Legendary USC running back Reggie Bush plans to announce a defamation lawsuit Tuesday against the NCAA for alleging he received improper benefits.
Bush is scheduled to speak at an 11 a.m. news conference at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where he electrified crowds during an era of prolific success for the Trojans that included two national titles and a Heisman Trophy for Bush. A shadow was cast over that period five years after he left USC for the NFL when the NCAA alleged an arrangement involving Bush’s parents and handed down unprecedented sanctions against the school.
USC was forced to vacate their 2004 National Championship and 14 victories for which Bush was on the field from 2004 to 2005. The Trojans also lost 30 scholarships and were banned from playing in the postseason over a three-year span.
Bush was banned from the university altogether. He also made the choice to return the Heisman Trophy he earned after an illustrious 2005 season. The exile ended in 2020 when USC welcomed Bush back to the campus.
Bush’s attorneys issued a statement about the lawsuit, claiming the NCAA falsely issued a statement in July 2021 that damaged his reputation.
“The lawsuit is based on the NCAA maliciously attacking his character through a completely false and highly offensive statement that was widely reported in the media and substantially and irreparably damaged his reputation,” the attorneys said. “Specifically, on July 28, 2021, the NCAA, by and through its authorized spokesperson, falsely issued a statement to reporters that because of Mr. Bush’s prior involvement in a ‘pay–for–play arrangement,’ the NCAA would not consider restoring his collegiate records that it vacated in 2010, which subsequently resulted in Mr. Bush having to return his Heisman Trophy (the first player in history to do so). Within less than a day, this false statement was republished by no less than 20 different media organizations and circulated to readers around the world.”
Pay-for-play refers to a collegiate athlete who would not play for a school unless compensated and suggests benefits, like gifts and cash, were factors in recruitment. There are differences between that and the scenario alleged in the Bush case.
According to the NCAA investigation, Bush, his mother and stepfather accepted thousands of dollars in cash and free housing from a would-be marketer while Bush was playing for USC beginning in December 2004. He and his family were also given an automobile, air travel, hotel lodging, transportation and other benefits, according to the NCAA’s 67-page report.
Since that time, the NCAA instituted a new name, image, and likeness (NIL) compensation rule that went into effect in 2021. Following the lead of states like California, the NCAA has approved compensation for a player’s NIL.
“I think it’s a long time coming,” Bush said on an episode of the “Cold As Balls” YouTube show from Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud production company. “This is something that should have happened a long time ago.
“I 1,000% want my damn Heisman Trophy back. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want it back. But to me the silver lining is, I believe what happened with me had to happen so we could get here in 2020.”
Bush’s Trojans teams won national championships in 2003 and ’04 and had a 34-game winning streak. He ran for 3,169 yards in three seasons, averaging 7.3 yards per carry, and scored 42 touchdowns.
He won the 2005 Heisman, with 1,740 yards rushing and an 8.7-yard average per carry.
Bush was drafted second overall by the New Orleans Saints in 2006.
Source: NBC Los Angeles