ESPN – After 10 years, former USC running back Reggie Bush’s disassociation from the university has come to an end.
“When I was hired to represent the Trojan Family as the Director of Athletics, I committed to listening and learning before leading. Throughout this process, one of the consistent themes that emerged from my discussions was how much Reggie Bush means to our former players, USC alumni, and fans everywhere. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Reggie and so many of his teammates, and I’m pleased his disassociation has ended so that we can welcome him back to our family. I’m confident that Reggie will use his incredible platform and influential voice to support and empower all of our student-athletes,” USC athletic director Mike Bohn said in a statement Wednesday.
Said Bush in the statement: “I’ve dreamed of this day for 10-plus years, and I’m excited to come home!”
During the past 10 years, Bush has not been welcome on USC’s campus and has not been involved with the Trojans’ program in any capacity. His name, stats and accomplishments did appear throughout USC’s most recent media guide, but asterisks were attached to his name to note that his participation was vacated because of an NCAA penalty.
“It was a horrible feeling, one of the worst feelings in the world,” Bush recently told The Athletic about the sanctions USC faced. “It felt like I died when I had to hear that there weren’t gonna be scholarships for kids because of me or because of something connected to me.”
As you may know from seeing the background of any of my videos for Awesemo, I’m a big USC fan. I went to school there from 2002-2006, a time period that ended up as the glory days of the program. During my freshman year at USC, Carson Palmer’s 2002 group that beat Iowa in the Orange Bowl raised the program from its death knell. Their ascent came a year after Pete Carroll was hired and boosters wanted him immediately fired, something we actually had on a dropdown menu of reasons why alumni wouldn’t donate at a workstudy job I had fundraising for the school.
But the real USC glory came after my first year on campus. Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush took over in my sophomore year. Leinart was an unreal gunslinger but there was poetry in every Reggie Bush run. His ability to cut back across the field and make plays out of thin air was nothing short of Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson, especially when witnessing it live at the LA Coliseum. This year was the first go-round where USC was denied a shot at a National Championship even though they finished the season as the Associated Press’s No. 1-ranked squad. Even though sponsors and networks wanted a playoff game between BCS No. 1 LSU and USC, it never came to fruition.
Impossible to summarize Reggie Bush's USC career with one highlight. This one stands out because it shows an instance of what truly separated him from nearly everyone else. The ability to just stop and start at full speed. It was him and Barry Sanders in that department. pic.twitter.com/uswnmGWxOd
— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) June 10, 2020
The second year was when they obliterated Oklahoma 55-19 in the BCS title game with a perfect 13-0 record. Wins were later vacated due to Reggie Bush’s NCAA infractions. But anyone who lived through that period knows that they witnessed one of the greatest teams and college players in Reggie Bush. And there was some beauty in seeing Jason White’s Oklahoma squad, who made the previous season’s title game over USC, get completely stomped as the capper to it all.
The last year of my USC stint, as well as that of Bush and Leinart, ended with the 2006 Rose Bowl. You may know it as the Vince Young game where Texas was able to upend the Trojans. I remember nothing but heartbreak. USC lost to Texas 41-38 in a game that some have called the greatest ever played.
From that point on, it has been nothing but ugliness for USC. After knocking on the door of more championships, Pete Carroll left for the NFL as NCAA sanction rumors swirled over Bush’s stint. Lane Kiffin was hired and proved to be more “boy” than “genius” in his stint and his arrival also came with a two-year postseason ban from the Bush days. This year’s National Champion coach for LSU, Ed Orgeron, never got a fair shake as an interim coach despite galvanizing the program he loved after Kiffin’s firing. Steve Sarkisian was another legacy of the Carroll years who dealt with addiction problems and general ineffectiveness. And now we walk in place under the guidance of Clay Helton, a man who seems perfectly nice but whose Southern pedigree has not yielded anything close to SEC results.
It’s good to see Reggie Bush back in the fold. I hope he’s able to get an ovation in front of fans at some point this season. I hope he gets the Heisman back that was taken away from him because his family wanted him to be compensated for being as great as he was. I hope he feels less like a victim from the way his stint at USC ended and was “erased from history” as a result of an absolutely broken NCAA system (one whose new rules estimate he could make over $4 million today)
Experts project Reggie Bush would make $4-6 million today if he was a CFB player with the new NIL rules coming, and if NIL had been approved back when he played at #USC even before social media, he projected to make $2-3 MIL.
Read w/ 90-day free trial. https://t.co/mKx3S1iOHA
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) May 10, 2020
But as a USC alum who drags myself to watch every game and was spoiled by Reggie’s greatness at my most malleable, it only puts a magnifying glass on how far the program has fallen. There isn’t a single player in the program who has sniffed Reggie’s greatness, nor even come close Matt Leinart or Mike Williams’. There’s more enthusiasm today online about Reggie Bush than there has been over anything USC has done in the 15 years he’s been gone (other than maybe Lane Kiffin’s firing, people were enthusiastic about that).
I question whether USC can ever find someone who even approximates what Reggie Bush meant to the sport, the program and the enthusiasm of football fans everywhere. Much like many programs who cling to past glory, it’s fun to look at the past and remember what was so fun about being a fan. And if USC’s present and future continues as it has, all our Trojan Family may have is these fond memories of seasons gone by.
For new USC athletic director Mike Bohn, a man desperate to stem the tide of disinterest in USC athletics across all the major sports, the return of Reggie Bush is nothing more than a marketing ploy.
To those of us who bore witness to Reggie’s greatness, he never left.
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