Reggie Bush will forfeit the 2005 Heisman Trophy he won at the University of Southern California, a decision that comes after the NCAA said he was ineligible to play college football that season because of rules violations.
Bush, a running back for the National Football League’s New Orleans Saints, is the first Heisman winner to relinquish or be stripped of the award in its 75-year history.
Bush said being voted college football’s best player in 2005 was “one of the greatest honors” in his life. The National Collegiate Athletic Association ruled in June that Bush had competed while ineligible because of violations that primarily involved agent and amateurism issues.
“Any young man fortunate enough to win the Heisman enters into a family of sorts,” Bush said in a statement released by the Saints. “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.”
William Dockery, president of the Heisman Trophy Trust, said in an e-mail that the group “will issue a statement in due course. Until that time, we will have no further comment.”
The ballot for college football’s most prestigious award states that “recipients must be in compliance with the bylaws defining an NCAA student athlete.”
Bush was sued in 2007 by San Diego sports marketer Lloyd Lake, who claimed he provided the player and his family with $291,000 in money and goods, including a vehicle and housing, while the running back was at USC, according to a Dec. 28 California appeals court ruling.
Bush settled the lawsuit last month.
“The persistent media speculation regarding allegations dating back to my years at USC has been both painful and distracting,” Bush said. “In no way should the storm around these allegations reflect in any way on the dignity of this award, nor on any other institutions or individuals.”
Bush said he’ll work with the Heisman Trophy Trust to establish an educational fund to assist athletes and their families to avoid some of the mistakes he made.
“I am determined to view this event as an opportunity to help others,” Bush said.
Vince Young finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2005, when Bush received a record 84 percent of the first- place votes. It’s unclear what will become of the award that Bush vacated.
“I will forever appreciate the honor bestowed upon me as a winner of the Heisman,” Bush said. “While this decision is heart-breaking, I find solace in knowing that the award was made possible by the support and love of so many. Those are gifts that can never be taken away.”