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On Reggie Bush, Vince Young and the Heisman

7/21/2010

USC announced on Tuesday its plans to return their copy of Reggie Bush's Heisman Trophy from 2005. I don't have to tell Texas fans who the runner-up that season was: Vince Young.

Young threw for over 3,000 yards that season, including 26 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. He also ran for over 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season, carrying the ball 155 times for 12 touchdowns, including his most memorable score in the corner of the Rose Bowl end zone to best Bush and the Trojans in the national title game a month after the trophy had been handed out.

Point is, as the first-ever member (Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour joined him later) of the 3,000/1,000-yard club and the leader of a 12-0 Texas team, he was clearly a top-tier Heisman candidate historically, even if he didn't win.

USC's move comes as part of the NCAA's demands for USC to "dissociate" with Bush, and the university also took down a mural of Bush at the Galen Center, Heritage Hall and the Los Angeles Coliseum. The sanctions were imposed last month after the NCAA released a report that detailed improper benefits received by Bush and basketball's O.J. Mayo.

But don't expect Young to be handed the vacated Heisman. The trophy is handled exclusively by the Heisman Trust, not the NCAA, and they've made no actions to suggest they'll demand the trophy be returned. They released a statement after the sanctions were handed out that said they would "issue a statement at the proper time." Yahoo! Sports reported on Tuesday that the trust will meet on July 27 to decide to trophy's fate, that USC's decision shocked them and would factor into their own decision.

Don't forget, two Heismans are handed out each year: one to the player and one to the school. Bush doesn't sound very eager to give his back -- or do anything for that matter. Not that there's much he can do, outside of handing the Heisman back to the trust unsolicited.

I've never seen the point of retroactive punishment. Nor am I a fan of the NCAA punishing (presumably) innocent athletes like Matt Barkley out in L.A. I'm not sure what the answer for proper punishment is; if I did, I'd propose it to the NCAA. It should involve the coaches, but when guys like Pete Carroll bolt to the NFL, the NCAA becomes powerless. But they have to do something ... and they did.

Erasing games and accomplishments from the record books doesn't erase the memories of those games and ceremonies. Taking the Heisman now would be meaningless, the trophy hollow, with apologies to Texas fans waiting to trumpet the program's third Heisman winner.

Young should issue a statement and, without mentioning Bush by name, say he doesn't want the Heisman. It'd be a nice bit of PR for a guy whose made his share of bad off-the-field headlines -- especially in the past month.

Vacate it or let Reggie keep it should be the only two options. There's not a strong contingent of folks fighting for Matt Leinart to join Archie Griffin as the only two-time winners, or to let fourth-place finisher Brady Quinn, who earned 191 points in the vote to Bush's 2,541 join the Heisman fraternity. Not to mention the obvious absurdity of giving the trophy to Bush's teammate at USC in this case. It's worth noting that Young received 1,609 points, but Bush had 784 first-place votes to Young's 79.

Getting the stiff-armer in the mail won't erase anyone's memory of the ceremony when it was first awarded. It won't take away any of the spectacular runs by Bush that paced the Trojans to the championship game.

Stepping out in front of and taking the pressure off the Heisman Trust and Bush would, at the very least, be a noble gesture.