Now that the issue of rules violations at Southern California has burst open like the proverbial Trojan horse, overshadowing the legacy of coach Pete Carroll and a litany of wins during one of the most memorable eras for any collegiate program, the two main culprits — Carroll and former USC running back Reggie Bush — remain at a safe distance, each boasting a 2010 W-2 that will be in the neighborhood of $8 million.
For both men, fairness dictates that a consequence apply. Some would say Bush's lackluster NFL career already constitutes consequence enough. He hasn't been, isn't and will never be Gale Sayers. Then again, as Brian Urlacher would surely point out, Bush owns one thing Sayers never will — an NFL championship.
But while no one connected to college football can take away the team success Bush has enjoyed at the NFL level (even if he contributed far less to the outcome than his pay grade contemplates), the folks at the Heisman Trust immediately should strip Bush of the 2005 edition of the award. Though many will argue that too much time has passed to justify retroactively taking away one of the greatest individual honors in all of team sports, the notion of getting it right should know no temporal limits.
Indeed, the plain text mission statement found at the Heisman Trophy Trust's website compels swift, decisive action:
"The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. The Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and integrity of this award. The Trust, furthermore, has a charitable mission to support amateur athletics and to provide greater opportunities to the youth of our country."
To the extent that the NCAA found Bush cheated by getting paid while still eligible to play college football, Bush's 2005 season did not reflect the "pursuit of excellence with integrity." To the extent that Heisman Trust supports "amateur athletics," Bush did not deserve the honor because he no longer was an amateur.
And while some may respond to this by pointing out that many college football players get paid while otherwise still amateurs, few cases have involved such obvious and brazen cash-and-things-of-value grabs. Since the NCAA can do nothing to Bush beyond telling Southern Cal to no longer let him come around the school or the team, the Heisman Trust can instruct Bush to pack up the most famous football sculpture and send it to former Texans quarterback Vince Young.
In this regard, some may argue the vote should be redone. But the Associated Press learned the hard way last month the perils of a balloting Mulligan, when former Southern Cal linebacker Brian Cushing won the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year award for the second time.
Given that Bush outpaced Young, who more than doubled the point total generated by former USC Matt Leinart, who grossly outdistanced a field including Brady Quinn, Michael Robinson, A.J. Hawk, DeAngelo Williams, Drew Olson, Jerome Harrison, and Elvis Dumveril, the obvious alternate recipient becomes Young.
"I'm just disappointed for my fans, especially my teammates, my family back at home, just not representing them in the right way," Young said after losing the award to Bush. "I'm just basically emotionally upset about that."
If the folks at the Heisman Trust have any sense of fairness and decency, Young will be emotionally overjoyed, sooner rather than later.
As to Carroll, he should lose his current job. Of course, he won't; Seattle Seahawks president Tod Leiweke hired Carroll at a time when Leiweke knew or with the exercise of due diligence should have known that Carroll presided over a program poised to be slapped silly by the NCAA. And if the Seahawks had no qualms about it then, they should have none now.
Still, as a practical matter Carroll's grace period just shrank. Whatever "plan" previously applied to him — five years, three years, two — the window necessarily shrank, because Carroll's collegiate career lost much of its luster.
And Carroll can disagree all he wants with the findings or the outcome, blaming everyone and anyone but himself for the damage done to the Trojans program. Folks who get it know that Carroll's hands carry a thick veneer of grime. And they in turn recognize that justice won't truly be served until the only coaching Carroll ever does entails holding an Xbox controller.
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