Reggie Bush was the best player in the college football during the 2005 season. There’s no denying that. You can take (or make him give back) the Heisman Trophy he earned by being one of the most explosive players college football has ever seen. You can remove him from a fraternity of brothers that share a bond unlike any other in college football. But what you (by the way “you” is the NCAA) can’t take away is how successful he made the USC football program during his sensational three-year career there. The Trojans won 34 straight games and two national titles during Bush’s playing days while generating countless amounts of money for the institution and making it one of the most popular football universities in the nation.

The NCAA awarded Bush for his accomplishments on the field by giving him the 2005 Heisman Trophy, which he won in a landslide victory after receiving the second-most votes in the history of the award. Yes, I said accomplishments on the field. He didn’t take performance-enhancing drugs, he wasn’t involved in a drug or alcohol scandal, he wasn’t making a fool of himself off the field like a lot of people his age do. He didn’t do anything that altered himself as a football player and most of all, he didn’t cheat. Instead, he willingly accepted financial benefits from marketing agents while playing for USC. I understand that this was against NCAA rules, but they’re punishing a kid because he was one hell of a football player and marketing agents wanted to invest in him and financially help out him and his family.

But think about this – what would you do if you were a 20-year-old college football star and you were offered financial compensation and free places for your family to stay so they could go and watch you play football? It’s a tough thing for someone that was his age at the time to have to decide, and I’m sure most of us would’ve done the same thing he did. I’m also sure Bush isn’t the only college football player to ever accept money from marketing agents, he is just one of the ones who got caught. Now he has to relinquish the most prestigious award in college football because of it. Rules are rules and the fact that Bush accepted financial compensation makes him ineligible for the 2005 season, which also prevents him from being eligible to win the Heisman that year. I’m not saying Bush didn’t do anything wrong, but I just think that if the NCAA is going to punish Bush they also need to punish the officials and coaches at USC that knew about what was going on while it was going on.

The NCAA is punishing the wrong people for the whole Bush fiasco, besides Bush himself. While Pete Carroll (who I don’t think for one second didn’t know about what was going on) is up in Seattle scot-free, tweeting about feeling sorry for Reggie, the players that are working their butts off in practice won’t be able to play in a BCS bowl game this season or next. The NCAA punished USC for profiting off of the semiprofessional career of Bush and slammed them with a two-year postseason football ban and stripped them of 10 football scholarships for each of the next three years.

So, let’s get this straight. Bush has to give back his Heisman, the current Trojan players won’t be able to play in a BCS bowl game for the next two years and 30 high school football players whose dream was to play football for USC won’t be able to earn a scholarship to live out their dream. But nobody else that was involved with the “scandal” was punished including Carroll, who made sure to get out of dodge before the punishments to the football team were enforced. Instead, the NCAA is in essence punishing current and potential student/athletes and their families because of something that happened before they got there.

Maybe it’s me, but something about that just doesn’t seem right. If you’re going to punish someone, punish the culprits not the innocent. As for Bush, he will never forget his playing days at USC and will never forget the kind of performance he put on during the 2005 season, even if he doesn’t have a physical trophy to show for it.

Submitted by Steve Giles