Many have weighed in on Reggie Bush forfeiting his 2005 Heisman Trophy. While it never should have come to this, Bush can now put this matter behind him--and focus on all the great things he's doing, on and off the field.
Eddie George, 1995 Heisman winner from Ohio State makes an interesting, but seemingly far-fetched point:
"My only concern now is what happens if they find out that in the 1950s a booster bought a player a cup of coffee?"
They cheated back then too? But, let's not sweat the small, garden-variety NCAA rule bending. Let's find something that would be shake the college football world.
For those who like to idealize the days of 'ole, look away. This will not be pretty.
The year is 1959. Billy Cannon was a star running back at LSU. He won the Heisman trophy that year.
Cannon first pro contract? A three-year deal worth $50,000. Signed it November 1959. The GM of the NFL team was clever enough to post-date the contract January 1, 1960 in an attempt to skirt NCAA rules. Cannon led LSU to a Sugar Bowl victory against rival Ole Miss (LSU won 7-3 and Cannon scored the game's only TD on an 89-yard punt return. Imagine if Nick Saban was coaching back then. That would be some press conference when the news broke.
So who pimped Cannon's amateur status? Remember, agents weren't around in 1959. It was the Los Angeles Rams, which wanted to sign Cannon before the upstart American Football League upped the stakes. The mastermind behind this illicit agreement? None other than the mastermind behind modern professional sports, Pete Rozelle, who in 1959 was the Rams general manager.
The public would likely have never found out about this secret, post-dated contract had Cannon not signed a second pro deal. Immediately after the Sugar Bowl, Cannon signed a $100,000 contract to play for the AFL's Houston Oilers. The Oilers sued, claiming Rozelle manipulated Cannon. The Oilers prevailed in court and Cannon's contract with the Rams was voided.
According to Sports Illustrated, "A lawsuit ensued, which the Oilers won. The judge ruled that Rozelle had taken advantage of a 'provincial lad' untutored...in the ways of the business world." In other words, Rozelle "pimped" a college player.
Oh boy. NCAA, it's your turn. Actually, the NCAA cannot do anything: There's a four-year NCAA statute of limitations on investigations. The Heisman Trust, on the other hand, apparently has no such limitations. Cannon was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008. Cheating is never right, but it's not like what Reggie Bush did at USC is anything new. There are powerful incentives in college sports to cheat. Always has been. We can (and should) step up our educational and enforcement efforts, but ultimately it comes down to integrity from all parties involved.