A Final Word On Reggie
It is difficult to let the Reggie Bush story go away without a few final comments.
Yes, I think he did the right thing by forfeitiing his Heisman Trophy. No, I don’t think he did it for any “noble” reason, as USC Athletic Director Pat Haden suggested. I think he did it because he knew if he didn’t, the Heisman Trust would take it, anyway.
I believe some of his comments were truly sincere. He said he wanted to find a way to help other young athletes avoid the mistakes he made, and that was the first time he actually admitted he’d done something wrong. That was a good thing.
The fact he’s never said he is sorry is a bad thing. How hard would that be now? Just stand up like a man and say, “Look, I was young and naive and stupid. I look back now and wonder how I could have done it, how could I have been tempted by a group of such sleazy people. But I was. And I just want to say I’m sorry and I feel bad for those at the university who have had to suffer for my mistakes.”
That’s all it would take. It would be admirable, and most USC fans could look upon him at least semi-favorably again.
While we’re at it, doesn’t somebody have to ask where Reggie’s parents have been through all this? They’re as guilty as he is, apparently having taken all that money to live in a lavish house in San Diego and who knows what else. They let their son take all this flak and don’t come out and admit they were wrong, too? Let’s just say they’ll never be nominated for any Parents of the Year award.
Finally, the way some people are treating Reggie, you’d think he was the only collegiate athlete who’s ever taken money. How absurd.
This isn’t anything new. It is now and always has been part of the collegiate culture. Boosters are everywhere, passing out little white envelopes full of cash to their favorite jocks. If you were a student at a four-year college, you probably saw it for yourself. Or you at least saw a star athlete driving around campus in a shiny, new car or walking around in an expensive new coat. It has been happening for years, whether the NCAA wants to recognize it or not.
So let’s get that straight. Reggie Bush isn’t the only one who has made this mistake. He is just the latest one to get caught.
If he’d been a second string guard, it would hardly have been a major story. But the fact that he was the best football player in the country at the time made it headline news.
Does any of this exonerate him? Of course not. He screwed up, and he has paid a painful price. As a result of what he and his parents did, the football program at USC is staggering around like a running back who has just had his bell rung.
Meanwhile, Pete Carroll, the coach who once told me for a book I wrote that he felt responsible for what happened, now stands back in his new million dollar digs in Seattle and just shakes his head and wishes Reggie and the university the best.
In the end, the whole thing is a sad reflection on the player, the coach and, yes, as much as the NCAA refuses to admit it, the entire collegiate athletic structure.
— STEVE BISHEFF