On Thursday, Bush claimed that his decision to give back the 2005 Heisman Trophy is “not an admission of guilt,” according to the Associated Press. So just what is it then?
“I felt just to kind of silence all the talk around it, all the
negativity around it — I felt like this would be the best decision to
do right now so I could focus,” Bush said.
But then Bush reiterated something he said in his lengthy statement relinquishing the award; he admitted that he made mistakes.
“I’m not happy this happened. This is where it has come to,” Bush said. “This is just a part of life. This is a part of growing pains and
becoming more mature. You learn. You grow. You get better. You get
stronger and hopefully you never make those same mistakes again.”
Though he didn’t specify the mistakes he made, Bush seemed to hint that the mistakes related to the thing that resulted in the forfeiture of his college eligibility — getting paid while supposedly still an “amateur.”
“Whatever the NCAA has, whatever programs they have, aren’t working,
and it needs to be changed. If it’s not changed, it’s going to continue,
and it hasn’t stopped yet,” Bush said. “It’s going to continue year
after year after year, and you’re going to see kids be ineligible.
You’re going to see great athletes missing their junior and senior year
and seasons because the system doesn’t work.
has to be changed. You’ve got universities making millions of dollars
off these kids and they don’t get paid. The majority of college athletes
who come in on scholarship come in [with] nothing. That’s where you
have a problem. You’re making all this money off these kids and you’re
giving them crumbs and then you’re surrounding these kids with money and
telling them not to touch it.”
We agree with Reggie on this point, and we’ve previously made our case for meaningful change to a system that gives the players an unfairly low level of compensation for their efforts, sacrifices, and risks. But before anyone excuses Bush’s behavior (as determined by the NCAA) by playing the “lots of players did it” card, we need to emphasize that Reggie’s case was very different.
Based on the allegations of the lawsuit that ultimately was settled by Bush, the NCAA’s findings, and the reporting done largely by Charles Robinson and Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports, Bush took money and other things of value from multiple would-be marketing agents. When he decided not to hire the group founded by Michael Michaels and Lloyd Lake, Bush stiffed them.
Then, when they tried to get their money back without suing, Bush stonewalled.
Then, when they sued Bush to get their money back, Bush dragged his feet, allowing the case to catch the attention of the NCAA, and laying the foundation for the sanctions imposed against USC and the eventual quit-or-be-fired decision from Bush to give back the Heisman.
Though he says that he has matured, Reggie won’t truly mature until he admits to himself and to others that he knowingly violated the rules — and that he thereafter failed and refused on multiple occasions to make things right at a time when he still could have avoided doing major damage to his school and to his legacy.