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Reggie Bush reinstated as 2005 Heisman Trophy winner after changes in NCAA rules

Updated April 24, 2024 at 12:01 PM ET

NEW YORK — Reggie Bush has been reinstated as the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner more than a decade after Southern California returned the award following an NCAA investigation that found he received what were impermissible benefits during his time with the Trojans, the Heisman Trust announced Wednesday.

"We are thrilled to welcome Reggie Bush back to the Heisman family in recognition of his collegiate accomplishments," said Michael Comerford, president of The Heisman Trophy Trust. "We considered the enormous changes in college athletics over the last several years in deciding that now is the right time to reinstate the Trophy for Reggie. We are so happy to welcome him back."

Bush had won the trophy awarded to the top player in college football after amassing more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage and scoring 18 touchdowns in 2005. His 784 first-place votes were the fifth most in Heisman history.

The Heisman Trust has returned the trophy to Bush and the replica to USC. Bush will be invited to all future Heisman Trophy ceremonies.

"Personally, I'm thrilled to reunite with my fellow Heisman winners and be a part of the storied legacy of the Heisman Trophy, and I'm honored to return to the Heisman family," Bush said in a statement to ESPN. "I also look forward to working together with the Heisman Trust to advance the values and mission of the organization."

The USC football program wrote in a social media post, "back where it belongs." The reinstatement of Bush gives USC a total of eight Heisman winners, most of any school.

The Trust said in a statement that its decision followed a "deliberative process" in which it closely monitored changes in the college football landscape. That included the U.S. Supreme Court's 2021 decision that questioned the legality of the NCAA's amateurism model and opened the door to athlete compensation; the ability of college football players to be paid for their name, image, and likeness; and the NCAA's recent proposal to remove the cap on education-related payments.

"Recognizing that the compensation of student athletes is an accepted practice and appears here to stay, these fundamental changes in college athletics led the Trust to decide that now is the right time to return the Trophy to Bush, who unquestionably was the most outstanding college football player of 2005," the Trust said.

Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman winner from Texas A&M, said on social media last month that he would not participate in Heisman festivities unless Bush got his trophy back. He thanked the Trust on Wednesday "for doing what's right and welcoming a storied member of our history back into the fold. There were many voices throughout this process that stood on the table for Reggie simply because of the kind of human being he is. I look forward to being on that stage with you this December (Reggie Bush) you deserve it."

Among others praising the decision were 2022 winner and the projected No. 1 pick in Thursday's NFL draft, Caleb Williams of USC, 2001 winner Eric Crouch of Nebraska and 2011 winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor.

Bush had his award vacated in 2010 after USC was hit with NCAA sanctions when it was found that Bush and his family received money and gifts from fledgling marketing agents who were hoping to represent him.

The NCAA also erased 13 wins in which Bush played, as well as the 55-19 victory over Oklahoma in the Bowl Championship Series title game at the Orange Bowl following the 2004 season.

Bush was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft, by New Orleans, and he played for five teams over 11 seasons.

Last August, Bush filed a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA for issuing a statement to media in 2021 that said Bush had a "pay-for-play" arrangement. That statement was in response to media inquiries about whether Bush would have his statistics from his USC career reinstated when NIL payments became permissible. Bush contended the statement cast him in a false light.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press
[Copyright 2024 NPR]