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Why Reggie Bush shouldn’t have returned his Heisman…

September 15, 2010 by  
Filed under News, Sports, Weekly Columns

( Now that Reggie Bush has voluntarily returned his 2005 Heisman Trophy, the winds of honor, integrity and character are about to return to college athletics like manna from heaven and the Morgan State University Choir singing, “Ode to Joy.”

Well, we’re waiting. Any day now, integrity in college sports is about to walk through that door now. Still waiting…waiting.


Bush’s return of the Heisman Trophy has nothing to do with him caring about ethics or trying to restore the good name of the Heisman Trophy or USC, but as I wrote in my last column on this subject, this is nothing but a public relations move on the part of Bush perhaps to keep his endorsements and for all the media scrutiny to die down so he can go on with his life as a millionaire in the NFL .

For all it’s worth, Bush should have just kept an award that he won on the field while USC officials profited off his talents while overlooking the rules in the course of winning national championships and Rose Bowls. It’s the only true thing he actually earned on the field because of his athletic talent.

Considering that schools like USC and the NCAA are raking in millions of bucks for unpaid labor, I guess Bush just wanted a piece of the action, too. And on one level, I’m not mad at him for that because everybody else connected to college sports is filling their pockets along the way.

However, according to NCAA rules an athlete is not eligible for a sport they have “accepted money, transportation or other benefits from an agent or agreed to have an agent market your athletic ability or reputation in that sport.” But it’s okay for a university or the NCAA to earn a huge profit from what you do on the field by selling your jersey or market your image to a video game company.

You definitely hear the NCAA and its member institutions marketing the athletic prowess of its players in the commercials leading up to the broadcasts of college football games: “See Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and the USC Trojans taking on Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns in the Rose Bowl!”

Let’s face it, the NCAA, like the NFL, the NBA and every other sports league, is nothing but a multi-million dollar professional sports league. To expect its players to live under this veneer of so-called amateurism amounts to nothing more than slavery and is hypocritical when you think about how much money the NCAA and its member institutions bring in from its revenue sports.

While non-athletes on college campuses are allowed to market their resumes, talk to prospective employers or even work for them on a part-time basis while they are still in school, athletes aren’t allowed to use their reputation as outstanding players to market themselves.

To me, the whole Bush returning the Heisman Trophy means that the NCAA needs to do one of two things. First, the head of the NCAA needs to sit down with the commissioners of both the NFL, the NBA and its players unions and come up with some guidelines that would decertify any agent who is caught approaching a collegiate athlete and endangering their eligibility.

An even better solution would be to simply pay these athletes for their efforts and allow them to meet with agents during the course of their senior year or final year of eligibility. It’s no different when universities allow major corporations and government institutions to come on campus for job fairs to recruit prospective non-athletes.

In some cases, non student-athletes even work for their future employers while they’re still in school. In majors like broadcast journalism, students, if they can afford it, will also seek out agents who specialize in marketing their skills to prospective TV stations.

When it comes to paying athletes in the revenue producing sports, why not give the players a stipend to go with their scholarships in the same manner you would do for a graduate student who works for an academic department as a teaching assistant or a research assistant.

After all, athletics and academic research are revenue-producing entities of a university. A player scores touchdowns, fans buys tickets, university paraphernalia and a booster opens up his check book and donates money to the athletic department. A research assistant helps his professor with ground-breaking research, the university gets all kinds of grants and government contracts.

The bottom line–the university gets paid.

An undergraduate student on an academic scholarship gets paid for his efforts when he works for university entities like financial aid, residence life, the sports information office, and dining services. Everybody who works for the college gets paid for their efforts-except so-called student athletes.

Instead of buying into illusion that the return of Bush’s voluntary return of his Heisman Trophy is somehow going preserve a sense of integrity in collegiate athletics, those who govern the money-making machine known as collegiate athletics need to be held accountable.

Written By Chris Murray

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