- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 14, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) — Reggie Bush is giving back the trophy. To many, though, he’ll always be a Heisman winner.

“Everyone still knows Reggie Bush was the best player that year. Look at the runs. He was clearly the best player,” said Johnny Rodgers, the 1972 Heisman winner from Nebraska.

“O.J. Simpson got accused of a murder, and they didn’t take his back. That was a far greater allegation, and they didn’t find O.J. guilty on that.”

Bush took the unprecedented step of forfeiting his 2005 Heisman Trophy on Tuesday, saying the scandal over improper benefits while he was a star running back at Southern California should not stain “the dignity of this award.”

Returning the trophy has no practical effect on Bush since he’s already in the NFL and a member of a Super Bowl championship team. However, it’s the first time in the award’s 75-year history that a player has forfeited it.

“It’s a sad day; that’s the way I feel about it,” said former Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch, who won the 2001 Heisman and voted for Bush in 2005. “Having to actually be the first time in the history of the award that someone has given it back. … I don’t know if he actually had to. Maybe this is on his terms.”

Even Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young, who finished a distant second to Bush in the Heisman voting, said Bush always will be the winner to him.

“Reg will continue to be the 2005 Award recipient and I will continue to be honored to have been in the 2005 Heisman campaign with such a talented athlete,” Young posted on Twitter.

USC was hit with heavy sanctions by the NCAA this summer after it determined Bush and his family had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from two fledgling California-based marketing agents. The NCAA ruled that Bush was ineligible for the 2005 season, which opened the possibility that the Heisman Trophy Trust would take back the award.

One of the few guidelines given to Heisman Trophy voters is that a player must be in compliance with NCAA rules to be eligible for the award.

“The persistent media speculation regarding allegations dating back to my years at USC has been both painful and distracting,” Bush said in a statement released through the Saints. “In no way should the storm around these allegations reflect in any way on the dignity of this award, nor on any other institutions or individuals.

“For the rest of my days, I will continue to strive to demonstrate through my actions and words that I was deserving of the confidence placed in me by the Heisman Trophy Trust.”

Shortly after USC was sanctioned, the eight-member trust, based in New York, said it was considering what to do about Bush, who won in a landslide vote over Young.

The trust held its regularly scheduled monthly meeting Tuesday; it had no comment. Whether the 2005 Heisman will be vacated or given to Young remains to be seen.

“They may try to offer it to the guy who came in second, but who knows? Me, personally, it doesn’t matter,” said Billy Sims, the 1978 Heisman winner from Oklahoma. “People across the country voted for him (Bush). What are they going to do, revote now?”

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