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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Reggie Bush’s Plan To Get His 2005 Heisman Trophy Back

  • On Wednesday, Reggie Bush filed a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA.
  • He’s using the case as part of a yearslong campaign to get his Heisman Trophy back.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, former USC running back Reggie Bush held a press conference at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to discuss his defamation lawsuit against the NCAA.

The case centers around a 2021 NCAA statement saying Bush had engaged in a “pay-for-play” arrangement — widely understood to mean a school or booster paying an athlete under the table. 

In his press conference, Bush said “this is a new accusation as far as I’m concerned” — and said it was completely false. 

The lawsuit is all part of a yearslong campaign for the former All-American and Super Bowl Champion to get his 2005 Heisman Trophy back. 

A win in the case wouldn’t directly result in the NCAA reinstating his previous records and eligibility. But it’s a powerful tool to force the NCAA’s hand through the drudge of litigation and the PR firestorm that follows it. 

His plan is to attack the NCAA, give the public evidence to prove his innocence and, by proxy, get the governing body to return his trophy. He’s simultaneously filed a formal request with the NCAA Committee On Infractions to reopen his case.

The majority of the Wednesday press conference, as well as the complaint itself, focused on the saga of Bush’s NCAA investigation rather than a defamation claim. He opened his comments with his “dreams” of leading the Trojans out of the tunnel — something he feels like he can’t do properly without his Heisman trophy.

Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, co-counsel to the lawsuit, focused heavily on the unfairness of the infractions process. He also told reporters he would release the investigation so that they could judge its merit for themselves (even though the investigation wasn’t part of the lawsuit).

Crump attacked the NCAA’s entire enterprise, calling the NCAA a “plantation mentality” where they “treat athletes as indentured servants” while “sharing none of the bounty.”

Now, the lawsuit is being used as a platform to publicly lay out a saga in which a football star was unfairly stripped of his accolades: In 2005, Bush was awarded college football’s highest honor after an unforgettable season where the star led the Trojans to a BCS Championship game.

Five years later, an NCAA investigation accused Bush of having accepted impermissible benefits from a “marketing agency,” at the time a family friend named Lloyd Lake. 

Bush was forced to disassociate from USC for a decade, and the school was forced to vacate wins — and therefore Bush’s records. Bush, declared ineligible during his performance, relinquished the trophy in 2012. (Bush and his lawyers have reiterated that these allegations are false, and a subsequent lawsuit filed by a coach found the NCAA’s investigation to be horribly flawed.)

Bush has tried to get the NCAA to change its mind — to no avail. 

After NIL rules were changed in 2021, Bush released a statement asking for his trophy. Athletes were now able to sign with marketing agencies — so even if the NCAA allegations against him had been true, he would be eligible now. 

He noted in his 2021 statement that the governing body wouldn’t even return his calls. Clearly, he needed a lawsuit to get their attention.

On Wednesday, the NCAA did not respond to an FOS request for comment.

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