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IMHO Sunday: Reggie Bush – Heisman victim or revisionist history redo?

In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles.

Victim or revisionist: So much for the best laid plans of mice and men. Like many of you, I thought I had moved past the Reggie Bush College Football Hall of Fame voting question and the issue of Bush having his Heisman Trophy returned to his living room. In fact, I wanted to lead this IMHO Sunday with a discussion promoting the perspective that the storied USC Trojans football program is probably the most followed sports entity in Los Angeles behind the Dodgers and Lakers. Yes, even ahead of the Rams and Chargers.

Victim or revisionist: – Part 2: However, so much for planning. Although it’s his right to say it, it was still eyebrow raising on Thursday when Reggie Bush – perhaps using today’s political strategies along with the new NCAA NIL (name, image, and licensing) policy – tweeted out, “I never cheated this game. That was what they wanted you (I guess that also includes me) to believe about me.” Say what? Who is “they”? The NCAA? Okay. The media? I don’t think so, Reggie, as many are rallying around your cause. The UCLA and Notre Dame community? They’d boo Santa Claus if they knew the jolly old soul got his BA in gift-giving from the University of Southern California.

Victim or revisionist: – Part 3: To my knowledge, Reggie Bush, who was a young man at the time of his departure from Troy but is now a full grown adult and family man, has still never publicly said he was sorry for his part in NCAA sanctions, never directly apologized for the damage he caused USC, and has never shown any meaningful sort of contrition for whatever or to whomever. However, now speaking out with heartfelt emotion and his own perspective after the NCAA passed the new NIL policy, Mr. Lightning now wants his Heisman Trophy back, which begs this question: Was Reggie Bush truly a Heisman victim of the times, or is he now the author of a revisionist history redo?

Reggie Bush (photo above) claims that he never cheated the game and believes that unnamed others have tried to portray him falsely.

And based on his recent comments this week, the adult Reggie Bush apparently has no plans to apologize for his misdeeds, basically claiming he was a victim of the times, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but now hoping and diligently working to persuade the community he was just a target for which he and USC were eventually punished severely by the NCAA.

Victim or revisionist: – Part 4: As worded above in Reggie Bush’s Thursday tweet, “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.” On Friday, the Heisman Trust said Reggie Bush could have his Heisman Trophy returned – if the NCAA first reinstates his glorious final season and gives thumbs up.

Victim or revisionist: – Part 5: Nice audible, Heisman Trust, punt the Reggie Bush issue of the Heisman Trophy back to the foreboding NCAA. Given the tremendous body and head shots the NCAA has been taking recently, it shouldn’t surprise anybody if this disintegrating athletic governing body makes some sort of provision that allows Bush to get his Heisman Trophy back. Again, it should be noted that a number of high profile national media types are now backing Bush’s major push to have his Heisman Trophy returned to him and that carries weight.  And based on recent social media posts, USC, too, is at the ready to continue rehabbing Bush’s image for its own marketing and recruiting strategies. 

The Heisman Trust says they’d be happy to return Reggie Bush’s Heisman Trophy if the NCAA (photo above) said they would give the okay.

Victim or revisionist: – Part 6: So, are we now led to believe that if the NCAA pulls a switcheroo and allows Reggie Bush to have his Heisman Trophy returned,  they will also allow the Trojans to get back their national championship trophy, forfeited seasons of wins and losses, and other assorted items like the restoration of lost scholarships and monetary reimbursement of potential bowl money lost due to the sanctions? Uh, you get the idea but don’t count on it. This is all a potential “Cluster you-know-what” if you know what I mean.  

Victim or revisionist: – Part 7: Oh, as for Reggie Bush saying that he should get his Heisman Trophy returned because he worked hard and was dedicated his final season, let’s not go there, it sounds so junior high logic. No doubt Bush did work hard and was dedicated his final USC season, but he was playing football while knowingly breaking the rules (AKA cheating). Let’s put it this way, if I studied hard and was dedicated to passing a college test, but I cheated when I took the test and got caught, should I still pass the test because I studied hard and was dedicated even though I cheated?

Despite being the focal point of NCAA sanctions against USC football, Reggie Bush (photo above) believes that because he worked hard and was dedicated during his final season at USC, he should have his Heisman Trophy returned to him.

Victim or revisionist: – Part 8: I suppose because I am a columnist for WeAreSC, it is expected that I wear cardinal and gold glasses 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and join a growing tsunami of support to return college football’s most glorious award back to Troy’s legendary tailback. I’ll admit, I am having a hard time supporting the award being returned to Bush and Heritage Hall not because I don’t think the NCAA is a piece of cow manure because it is.

