Former University of Southern California superstar Reggie Bush has filed a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA and is seeking to have his football records reinstated so he can get his 2005 Heisman Trophy back, CBS Sports reported.
At a press conference held on Wednesday (August 23) at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Bush said the suit stems from a statement made by an NCAA spokesperson in 2021 suggesting that Bush was involved in a "pay-for-play” scheme when he was a two-time All-American at USC.
"Most recently, 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 in a statement."Not only is it not true, but there is no evidence to even support that claim."
Additionally, Bush's attorneys created an online petition targeting the NCAA "to restore Reggie Bush's collegiate records so he can reclaim his Heisman Trophy."
"This action seeks to hold the NCAA accountable for its unlawful conduct and for the damages, mental anguish, humiliation, and embarrassment it has caused Mr. Bush by the NCAA’s false and defamatory statement," the lawsuit reads.
Although the NCAA adopted NIL rules in 2021 which allow college athletes to make money off of their name, image, and likeness, the Indianapolis-based organization announced that Bush’s case would not be reconsidered after Bush sought to have the decision reversed.
"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. The NCAA infractions process exists to promote fairness in college sports. The rules that govern fair play are voted on, agreed to, and expected to be upheld by all NCAA member schools,” the NCAA said in a statement at the time.
In 2005, Bush had one of the best seasons ever by a collegiate running back when he rushed for 1,740 yards, scored 18 total touchdowns, and won the Heisman Trophy.
Bush voluntarily gave up the Heisman in 2010 after an NCAA investigation discovered that he and his family accepted cash payments amounting to several thousand dollars, a rent-free home in San Diego, and a vehicle that violated NCAA rules. For the 2005 season, he was ruled ineligible and his stats were erased from the collegiate record books.
As part of the NCAA’s ruling, Bush had to disassociate from USC for 10 years which ended in June 2020.
According to Bush, he never was involved in any "pay-to-play" activities during his career at USC, which is "widely understood to mean that Mr. Bush received payment in return for playing football," the suit read.
On August 14, Bush asked for the NCAA’s decision to be reconsidered based on what Benjamin Crump, one of Bush’s attorneys, has described as a “flawed” and “sloppy” investigation.
“Devotion that earned him many collegiate records and awards, including the Heisman Trophy, the highest honor bestowed on a college football player," Crump explained.
The Heisman Trophy Trust said in 2021 that if the NCAA reinstates Bush’s 2005 status he would be welcomed “back into the Heisman family.”
In January, Bush was inducted into the College Hall of Fame as a member of the 2023 class.