The Heisman Trophy (“Trophy”) is one of the most highly regarded awards in all of college athletics. The Trophy was first awarded in 1935 to Jay Berwanger, a running back from the University of Chicago. Since its inception, the Trophy has been bestowed upon legends like Davey O’Brien (1938), Doc Blanchard (1945), Doak Walker (1948), and Roger Staubach (1963) and more recent college football icons, Tim Tebow (2007) and Sam Bradford (2008). It goes without saying that the Trophy has a rich history in fabric of intercollegiate athletics and has been awarded to student-athletes who personify the values of the Heisman Trophy Trust (“Trust”) and add special meaning to the term student-athlete.
The bylaws or regulations that govern the Trust are privately held, but the Trust’s mission statement speaks to the qualities for which the Trust seeks in a student-athlete considered for the Trophy. The Trust’s mission statement reads as follows:
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. Our goal through these charitable endeavors is for the Heisman Trophy to symbolize the fostering of a sense of community responsibility and service to our youth, especially those disadvantaged or afflicted. All assets of the Trust beyond the expense of maintaining the annual presentation of the Heisman Memorial Trophy are reserved for such charitable causes. The Trustees, who all serve pro bono, are guided by a devotion to college football and are committed to community service and the valued tradition which the Trophy represents.
(emphasis added). Without question, the Trust requires that the student-athlete honored by the Trophy meet the highest standards of integrity. The Trust does not have a plethora of criteria for voters to consider when voting for a Trophy candidate. However, one of the few requirements for consideration for the Trophy is that a student-athlete must be in compliance with NCAA rules to be eligible to receive the Trophy.
Likely under substantial pressure, on September 14, 2010, Reggie Bush, the 2005 Trophy winner, forfeited his Trophy and agreed to return the Trophy to the Trust. Bush has been under considerable pressure to return the Trophy since the NCAA sanctioned the University of Southern California (“USC”) relating to Bush’s tenure as a student-athlete at USC and his alleged involvement with athlete-agents and marketers while enrolled at USC. During Bush’s comments relating to the return of the Trophy, he aptly pointed out that he made some mistakes and hopes he can help other student-athletes not make the same mistakes. However, Bush was quick to indicate that his “voluntary” forfeiture of college football’s most time honored award should not be considered an admission of guilt. Regardless of how the forfeiture is termed or what statements were made, it does not appear these events will have any bearing on the sanctions provided to USC by the NCAA Committee on Infractions.
Additionally, the Trust announced that the 2005 Trophy will be vacated and will not be awarded to former University of Texas quarterback Vince Young, the 2005 runner-up. In fact, the Trust has already removed reference to the 2005 Trophy and Bush from its official Web site.