- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 13, 2021

When the NCAA agreed two weeks ago to allow individual athletes, finally, to profit from their own names, images and likenesses, everyone knew the change would dramatically alter the future of college sports.

What’s been surprising is the possibility that the new rules will also rewrite the past.

High-profile athletes who ran afoul of the NCAA during their college years — stars like Reggie Bush and former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor — are calling for the reinstatement of records, awards and victories the players and universities were forced to vacate in the past.

Pryor and four other former Buckeye football players — DeVier Posey, Solomon Thomas, Mike Adams and Daniel “Boom” Herron — were part of a 2010 scandal that led to punctuated player stat lines and rescinded wins, including the Big Ten and Sugar Bowl championships.

The “Tattoo 5,” as the group is calling itself, wants the NCAA to admit the punishments meted out more than a decade ago were wrong. 

“Now that fundamental right has been granted to a new generation of athletes,” the statement read. “Now that they finally have the freedom to share in some of the millions of dollars in revenue they generate for their coaches, their institutions, their conferences, and the NCAA as a whole, we would like to see our hard-won accomplishments reinstated.

“Although this could never undo what we and our families endured for breaking rules that shouldn’t have existed in the first place, we believe reinstating and acknowledging the accomplishments of ourselves and our teammates would be a huge step in the right direction.”

Pryor and his teammates got in trouble with the NCAA for selling memorabilia, including a jersey and Big Ten championship ring, and also accepted free or discounted tattoos from a Columbus, Ohio, parlor. The repercussions of those actions were severe — both for the players and the school. The Buckeyes were handed a one-year postseason ban, a scholarship reduction and a three-year probation period.

While the statement from the “Tattoo 5” argues for the reinstatement of their records and victories, selling championship rings, jerseys and helmets while playing in college still isn’t allowed under the name, image and likeness guidelines Ohio State released last week.

“You may not sell your team-issued equipment and apparel (i.e., shoes, jersey, helmet, sticks/bats, warm-ups, etc.) until your eligibility is exhausted,” the guidelines read.

However, athletes can earn compensation in the form of cash, gifts, in-kind items of value or discounts, among other methods, for their name, image and likeness. The free tattoos those players received could be allowed, so long as the players agreed to endorsing the parlor, providing autographs or offering another form of promotion.

On July 1 — the first day college athletes were allowed to profit off their name, image and likeness — former USC running back Bush issued a statement asking for the NCAA to rescind the punishments that wiped away much of a star-studded college career.

“It is my belief that I won the Heisman Trophy ‘solely’ due to my hard work and dedication on the football field and it is also my firm belief that my records should be reinstated,” Bush’s statement read.

In his statement, Bush said he and his team had reached out to the NCAA and the Heisman Trust multiple times to reinstate his college records and return his Heisman Trophy award. The NCAA in 2010 handed down one of the harshest penalties seen at the conclusion of a four-year investigation, which discovered Bush and his family received money and perks. Those perks included travel expenses and a home in the San Diego area where Bush’s parents lived rent-free for over a year.

Two-thirds of Bush’s college career was vacated, including his 2005 Heisman Trophy-winning season. USC had to vacate the 2004 national championship, as well as 13 other victories, while also losing 30 scholarships and receiving a two-year bowl ban.

“I never cheated this game,” Bush tweeted. “That was what they wanted you to believe about me.”

In response to his plea, the Heisman Trust said Bush is not eligible to receive the 2005 Heisman Trophy unless the NCAA reinstates his season records. “Should the NCAA reinstate Bush‘s 2005 status, the Heisman Trust looks forward to welcoming him back to the Heisman family,” the Trust’s statement read.

So as college athletes of the present enter an open market with the potential to profit from their name, image and likeness, players of the past who ran into trouble for receiving such compensation hope the penalties levied upon them can be lifted.

“The affirmation of NCAA athletes’ right to make a living from their name, image and likeness is a huge step in the right direction,” the statement from the former Buckeyes read. “Armed with the correct resources and support, we know they’ll show what we felt to be true all along — not letting athletes capitalize on what ultimately is their hard work was unjust and unnecessary.”

• Andy Kostka can be reached at akostka@washingtontimes.com.

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