Running back Reggie Bush has decided to hand over the Heisman.
Under pressure since his award-winning 2005 campaign at USC was vacated, Bush said in a statement on Tuesday that he will forfeit the Heisman Trophy.
"One of the greatest honors of my life was winning the Heisman Trophy in 2005," the statement released by the New Orleans Saints reads. "For me, it was a dream come true. But I know that the Heisman is not mine alone. Far from it. I know that my victory was made possible by the discipline and hard work of my teammates, the steady guidance of my coaches, the inspiration of the fans, and the unconditional love of my family and friends. And I know that any young man fortunate enough to win the Heisman enters into a family of sorts. Each individual carries the legacy of the award and each one is entrusted with its good name.
"It is for these reasons that I have made the difficult decision to forfeit my title as Heisman winner of 2005."
The NCAA passed down heavy sanctions on USC relating to improper benefits received by Bush and basketball player O.J. Mayo. The Heisman Trust was scheduled to meet on Tuesday, but it was not clear if Bush was on the agenda. The group has been reviewing whether Bush should have his award taken away.
"For the rest of my days, I will continue to strive to demonstrate through my actions and words that I was deserving of the confidence placed in me by the Heisman Trophy Trust," Bush's statement continues. "I would like to begin in this effort by turning a negative situation into a positive one by working with the Trustees to establish an educational program which will assist student-athletes and their families avoid some of the mistakes that I made. I am determined to view this event as an opportunity to help others and to advance the values and mission of the Heisman Trophy Trust."
It's the first time college football's top award was returned by a recipient. One of the few guidelines given to Heisman Trophy voters is that a player must be in compliance with NCAA rules to be eligible for the trophy.
The eight-member Heisman Trophy Trust, based in New York, had said it would have to consider what to do about Bush, who won in a landslide vote over Texas quarterback Vince Young.
"The Heisman Trophy Trust will issue a statement in due course," Trust president Bill Dockery said Tuesday. "Until that time we have no further comment.
"Just heard about Reggies Heisman," Young posted on his Twitter account. "Reg will continue to be the 2005 Award recipient and I will continue to be honored to have been in the 2005 Heisman campaign with such a talented athlete."
During a Monday morning interview with Hannah Storm on ESPN's "SportsCenter," Young said he wouldn't turn down the trophy if Bush lost it.
"I definitely want it, I definitely want it,'' said Young, who guided Texas to the national championship. "But he won it fair and square definitely, and it's much respect to Reggie, man. He had a great career and he's already won a Super Bowl before me. I'm already mad about that.
"But at the same time I am definitely happy for him, man, and he is definitely the Heisman Trophy winner for that year. But if they send it over to me I am not going to say no to it," Young said.
Allegations that Bush and his family had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from two California-based marketing agents were first reported by Yahoo Sports in September 2006, months after Bush had already been drafted No. 2 overall by the Saints.
The NCAA and Pac-10 began investigating Bush and the USC football program soon after, and the running back immediately denied any wrongdoing.
But Bush never met with investigators.
One of the marketing agents, Lloyd Lake, sued Bush, trying to recoup nearly $300,000 in cash and gifts. Bush was supposed to give a deposition in the case but never did and eventually the case was settled with Bush never having given his side of the story publicly.
It took four years for the NCAA to complete its investigation. When it finally handed down its punishment in June, it was harsh.
The NCAA cited USC for a lack of institutional control. Its report cited numerous improper benefits for Bush and Mayo, who spent just one year with the Trojans.
The penalties included the loss of 30 football scholarships over three years and vacating 14 victories in which Bush played from December 2004 through the 2005 season. USC beat Oklahoma in the BCS title game on Jan. 4, 2005, and won 12 games during Bush's Heisman-winning 2005 season, which ended with a loss to Texas in the 2006 BCS title game.
After the 2009 season, coach Pete Carroll left to take over the Seattle Seahawks.
"It is my hope that this situation serves as a teachable moment to all involved, especially for the young athletes and university and high school administrators of tomorrow," Carroll said in a statement.
In July, USC replaced athletic director Mike Garrett with Pat Haden, and one of the first moves Haden made was returning USC's copy of Bush's Heisman Trophy.
"It's never a good thing to give a Heisman back," Haden said Tuesday. "But at the end of the day, USC did the right thing when we gave our Heisman back and now Reggie did, too."
Haden also said: "It was a very noble thing for Reggie to do. In my opinion, he made the right decision. It was a thoughtful decision by Reggie."
Bush's decision ends four years of questions, debate and turmoil surrounding allegations that tainted one of the great performances in college football history.
"I think it's a sad day, that's the way I feel about it," said former Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch, who won the Heisman in 2001. "Having to actually be the first time in the history of the award that someone has given it back ... I don't know if he actually had to. Maybe this is on his terms."
Eddie George, the 1995 Heisman winner from Ohio State, felt the same way: "I don't think he should've gave his Heisman away. I think it's a shame that it's come to this for Reggie."
USC won 34 straight games and two national titles during Bush's sensational three-year career.
In 2005, he was spectacular, running for 1,740 yards, scoring 18 touchdowns and helping the Trojans reach the national championship game against Texas and Young.
When it came time to award the Heisman, Bush ran away with the vote. He received 784 first-place votes, the third-most in the history of the award, and finished 933 points ahead of the Texas star.
"It doesn't matter if he gives it back. Everyone still knows Reggie Bush was the best player that year. Look at the runs. He was clearly the best player," former Nebraska flanker and 1972 Heisman winner Johnny Rodgers said.
But it was Young who came away with the biggest prize. He had one of the greatest games in college football history and scored the winning touchdown with 19 seconds left in Texas' 41-38 victory at the Rose Bowl. Meanwhile, Bush's most memorable play from the title game was an ill-advised lateral that resulted in a USC turnover.
"I don't think of that season any different," said current USC coach Lane Kiffin, who was an assistant on the 2005 team. "I think of that season as a great year until the last six minutes of the game, when we had a two-score lead and blew it away."
As for Bush's decision to forfeit the Heisman, Kiffin said: "I'll respect any decision that Reggie made and I'm sure it was extremely hard for him. Talking to him earlier in the process -- I didn't speak to him today -- this has been extremely difficult on him and is something that has hurt him a lot. This is just more icing on the cake for him."
Kiffin downplayed the effect the news had on the Trojans, but did note that the program continues to feel the burden of the NCAA sanctions.
"This has nothing to do with this team," Kiffin said. "It has nothing to do with the direction of the program.
"That's the past; obviously we're suffering from it. We're moving forward and trying to make the best of the situation."
Bush jumped to the NFL as a junior after the Rose Bowl and was drafted by the Saints.
As a pro, he's had some brilliant moments and has been a productive player. However, so far, he has fallen short of becoming the star he was projected to be.
"Now that this is behind me I look forward to the future and winning more awards and championships here in New Orleans! Who Dat!" Bush tweeted.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.