Victim or revisionist: – Part 9: To me, folks are so disgusted and angry at the NCAA, they lose sight that it was Bush and his family decisions that brought upon this whole mess in the first place; yet many of the populous just want to stick it the face of the NCAA by seeing Bush prevail and get  his trophy back along with his stunning stats. To me, Bush has now convinced himself and/or others around him have convinced No. 5 that he was a fall guy, an innocent bystander, a victim and not the perpetrator. Sorry, I have loved USC football through thick and thin for 59 years, but I can’t buy into the Bush rehabilitation campaign when there are attempts, IMHO, to change the basic facts and/or perception.

Victim or revisionist:– Part 10: Let’s ask Reggie Bush this question: Are you totally innocent of the past NCAA investigation? Yes, I know, the NCAA sanctions were draconian, but – I repeat – were you on the take under the table? Do you take any responsibility, especially now as an adult, for what happened to USC? Since you’re now an adult and an obvious role model for youth, why can’t you say you’re sorry? I don’t get it. Because USC welcomed you back from 10 years of excommunication as permitted by the NCAA, does that mean that nothing ever happened, and there should be a total reinstatement of all things Reggie Bush? Should we just throw out all accountability in any form to kick the NCAA in its private parts?

Even as an adult, Reggie Bush (photo above) has yet to publicly say he was sorry or apologize to USC for his role in the NCAA sanctions.

Victim or revisionist: – Part 11: It would help some of us if Reggie Bush said he was sorry in public and not quietly in a closed-door USC administrative boardroom with USC president Carol Folt and athletic director Mike Bohn, both of whom weren’t even around at the time of the sanctions to feel its full destructive impact. Whatever their true private thoughts on the Bush saga, Folt and Bohn understandably are going to protect one of their own. It’s like the parent who defends one of their children regardless of where the truth may take them.

Victim or revisionist: – Part 12: Reggie Bush now says that all his records should now be reinstated by the NCAA. Why? Because he worked hard and was dedicated? There are a lot of players that work hard and are dedicated. Again, if Bush had played by the rules of his time, his records would still be on the books today. An NCAA decision on Bush’s records may be more difficult to get restored than getting his Heisman back. Not to belabor a point I have been making forever, but he accumulated those spectacular stats his final season while he was being provided improper benefits. No, Bush didn’t take performance enhancing drugs to anybody’s knowledge, and you could argue there was no unfair playing advantage on the field. Or was there?

Being a college athlete comes the responsibility of following rules, which should be intended to protect athletes on and off the field. If the rules are bad, change them. Violating rules of that day, IMHO, made Bush ineligible and did affect others that played against him. As I wrote last week, what if it had became known after the fact that Texas quarterback Vince Young had been receiving improper benefits after having beaten USC in the BCS title game? You don’t think USC fans would have gone nuts and declared Young should have been ruled ineligible and USC awarded the national title? I do.     

Reggie Bush (photo above) believes he should have all his football records restored to before NCAA sanctions, which banned him from the record books either by deletion or an asterisk.

Victim or revisionist:– Part 13: Fact: We all paid a price for what Bush did – the university, his underclass teammates and future Trojans, USC fans, and, yes, even loyalist Trojans media fansites. Maybe we should all just get over it and go along as Bush makes attempts at revisionist history and rationalizes that he was a victim/martyr of the times and it’s all just one big character assassination. Unfortunately, it seems to be a reflection of our society and culture regarding truth. So, I guess if Bush says enough times that he never cheated or broke rules, it becomes fact.  

Victim or revisionist summation: Folks, believe me, I am into forgiveness like anybody else, especially after an apology, but Reggie Bush has never issued one and I am not holding my breath. I am also not into changing history to suit an agenda, whitewashing, image makeovers, distraction from facts and truth, and that’s exactly what it appears is happening to me. Let’s be clear, I and USC understand the marketing, social media, and recruiting benefits/value of Bush getting his Heisman back. Recruits still rave about him, revere and idolize him, and some say they committed to Troy partly because of him. I get it.    

Despite the NCAA sanctions, Reggie Bush (photo above) remains an idol to many current USC recruits.

