Former USC star running back Reggie Bush filed a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA on Wednesday over a 2021 statement made by an NCAA spokesperson claiming Bush was involved in a “pay-for-play arrangement.”
“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 press conference Wednesday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. “Not only is it not true, but there is no evidence to even support that claim.”
The two-time All-American had his 2005 Heisman Trophy vacated and his collegiate records expunged following an NCAA investigation that showed he and some family members received benefits — including cash, travel expenses and a San Diego home – that were not o allowed under NCAA rules, ESPN reported.
Bush racked up 3,169 yards and 25 touchdowns in three seasons with the Trojans.
In 2021, according to CBS News, Bush asked that his Heisman trophy be returned and his records restored citing the newly implemented name, image and likeness rules. Those rules allow college athletes to be paid by third parties.
While the Heisman Trust has agreed to take Bush back if the records were reinstated, the NCAA has said it will not re-evaluate his case, according to The Associated Press.
Heisman eligibility requirements state that recipients “must be in compliance with the bylaws defining an NCAA student athlete,” according to the Trust.
In explaining the NCAA’s decision not to revisit Bush’s case, an NCAA spokesperson mentioned “pay-for-play arrangements” in a statement to ESPN:
“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.”
Bush filed the claim saying it is “about truth, getting the facts out and holding the NCAA accountable.”
“I’ve got dreams of coming back into this stadium and running out of that tunnel with the football team,” Bush said Wednesday. “I’ve got dreams of walking back in here and seeing my jersey and my banner right down there next to the rest of the Heisman Trophy winners. But I can’t rightfully do that without my Heisman Trophy.”
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