On Monday Reggie Bush forfeited his Heisman Trophy four years after the revelation that he took extra benefits from two marketing agents while still at USC.
It’s reasonable to surmise that Bush gave up the 2005 award because he was made aware or had a strong suspicion that he was going to be stripped of it anyway. We were all tipped off to that distinct possibility by a recent Yahoo Sports report asserting that Bush would be “relieved” of the Heisman before September was out.
As part of that prophetic report, Yahoo noted that the Heisman Trophy Trust used the following criteria to decide that it would strip Bush of the award:
Two sources close to the Heisman trust said the body’s investigation is coming to a close, and will ultimately concur with the NCAA’s determination that Bush was ineligible during his Heisman-winning season in 2005. Because of that independent conclusion, sources said the trust will relieve Bush of the award and leave the honor for that season vacant.
Two factors outweighed all others, sources said: The Heisman ballot necessitates candidates be in compliance with NCAA bylaws and concern over the Heisman’s reputation in the wake of the NCAA findings against Bush.
Never in the history of the award has the trust been forced to retroactively rule on the eligibility of a past winner.
So Bush was effectively stripped of the Heisman Trophy because he tarnished the reputation of the award by taking extra benefits from an agent while at USC - rendering him retroactively ineligible for the Heisman.
With that as the Heisman Trust’s criteria for stripping Bush of the 2005 honor, why hasn’t 1959 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon had his award take away?
Thanks to 1960 California federal court records, it’s an acknowledged fact that Cannon fulfills the same criteria that the Heisman Trust used to, for all intents and purposes, revoke Bush’s award.
Cannon, who won the Heisman Trophy for his performance as a running back for LSU, was convicted in 1983 of masterminding a $6 million felony counterfeiting operation in Baton Rouge, La. He was sentenced to five years in prison and released in September 1987.
But it’s the matter of Cannon taking a $10,000 check from then-Los Angeles Rams General Manager Pete Rozelle, another $500 for travel expenses and signing a post-dated (Jan. 2, 1960) contract with the pro football club before he played in the 1960 Sugar Bowl that should preclude him from keeping the Heisman Trophy.
Rozelle testified under oath to a California federal court in June, 1960, that on Nov. 28, 1959, he called Cannon and offered him a contract with the Los Angeles Rams along with an immediate $10,000 bonus check.
The same court later concluded in its ruling that Rozelle had indeed signed Cannon to a professional contract before the LSU star’s final collegiate game, the Sugar Bowl contest against the University of Mississippi.
While under oath, Rozelle said of Cannon and the $10,000 bonus check and $500 expense checks: “He put them in his pocket.”
Under NCAA rules in 1959-60, that transaction officially made Cannon retroactively ineligible at LSU, the same year he won the Heisman Trophy.
Amazingly, the NCAA did nothing after Rozelle’s deal with Cannon was made public. And, as sports business blogger Marc Isenberg points out, there’s nothing it can do now about the dirty deal thanks to a four-year NCAA statue of limitations on investigations.
But the Heisman Trust has no such limitation on rescinding past awards.
With that in mind, is it unreasonable to expect that the same criteria applied to stripping Reggie Bush of the Heisman Trophy be used in the case of Billy Cannon?