Victim or revisionist summation – Part 2: Reggie Bush may indeed get his Heisman Trophy back, and his No. 5 jersey may soon be reinstated back in the peristyle end of the Coliseum during home games. However, while Reggie was an unquestioned superstar player, please just don’t tell me he was a victim and was justified in his actions while playing at USC. Am I supposed to think he really didn’t know what he was doing when the Bush family was apparently on the take? Reggie Bush got caught, should man up, and then let’s just leave it at that. So, I ask you, is Bush a Heisman victim or doing a revisionist history redo?  

At some point during the 2021 season, will Reggie Bush have his famous No. 5 jersey returned to join the other Heisman Trophy winners in the peristyle end of the Coliseum during Trojans’ home games (photo above)?

From the press box…

The factor: Call it a factor but the strength of the highly notable June commitments and those potential class of 2022 verbals may rest on the outcome and potential future of the USC assistant coaches rather than head coach Clay Helton. Credit Trojans assistants and the recruiting staff for being organized, aggressive, innovative and persistent in cementing relationship with recruits in the face of Helton’s unknown future.

The factor – Part 2: IMHO, as I have said before, it’s doubtful a mass exodus of verbals will take place even if there is a head coaching change at some point in 2021. Certainly, recruits would take a step back to see who would be the next head coach at USC. However, most recruits would be more concerned whether their position coach is retained along with the possibility of new schemes that might affect their skill set.

Trojans assistant coach Donte Williams (photo above) is considered the best recruiter in the Pac-12 and arguably the best in the country.

The factor – Part 3: There is no telling just how good this upcoming 2022 recruiting class can be if the Trojans win the Pac-12 title. Currently, the Trojans recruiting class is ranked No. 1 in the Pac-12 by 247Sports Composite. If the Trojans could achieve that elusive Pac-12 title in early December, it’s not unrealistic to consider a national recruiting class that lands in the final Top 10 or pushes for a Top 5 finish by the February signing period.  

The factor – Part 4:
However, for all the positives on the recruiting front, the Trojans STILL have not garnered an offensive line commitment. Certainly not shocking, but the Trojans continue to pay a huge recruiting price for what has unfolded the last two seasons with the Air Raid offense and a feeble running game. We also got a glimpse into the USC recruiting strategy for running backs when highly valued ball carrier Raleek Brown (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei High), an admitted USC fan growing up but currently an Oklahoma commit, said, “They keep telling me they’re going to let me rush for 1,000 yards and receive for 1,000.” Brown added that he felt the offense looks much better for next season.

Trojans running back recruit Raleek Brown (photo above) has been told by the USC coaching that they would like to see him as a 1000-yard rusher and a 1000-yard receiver, which would put him in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy.

The factor – Part 5: If you want to find out just where the offensive line’s future is under head coach Clay Helton, OC Graham Harrell, and O-line coach Clay McGuire, keep an eye on Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco offensive lineman recruit Earnest Greene, the best of the best in SoCal. If Graham heads to Ohio State – as some are whispering – and the Trojans lose yet another local top shelf prospect, the pattern of local offensive line recruiting losses from the past several years will likely continue, which is obviously not a good sign.   

The Trojans are heavily recruiting offensive lineman Earnest Greene (photo above), class of 2022, from Bellflower (Calif.) St John Bosco.

The post-game show…

False alarm: There were folks that believed it was possible that after taking his official recruiting trip to Troy last weekend, four-star running back Raleek Brown (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) would publicly announce he had now committed to the Trojans. Of course, it didn’t happen, but stay tuned. Brown recently performed at the prestigious The Opening, which brought together many of the premier prep players in the country for competition.  

The option play:
Keep an eye on the Trojans local quarterback targets for the 2023 class, and it ain’t chopped liver. Two that come to mind are local products like five-star Malachi Nelson (Los Alamitos HS) and four-star Nico Iamaleava (Downey Warren), both of whom will have their pick of the recruiting litter. A little QB history, Warren High is the alma mater of former Cal and Fresno State head coach Jeff Tedford.

The Trojans are recruiting hard class of 2023 quarterback Nico Iamaleava (photo above) from Downey (Calif.) Warren HS.

The option play – Part 2: Los Alamitos High has contributed to Trojans football in the past unless you’ve already forgotten the likes of defensive linemen Mike Patterson and Bernard Riley, and safety Ifeanyi Ohalete.   

