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Allegations of improper benefits to Bush and his family were first reported by Yahoo! Sports in September 2006, months after Bush was drafted No. 2 overall by the Saints.

The NCAA and Pac-10 began investigating him and the USC football program soon after the reports, and Bush immediately denied any wrongdoing.

One of the marketing agents, Lloyd Lake, sued Bush to recoup nearly $300,000 in cash and gifts. Eventually, the case was settled, and Bush never publicly told his side of the story.

In handing out its penalties, the NCAA cited USC for a lack of institutional control. Its report cited numerous improper benefits for Bush and former basketball player O.J. Mayo.

The penalties included the loss of 30 football scholarships over three years and vacating 14 victories in which Bush played from December 2004 through the 2005 season. USC, under coach Pete Carroll, beat Oklahoma in the BCS title game on Jan. 4, 2005, and won 12 games during Bush’s Heisman-winning season, which ended with a loss to Texas in the 2006 BCS title game.

After the 2009 season, Carroll left USC to take over as coach of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

“It is my hope that this situation serves as a teachable moment to all involved, especially for the young athletes and university and high school administrators of tomorrow,” Carroll said in a statement issued late Tuesday by the Seahawks.

In July, USC replaced Athletic Director Mike Garrett with Pat Haden, and one of the first moves Haden made was returning USC’s copy of Bush’s Heisman Trophy.

“It was a very noble thing for Reggie to do,” Haden said. “He made the right decision.”

Bush’s decision ends four years of questions, debate and turmoil surrounding allegations that tainted one of the great performances in college football history.

“It’s like one of our members had to turn in his resignation,” said former Michigan receiver Desmond Howard, who won the Heisman in 1991. “Reggie was one of the most exciting, electric and dynamic members we had, at least in recent years, in our fraternity. He’s been demonized over there, and it seems like there was no alternative.”

USC won 34 straight games and two national titles during Bush’s three-year career.

In 2005, he was simply spectacular, running for 1,740 yards, scoring 18 touchdowns and helping the Trojans reach the national championship game against Texas.

In winning the Heisman, Bush received 784 first-place votes, the third-most in the history of the award, and finished 933 points ahead of Young.

But it was Young who came away with the biggest prize.

Story Continues →