus the cost of insurance? Plus $2.35 for signature confirmation? Plus the time he has to spend standing in line at the post office? All after finding a place to park his huge, late-model car? (Or that for only $12.16 more, Reggie could ship the trophy and a thoughtful thank-you note directly back to his old coach Pete Carroll in Seattle?) True!
Did you know the trophy itself originally may have been modeled on the legendary moment in 1890 when John William Heisman refused to take money from university boosters? That's why his hand is up, as if to say: Get back grafter, I don't need your greenbacks! I play this game for love!
Did you know that according to his doctors and his publicists, this whole sorry mess likely arose because Reggie Bush suffers from "Overtrophyed Athlete Syndrome"? True fact!
Patrick Hruby: Trophy handoff doesn't mean much
I'd like to get more worked up over Bush's historic Heisman handover. Indignant, perhaps. Or maybe righteous. Something good and frothy. Something television-worthy. Problem is, it's hard.
It's hard because 2005 feels like an epoch ago, at least within the Twitter-ified folds of the thoroughly modern, short-attention-span brain. It's hard because even though the stiff-armed statuette looks inarguably cool, I've never believed a college football trophy given to Gino Toretta -- but not Jim Brown -- can possibly be all that relevant.
Mostly, it's hard because I don't see the point of Bush's gesture. It seems empty. Like Congress' after-the-fact tongue-lashing of the Wall Street investment bankers who made a fortune betting on ruinous, black box financial instruments ... and remain sickeningly rich.
Does giving back the trophy help the teams that lost to USC? Does it help the coaches who had to recruit against the suddenly glamorous program? Come to USC. You can be the next Reggie Bush! Does it help Notre Dame, which likely would have wasted even more money on Charlie Weis had he coached the Fighting Irish to a victory over the Bush-less Trojans?
Unless Bush has access to a working time machine, I already know the answers.
Tim Keown: Unsatisfactory words
The first rule of ghostwriting is to adopt the voice of the subject, and in that regard Reggie Bush's lawyers and PR people failed miserably. The statement had the glossy sheen of a thousand lawyerly fingerprints, resulting in a non-apology masquerading as a closing argument.
But just in case promises become reality, I'm polishing up the résumé to apply for a professorship at the Reggie Bush Institute on Proper Sporting Behavior. The curriculum should be direct and self-explanatory: Don't take money or cars for yourself or houses for your folks, and definitely don't promise the wrong sub-agent something you can't deliver. In keeping with Reggie's new rules of decorum, I'll suggest we hold graduation right after a morning fox hunt.
Paul Lukas: Stamp of approval unneeded
Just like I don't need the BBWAA to tell me Pete Rose is a Hall of Famer, I don't need the Heisman committee to tell me who the best college football player was in 2005.
Mark Kreidler: Rose's example?
You'd love to believe that Reggie Bush read an account of Pete Rose's surprisingly emotional turn last weekend. At a gathering to commemorate the anniversary of his surpassing Ty Cobb as the all-time hits leader, Rose suddenly broke down in front of family and friends and said he had "disrespected the game of baseball" -- and them -- by subsequently lying for years about his gambling history. He also said this: "You can run, but you can't hide."
Maybe Bush, by slowly choking out the words and sentences that make clear the extent of his wrongdoing, will eventually get the clean start that eluded one of baseball's greatest players. Giving back the Heisman Trophy is a start.
Bomani Jones: Bush lost trophy long ago
It's awfully presumptuous of Reggie Bush to give back "his" Heisman Trophy. Vince Young repossessed it at the Rose Bowl in 2006. Bush dropped it attempting that haphazard lateral, and Young picked it up on the way to the end zone with 19 seconds left.
We saw Bush nudge Matt Leinart into the end zone against Notre Dame, and insomniacs saw him take total control of the Heisman race with an epic performance against Fresno State. What does more to erase those memories: being on the wrong side of Young's historic moment, or Bush helping the Heisman Trust save face?
Greg Hardy: Rubberneckers beware
"Charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500." That's what Martin Sheen's Capt. Willard said in "Apocalypse Now" about his mission to take down Marlon Brando's Col. Kurtz.
That's a simple enough analogy. But in college football ethics, everyone needs a driver's ed refresher course. Reggie Bush decided to forfeit his Heisman, but only long after his college ride was demolished at the side of the road. For anyone who isn't a Trojans fan to delight in this, ask yourself -- how will you feel when your program's check engine light comes on?
Vincent Thomas: Who has clean hands? Nobody
I don't care about the moral outrage directed at Reggie Bush. I just can't muster up the judgment. Go 'head, give it to Vince Young, as if he, Mack Brown and the Texas program are without reproach. None of them are. It's all a charade. So, screw the NCAA's rules, many of which go to great lengths to fleece players, but leave other parties alarmingly unchecked. Nick Saban had the nerve to call agents pimps, like we don't know the real deal.
You know what I wish? I wish the NCAA had jurisdiction over Bush's Heisman. And I wish it had ordered a recall, only to have Bush tell them, "It's in my trophy case. If you want it, come and take it from me." You know that self-righteous bunch is a sucker for oblivious, melodramatic hypocrisy. Wagging their grimy fingers, NCAA officials would have run up in Bush's crib, confiscated the statue and left mud tracks on the way out. The theater, the audacity, the nerve.
Kaitee Daley: Impeachable character?
@reggie_bush: "But the key is to never allow your faults or mistakes to define you, yet use them as an opportunity to mature and grow to become better!"
Will Reggie Bush's mistakes define him? Or will it be his actions -- his "mature decision" to forfeit the Heisman -- that will be remembered? The problem with the latter notion is that it implies that Bush woke up one morning and decided that he didn't deserve to have that trophy in his possession, that he should self-impose a penalty for his violations at USC.
In reality, he pulled a presidential resignation. Everyone foresaw the impeachment, so he took action before the action was taken upon him. Is one really nobler than the other? Not in my book. So, who wants to be Gerald Ford?
Cameron Martin: Moving forward
Reggie Bush self-inflicted the final blow, shedding the Heisman before it was officially stripped of him -- just as President Nixon resigned his presidency in 1974 when a vote for impeachment was assured. In resigning the presidency following the Watergate revelations, Nixon called on the nation to heal itself from the wounds of his administration.
In resigning the Heisman, Bush said, "I would like to begin in this effort by turning a negative situation into a positive one by working with the [Heisman] trustees to establish an educational program which will assist student-athletes and their families avoid some of the mistakes that I made." Bush has returned the award; and now, hopefully, the trustees won't be cynical and give his idea the immediate Heisman.