Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Should Bush lose his Heisman?

On the surface, this is an easy answer. Saints running back Reggie Bush has been deemed ineligible by the NCAA for the 2005 season for taking improper benefits. Heisman rules state that you must be an eligible player to win the Heisman.

Therefore, the answers to the question posed in the title is yes, Bush should be forced to vacate his Heisman. By the letter of the law, that is. But I think it goes deeper than that.

When you start going into the past and changing things, particularly in sports, it sets a dangerous precedent. Now the question is, what's next? If Roger Clemens is convicted of perjury, should we go back and "vacate" his wins from seasons he was suspected to be using performance-enhancing drugs?

Should Mark McGwire vacate every last home run he hit, since apparently all of them were juice-enhanced? Should Alex Rodriguez be stripped of his home runs from 2001-03 when he signed his huge contract with Texas that supposedly drove him to use performance-enhancers?

How about other Heisman Trophies? The Heisman mission statement states that the trust "ensures the continuation and integrity of this award." If we want to talk about integrity, should Ricky Williams lose his 1998 award due to his after-the-fact issues with marijuana, an "illegal" drug. But I digress; that's a political issue not a sports one, and this is a sports blog.

Or how about 1968 Heisman winner O.J. Simpson? Surely murder in cold blood (I know, he was found "innocent") is a more heinous offense than taking improper benefits when your on-field exploits pump millions into the USC athletic department, no? Having a murderer on the list of college football's most prestigious award isn't the epitome of integrity either.

With Williams and Simpson, you can argue that they were never deemed ineligible and their issues came after their college (and even professional) careers were over, while Bush's happened while he was in college during the specific period of time where he won his Heisman.

But what about the baseball players who used steroids? A-Rod won the 2003 AL MVP while using performance-enhancers, shouldn't that be "vacated?" Clemens won his final two Cy Young awards in 1998 and 2001, seasons in which trainer Brian McNamee claims to have injected Clemens with steroids. Should Clemens have four Cy Young awards instead of six?

And didn't Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, last year's Rookie of the Year, also use performance-enhancing drugs? He got to keep his award after a revote, why couldn't the Heisman trust have done a similar "revote?"

This is the problem with stripping Bush of his Heisman trophy. It opens up a can of worms that will probably never be sealed again. I understand that how the rule is written, Bush is going to lose the award. But in taking his Heisman, the NCAA is doing much more than I think they realize, or care to realize. The Bush saga may be finished (at least once they officially strip him of the 2005 Heisman), but the fallout is just beginning.

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