Why did Reggie Bush lose his Heisman Trophy? How did the former USC star get it back?

USC running back Reggie Bush walks off the field after the Trojans defeated Fresno State on Nov. 19, 2005.

Former USC running back Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy in 2005, lost it in 2010 and finally got it back this week.

It's been a long, strange trip for the player who went on to win a Super Bowl in the NFL and serve as a college football analyst on Fox.

Here's a look back at how it all unfolded.

Why did Bush win the Heisman Trophy in 2005?

On a USC team full of superstars, Bush was the biggest of them all. He rushed for 1,740 yards and 16 touchdowns, averaging 8.7 yards per carry. He also caught 37 passes for 478 yards and two touchdowns and compiled 672 yards on kick and punt returns, including an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown against Washington.

The Trojans finished the regular season 12-0 before falling to Texas in the 2005 BCS national championship game at the Rose Bowl. Meanwhile, Bush ran away with the Heisman Trophy that December, receiving 784 first-place votes, which at the time was the second-largest tally in the award's history. Fellow former USC running back O.J. Simpson, the 1968 Heisman Trophy winner, still holds the all-time record, with 855 first place votes. Bush ranks fifth.

Read more: Plaschke: Reggie Bush’s deserved Heisman Trophy shouldn’t overshadow his troubled Trojans legacy

Why did Bush lose the Heisman Trophy in 2010?

In 2006, the NCAA launched an investigation into reports that Bush and his family received cash, travel expenses and a rent-free home from two prospective sports agents while at USC, which were against NCAA polices at the time. Four years later, the NCAA issued severe sanctions against USC. The Trojans vacated their 2004 national title and 14 games Bush took part in, and the university disassociated from its former player (that ban was adjusted by the NCAA to 10 years in 2017, and Bush was welcomed back to campus in 2020).

Then-USC president C.L. “Max” Nikias ordered that the school's replica of Bush’s Heisman Trophy be removed from the athletic department lobby and returned to New York. With the Heisman Trust scheduled to decide whether to revoke Bush's award during a meeting that afternoon, Bush bowed to public pressure and announced he would forfeit his Heisman Trophy. He is the only person to have ever returned the trophy.

Read more: Where does Reggie Bush rank among USC's all-time Heisman Trophy winners?

How did Bush do in the NFL?

Bush, who had denied any wrongdoing throughout the NCAA investigation, acknowledged in a statement that he had made unspecified "mistakes" and said that “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.”

Although not the superstar he was in college, Bush did just fine in the NFL, earning $63 million during an 11-year career. After being drafted No. 2 overall by the New Orleans Saints in 2006, Bush went on to make the NFL's all-rookie team that season and won a Super Bowl with the Saints following the 2009 season. After five seasons in New Orleans, Bush spent two seasons each with the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions and one each with the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills. He finished his career with 3,598 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing, 3,598 yards and 18 touchdowns receiving and 794 yards and four touchdowns in punt returns.

Why did Bush get the Heisman Trophy back in 2024?

On June 30, 2021, the NCAA ruled that its student-athletes could start earning money for the use of their name, image and likeness, opening the door for players to be paid through sponsorship deals, endorsements and more. Almost immediately, Bush lobbied to get his Heisman Trophy back as the rules he allegedly broke essentially were no longer in effect.

Read more: Potential No. 1 NFL draft pick Caleb Williams' top moments at USC

The Heisman Trust initially said it would only return the trophy if the NCAA reinstated Bush's records from the 2005 season. However, after the NCAA refused, the Heisman Trust reinstated it anyway.

Bush also filed a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA in August (more on that in a minute).

"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,” an NCAA spokesperson said at the time. “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.”

Other former Heisman Trophy winners publicly lobbied for Bush to get his award back. Johnny Manziel, the 2012 winner, said he would not attend the annual ceremony until Bush was allowed back.

Michael Comerford, the president of the Heisman Trust, cited “the enormous changes in college athletics over the last several years” in a statement Wednesday announcing the reinstatement of Bush's trophy. Bush called the decision “a personal victory” and “a validation of the tireless efforts of my supporters.”

So the drama is over?

Not exactly. Don't forget about the defamation lawsuit.

“The NCAA has made a statement about me,” Bush said Aug. 23 during a news conference at USC, “accusing me of engaging in a ‘pay-for-play arrangement,’ which is 100% not true. Not only is it not true, but there’s no evidence to even support that claim. It wasn’t even part of the initial NCAA investigation. So this is a new accusation, as far as I’m concerned, that was picked up by all of you. All the media outlets picked it up as if this were the reason why I’m not getting my Heisman Trophy back and why I’m not being reinstated. And that’s not true. That’s what this lawsuit is about. It’s about truth, getting the facts out, and holding the NCAA accountable.”

Read more: Former USC star Reggie Bush sues the NCAA for defamation and seeks his Heisman Trophy

A hearing on the NCAA's motion to dismiss the lawsuit is scheduled for Monday in Marion (Ind.) Superior Court.

Through his attorneys on Wednesday, Bush said that he had not apologized to the Heisman Trust or shown contrition for past NCAA violations in order to get his trophy back.

“I have always acted with integrity and in accordance with the rules and regulations set forth by the NCAA,” Bush said. “The allegations brought against me were unfounded and unsupported by evidence, and I am grateful that the truth is finally prevailing.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.