Four Corners:
From the same high school – Draper (Utah) Corner Canyon – that delivered the Trojans Jaxson Dart, 2020 Gatorade National Player of the Year, comes four-star USC quarterback verbal Devin Brown, who has left the friendly confines of Queens Creek (AZ) High, for the greener pastures of Utah powerhouse Corner Canyon High. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Brown hopes his senior season in Utah will do what it did for Jaxson Dart, who was once also a transfer into Corner Canyon. BTW, Brown recently performed quite impressively both at the Elite 11 Camp and The Opening.

Class of 2022 USC quarterback verbal Devon Brown (photo above) has transferred from Queens Creek (Arizona) HS to Draper (Utah) Corner Canyon HS, home of current true freshman USC quarterback Jaxson Dart.

Developing story: If you read Erik McKinney’s recruiting story on Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco superstar sophomore tight end/defensive end Matayo Uiagalelei (6-4, 275), Matayo said, “The biggest thing is player development and how I fit in the program and how comfortable I am with the coaches and players.”

One of the premier national recruits for the class of 2023 is TE/DE Matayo Uiagalelei (photo above) from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, who says player development is a key to picking a college.

Developing story – Part 2: As you are well aware, there has been a lot of scrutiny during the Clay Helton area as it pertains to player development. Keep this in mind: In order for a player to develop, it takes a coach that knows what he is doing, can teach the position, and can motivate, and it takes a player who is open to learning and doesn’t think he’s already a superstar. It’s a two-way street.

Transfer of power: With all that is going on, you may have missed it that last Wednesday was the end of Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott’s tenure, and the new conference commish, George Kliavkoff, officially came on board on Thursday, July 1. Now the action begins, right?

The call-in show…

Caller No. 1: Coach, do you think it’s reasonable that, according to a number of publications, that the Trojans win total for 2021 hovers around 8.5 wins.

Caller No. 1, I am concerned about that “.5” that is attached to the eight wins. The question becomes who are the eight wins, who is the .5, and who would be the four losses or 3.5 losses? If you did some critical analysis, I look at the potential four losses as at Notre Dame, Utah, at ASU, and you can debate Stanford, UCLA, and BYU. I suppose the .5 is for a game that could go either way.

Caller No. 2: Gregger, does it seem to you that during this successful June recruiting run that Clay Helton seems to be in the background?

Caller No. 2: other than the obligatory photo opportunities, you could make an argument either by choice or perceptions that Gentleman Clay is in the background. However, coaches are not allowed to comment on visits, and therefore it is no surprise that the only Clay Helton comments come from recruits after their visits.  

Some say that Trojans head coach Clay Helton (photo above) has remained in the background of the recent and successful USC recruiting drive, but NCAA rules prohibit coaches from commenting on recruits until they are signed.

Caller No. 3: G-Kat, does it look like there is more recruiting information than ever before?

Caller No. 3, yes, and it’s because of social media and recruits’ twitter sites. If you look, many of the photos that USC takes of recruits in Trojans home uniforms show up on a player’s twitter. As you know, many recruits are not only talking about their experiences but announcing their commitments, as well. It’s where we are in the recruiting cycle and the ability to go around NCAA rules of recruiting. The NCAA can control recruiting up to a point, but the new age of social media runs circles around the rules, which is not a bad thing, IMHO.  

Caller No. 4: Mr. K, will we ever see the return of USC football summer evaluation camps on campus in the future?

Caller No. 4, like everything else, COVID has dictated much that has changed and much that stays the same. I fully expect that next summer camps will return, and things will continue to return to normal – knock on wood.

Expect that USC football camps (photo above) will return in the summer of 2022 when COVID is under control.

Caller No. 5: Greg, have you ever been to Santa Catalina Island?  

Caller No. 5, I was there once when I was little. My grandmother took me there on a ship based in San Pedro Harbor. The boat ride was okay, and I remember kids swimming in Avalon Bay as people threw money from the boat into the water. The kids in the water would dive deep under the water for the coins. I also recall the famous white casino not far away, and the adjacent little town of Avalon.

My two distinct memories of Catalina are watching a chief at an outdoor Avalon restaurant drop a hamburger from a grill onto the ground, pick it up, and put it back on the grill. My other delightful memory is that my grandmother took me on a bus trip to a bird sanctuary and I can’t tell you just how boring that was. Watching birds sit on branches on Catalina Island wasn’t exactly watching USC and Notre Dame.

I still have memories as a little boy when my grandmother took me on a ship from San Pedro Harbor to Santa Catalina Island (photo above).

The last word: A safe and sane July 4th to you all, remembering and appreciating we live in the greatest democracy in the history of the world, and many died for that privilege today.  

Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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