Yahoo! Sports is reporting that the Heisman Trophy Trust will strip Reggie Bush of his 2005 Heisman award, and though Chris Fowler, a member of that board, has denied it, the story has set the debate into full speed.
As we’ve seen one athlete after another screw up in any number of ways — performance enhancing drugs, etc., — I guess like a lot of people I’m becoming numb to it.
But there are certain things that ought to keep their standards high.
I’m a Heisman voter. The citation on the award says it is for The outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.
You can’t do that when you’re taking money to play the college game.
My inherent problem is this — try as I might, I can’t blame kids for taking the money that is offered. That is the system we have. A lot of them come from poverty. And until you’ve lived in it, until you’ve seen your parents or brothers or sisters suffer through it, I don’t think you should get on too high a horse about it. Yes, from the standpoint of college athletics, it’s wrong. It’s against the rules. Players should not do it. They should not be part of programs that do.
But don’t forget this — no way was Bush is only guy on that list of Heisman winners to get money under the table. Though, yes, he is the first to get caught. And in the grand scheme, if the only one hurt is some bloated athletic department that is making millions of the athlete anyway, it’s hard to work up a lot of indignation.
Still, I’m not all the way there yet. If you’re going to give a trophy based on following the rules, the rules need to be followed. The Heisman still purports to be such a trophy.
Having his name taken off that list won’t hurt Bush’s bank account. But it does remind him and the rest of us that there are things that money can’t buy. It doesn’t make Bush a bad person. Not at all. It does send a powerful message about what the Heisman, and college sports, ought to be about — in the face of reality that every day tells us otherwise.
I’d love to hear what others think. Feel free to chime in here.