Award Isn’t Worth Holding Onto

Reggie Bush got what he really wanted at USC, and it wasn’t the Heisman Trophy

We told you a week ago that Reggie Bush doesn’t care about college foot-ball’s biggest award. It’s not because he’s callous, which he appears to be, but because the Heisman, while it looks great on the mantle, has lost all meaning.

Beano Cook must be rolling in his grave. (OK, we know he’s still among the talking.)

The not-so-secret fact isn’t that Bush knew he was breaking the rules, but that the forebears to whom he says he is showing reverence by giving back the award want the former USC tail-back to keep it.

Johnny Rogers, who won the award for Nebraska two decades before Lawrence Phillips made the idea of institutional control in Lincoln a joke, said giving it back doesn’t matter because Bush was the best player. Eric Crouch, another Husker Heisman alumnus, called it a “sad day” when Bush gave back his bronze-and-granite bookend. Eddie George, Heisman class of ’95, told AP, “I think it’s a shame that it’s come to this for Reggie.”

See? Reggie is the victim. Bush confirmed this in his carefully crafted announcement by shifting the blame.

“Whatever the NCAA has, whatever programs they have, aren’t working and it needs to be changed … You’re going to see great athletes missing their junior and senior year and seasons because the system doesn’t work.”

To help combat these dastardly destroyers of youthful innocence, Bush said he wants to start a program to educate high school athletes against the evildoing he wasn’t a part of.

If all this sounds familiar, it’s because Mark McGwire said the same thing. Mac was going to be a national spokesman but disappeared behind the walls of the gated community in which he lives. Time will tell if Bush will be as successful.

The days when a Heisman meant first-round draft status disappeared years ago. After decades of Heisman busts, NFL employers came to realize film trumps hardware every time. And the players know it. In fact, the most important part of the award is the year-round buildup that can bump a player’s Q ratings to a beneficial level on which he can cash in once his eligibility ends. But beyond that it is meaningless to the players.

Bush rode the gravy train that sits outside of every major university and waited for the offers to come. Much like when Butch McRae’s mother was asked in Blue Chips what would become of her son if things were just given to him and she responded “a millionaire?,” the Bush family was looking to cash out and did just that. It’s why his fellow Heisman winners and current teammates don’t care.

Recognition is nice, but money spends.

“I know that he feels like this is a family – a close-knit family – and for him, just like the rest of us, it’s about winning championships,” Bush’s New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton told AP.

Exactly. Winning matters. Behavior does not.

Bush was wrong for taking the gifts and is wrong for not taking any responsibility for his actions. He left his alma mater to clean up the mess.

Maybe that’s fair.

Former athletic director Mike Garrett and head coach Pete Carroll exercised very little control over a program that turned every practice into a VIP keg party.

Bush gave back the award not because the committee was going to take it away, but because he doesn’t care.

So why should we?

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