Former USC and NFL running back Reggie Bush announced Wednesday that he is suing the NCAA for defamation after the organization claimed he had a “pay-to-play” arrangement during his time at USC, which led to him losing his Heisman trophy.
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“The NCAA has made a statement about me accusing me of engaging in a pay-for-play arrangement which is 100% not true,” Bush said at a press conference outside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. “Not only is it not true, but there's no evidence to support that claim’
In 2010, USC was hit with sanctions following an NCAA investigation that claimed Bush and his family received money, travel expenses, and a home in San Diego where Bush’s parents lived rent-free during Bush’s time as a student-athlete, according to ESPN.
Bush voluntarily forfeited his 2005 Heisman Trophy in September 2010 as a result.
In July 2021, Bush sought to get the Heisman Trophy back, saying, “It is my strong 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.”
Weeks later, the Heisman Trust said, “Bush’s 2005 season records remain vacated by the NCAA and, as a result, under the rule set forth by the Heisman Trust and stated on the Heisman Ballot, he is not eligible to be awarded the 2005 Heisman Memorial Trophy.”
In a statement to ESPN, the NCAA said, “Although college athletes can now receive benefits from their names, images and likenesses through activities like endorsements and appearances, NCAA rules still do not permit pay-for-play type arrangements.”
Attorney Levi McCathern said no proof of USC or donors paying Bush to play has ever been proven
“Reggie was never pay for play, never pay for play,” he said “The violations that they found which were based on shoddy evidence, a sloppy investigation, terrible work by the NCAA, [which] were very marginal.”
Bush's attorneys also filed a renewed petition with the NCAA to reinstate Bush's collegiate records and honors.
Bush played for USC from 2003 to 2005, before playing in the NFL until 2016. He’s currently a college football analyst for Fox Sports.
Bush told reporters he has dreams of coming back to the Coliseum and running out of the tunnel with the Trojan football team, but "I can't rightfully do that without my Heisman Trophy."
There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the NCAA.
Officials with the Heisman Trust indicated they would be willing to consider a return of Bush's award if the NCAA reinstated him. But the NCAA declined to do so, issuing the 2021 statement that referred to "pay-to-play."
On Wednesday, Bush and his attorneys again refuted the results of that NCAA investigation.