Thanks to NIL Reggie Bush is Reunited with Heisman Trophy

The Heisman Trust has reinstated the 2005 Heisman to Bush citing "fundamental changes in college athletics"
Apr 29, 2006; New York, NY, USA; Reggie Bush (USC), who is expected to go as the second pick to the
Apr 29, 2006; New York, NY, USA; Reggie Bush (USC), who is expected to go as the second pick to the / Pouya Dianat-USA TODAY Sports

In a landmark move, the Heisman Trust has reversed its decision to rescind the Heisman Trophy to former USC running back Reggie Bush. In addition to the reinstatement of his award, Bush will once again be invited to all upcoming Heisman Trophy ceremonies. The accomplishments of Bush’s legendary 2005 season that ultimately led to his Heisman Trophy will no longer live in the shadows of college football lore.

In 2010, Bush was stripped of his Heisman Trophy following an investigation into the USC athletic department that found a lack of institutional control. The investigation unearthed improper benefits awarded to the Heisman winning running back during his tenure at USC from 2003-2005. Upon receiving this information, the Heisman Trust decided to rescind the award to honor and uphold the revered tradition of amateurism in collegiate sport. 

Now, in the era of NIL, the Heisman Trust has reevaluated their 2010 decision. In an official statement from the Heisman Trust: "Recognizing that the compensation of student athletes is an accepted practice and appears here to stay, these fundamental changes in college athletics led the Trust to decide that now is the right time to return the Trophy to Bush, who unquestionably was the most outstanding college football player of 2005."

The player compensation alluded to is the now universal practice of NIL collectives: corporations with the singular focus of soliciting funds from boosters to pay student-athletes for their athletic talent. NIL collectives exist at every non-military FBS institution and serve as a proxy pay-roll for student-athletes. Just last week, Virginia lawmakers enshrined the first NIL law to allow schools to directly pay student-athletes NIL money, further indicating that the “amateur” nature of collegiate athletics is in the rear-view mirror. 

In a statement to ESPN, Bush expressed his excitement, “I'm thrilled to reunite with my fellow Heisman winners and be a part of the storied legacy of the Heisman Trophy, and I'm honored to return to the Heisman family." Bush has lobbied for the reinstatement of his trophy since the inception of NIL in 2021 and public support has followed.

Bush accepted improper benefits in a time where it was “against NCAA rules”; anecdotal evidence leads us to speculate that so did many of his peers. Bush’s ultimate mistake was that he was caught. Now, men’s revenue athletes not only receive the same treatment as Bush era athletes publicly but hold NIL payment as a legally protected right. The federal court system has overhauled college sports, and the continued pressure against restrictive NCAA practices from athlete advocacy groups, state lawmakers, and the judiciary has forced the hand of the Heisman Trust, like the NCAA, to adapt to a new normal.      


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Noah Henderson

NOAH HENDERSON

Professor Noah Henderson teaches in the sport management department at Loyola University Chicago. Outside the classroom, he advises companies, schools, and collectives on Name, Image, and Likeness best practices. His academic research focuses on the intersection of law, economics, and social consequences regarding college athletics, NIL, and sports gambling. Before teaching, Prof. Henderson was part of a team that amended Illinois NIL legislation and managed NIL collectives at the nation’s most prominent athletic institutions while working for industry leader Student Athlete NIL. He holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois College of Law in Urbana-Champaign and a Bachelor of Economics from Saint Joseph’s University, where he was a four-year letter winner on the golf team. Prof. Henderson is a native of San Diego, California, and a former golf CIF state champion with Torrey Pines High School. Outside of athletics, he enjoys playing guitar, hanging out with dogs, and eating California burritos. You can follow him on Twitter: @NoahImgLikeness.