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The Heisman Trust is reinstating Reggie Bush's 2005 Heisman Trophy, the organization announced Wednesday, marking the end of a long battle for the former star USC running back. Bush had not been formally recognized as a Heisman recipient since 2010, when he forfeited the trophy because of a high-profile NCAA investigation that determined Bush and his family members received impermissible benefits while he played for the Trojans.

The Heisman Trust had previously said it would honor Bush's award once again if the NCAA reinstated his records from the 2005 season. Bush filed a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA last year, disputing a 2021 claim from an NCAA spokesperson that he was involved in "pay-for-play arrangements." 

Wednesday's announcement is a reversal of course by the Heisman Trust, which cited "fundamental changes in college athletics" in which rules that have allowed "student athlete compensation" to become "an accepted practice and appears here to stay."

"We are thrilled to welcome Reggie Bush back to the Heisman family in recognition of his collegiate accomplishments," Heisman Trust president Michael Comerford said. "We considered the enormous changes in college athletics over the last several years in deciding that now is the right time to reinstate the Trophy for Reggie. We are so happy to welcome him back." 

Bush, 39, pushed for years to have the award reinstated.

"I am grateful to once again be recognized as the recipient of the Heisman Trophy," Bush said. "This reinstatement is not only a personal victory but also a validation of the tireless efforts of my supporters and advocates who have stood by me throughout this arduous journey."

Bush's push to get the Heisman Trophy back became a cause championed by some of his peers, especially amid the arrival of NIL in college sports. Former Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel announced last month that he would boycott the Heisman Trophy ceremony until Bush's award was restored.

"Doesn't sit right with my morals and values that he can't be on that stage with us every year," Manziel wrote on a social media post. "Reggie IS the Heisman trophy."

Bush agreed to forfeit the trophy in 2010 amid an 11-year NFL playing career. At the time, he referred to "persistent media speculation" about the allegations against him as "both painful and distracting."

"In no way should the storm around these allegations reflect in any way on the dignity of this award, nor on any other institutions or individuals," Bush said in 2010 when announcing his forfeiture of the Heisman. "Nor should it distract from outstanding performances and hard-earned achievements either in the past, present or future."

But as the years passed, Bush's tone changed as he pressed to be formally recognized once again for his starring role in a special era for the Trojans, who went 37-2 during Bush's three seasons.

Bush rushed for 1,740 yards with 16 touchdowns and also caught 37 passes for 478 yards in 2005 for a USC team that was unbeaten until its loss to Texas in an epic Rose Bowl game as it fell just short in its pursuit of back-to-back BCS titles. After his NFL career, Bush returned to a place of prominence in college football as an analyst with Fox in a role that he held up until the 2023 season.

"This is a momentous day for Reggie Bush and the entire USC community as we celebrate the rightful return of his Heisman Trophy," USC athletic director Jen Cohen wrote in a statement. "Reggie's impact at USC and on college football as a whole is truly unmatched. He has displayed the utmost resiliency and heart throughout this process and is so deserving of every accolade and Trophy he's ever received. We are grateful to the Heisman Trophy Trust for making this happen."

With the bronzed stiff-armer back in Bush's hands, USC officially retakes first place in college football's Heisman Trophy hierarchy, with eight total. Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oklahoma each have seven.

USC Heisman Trophy Winners - All-Time
1965 Mike Garrett
1968 O. J. Simpson
1979 Charles White
1981 Marcus Allen
2002 Carson Palmer
2004 Matt Leinart
2005 Reggie Bush
2022 Caleb Williams