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Tuesday, April 25, 2006
If guilty, take Reggie's trophy

By Skip Bayless
Page 2

There Reggie Bush goes again, flashing off tackle, spinning, leaving defenders grasping at air.

Once again, nobody can get a handle on No. 5. He's taking it to the house and leaving everyone scratching their heads.

Reggie Bush
Just days from being a top pick in the NFL draft, Reggie Bush is dealing with a major controversy.
The same elusiveness that likely will make the USC star the top pick in Saturday's NFL draft served him well off the field Monday, when he fielded questions about his family's housing arrangements over the past year in the San Diego area.

For the record, Bush said Monday on ESPN that "we haven't done nothing wrong." His attorney said it "would be inappropriate to presume" any guilt. His marketing whiz didn't beat around the, well, Bush, calling the reports that he broke college eligibility rules "a bunch of BS."

Maybe that's true. Maybe, as Bush said, his mother and stepfather "leased the house like any normal person would."

Yet why, when pressed by ESPN's Trey Wingo, did Bush spin and juke and laugh nervously and say, "We don't want to get into details right now."

Why not? Why not just say, "I know it looked a little suspicious, but here's what happened"?

Why did his family, who lived in the house through Bush's final season at USC, suddenly move out late last week after reporters began knocking on the door? Bush said he had been trying to buy them a house for two or three months, but after making a bid on one, he decided it "was too steep for my pocket." They had planned to move out last week, he said, because "we found one" he can afford.

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Sorry, Reggie. This looks -- and sounds -- nothing but suspicious.

The new $757,000 house in a San Diego subdivision belongs to a man who wanted Bush to sign with his new marketing agency in Bush's hometown of San Diego. If Bush's parents didn't pay all of the fair-market rent price -- which could have been as high as $3,000 per month -- this was an illegal benefit and a violation of NCAA rules.

USC officials took the reports seriously enough to ask the Pac-10 to look into the matter.

It's extremely doubtful that an investigation will prove USC demonstrated a "lack of institutional control" -- that, say, coaches arranged free rent. So it's extremely doubtful that USC would have to forfeit the 12 games it won last season, or give back a portion of its Rose Bowl proceeds.

Reggie Bush
No one doubts Bush is one of the most athletic running backs we've seen in a long time.
Even so, if Bush is found to have violated NCAA rules, why should his teammates or coaches or athletic program have to pay for what he might have done? And if USC did have to forfeit every game, do you really believe NFL-bound Matt Leinart or junior-to-be Dwayne Jarrett would need therapy? No, they'd shrug and say, "So what? We know who won those games."

No, it appears the worst thing that could happen to Bush is that he would -- oh, the shame -- lose the records he set at USC. He's probably not even sure what they are.

But if Bush is implictaed in wrongdoing, there is one punishment that wouldn't be toothless. It certainly would hurt much more than leveling some meaningless sanctions at the school he's leaving in his rearview mirror like he left so many would-be tacklers in the dust.

The idea hit me Sunday night. I pushed it on Monday morning's "Cold Pizza." And I was very happy to read Joe Schad's Monday afternoon report on ESPN.com that members of the Heisman Trophy Trust are "doing some soul-searching" about it.

Yes, director Rob Whalen told Schad that the trustees have discussed "revoking" Bush's Heisman Trophy.

Good for them.

Of course, they'll need some corroborating evidence from Pac-10 or NCAA officials. And now that Bush is gone, who knows whether the NCAA will be interested enough to commit to more than a lip-service investigation?

After all, he and his parents are now represented by attorney David Cornwell, who has managed to make another one of his clients, Ricky Williams, sound like Mahatma Gandhi.

But if Bush did knowingly break rules, there's only one way to punish him. The men of the Heisman Trust should publicly ask for their trophy back. And they should forever strike Bush's name from their records.

Reggie Bush
Losing his Heisman would definitely hurt Bush, and send a message.
Now that would hurt.

If, as these men say, the Heisman stands for all that's good about college football, they should make a statement that will echo from sea to USC. Reggie Bush, gone forever from the Heisman list.

After all, the Heisman rules say the recipient "must be in compliance with the bylaws defining an NCAA student." Can't that be interpreted as "student-athlete"? And can't that rule be enforced after the fact?

No, Vince Young should not replace Bush as the 2005 winner -- as many Texas fans were clamoring for on Monday. Leave 2005 blank. That way, any time anyone ever scans the list, he or she will be reminded of why 2005 is blank.

Because Bush broke the rules.

That would indelibly hurt. Palmeiro or McGwire hurt. Maybe even Barry Bonds hurt.

Hurt only the violator, not his teammates or coaches or school.

This is not to say Bush is guilty of doing anything wrong. Maybe Bush's parents paid the full rent. His mother has worked as a corrections officer and deputy sheriff. His stepfather works security at a public high school. They have one younger son.

But the family moved into the house before the season began. Surely Reggie would have visited the new house -- it's an easy drive from USC. Surely he would have wondered about the rent. Surely he knew.

If he did know and went along with the scheme, make him an ex-Heisman winner, gentlemen. For the good of the game.

Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show, and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice a week on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.