football Edit

The door will be open for USC to welcome back Reggie Bush in near future

USC fans have clammored for former star running back Reggie Bush to be welcomed back by the program, and the door will be open for that possibility in the near future.
USC fans have clammored for former star running back Reggie Bush to be welcomed back by the program, and the door will be open for that possibility in the near future. (AP)

Could Reggie Bush be welcomed back to USC in the near future? The short answer is yes, he could be if the university chooses to make it happen.

There is potential for USC to formally open its doors to the former Trojans star after nearly a decade of distance following stiff NCAA sanctions for improper benefits the running back and his family received while he was in school.

Among those sanctions handed down in 2010, USC had to permanently disassociate from one of its most popular football players and one who was integral to the program's rise to the top of college football a decade and a half ago.

The parameters have shifted, though, as USC interim athletic director Dave Roberts explained Wednesday in an interview with TrojanSports.com.

Roberts, who served as USC's vice president for athletic compliance from 2010-17, has been on the NCAA's Committee on Infractions since 2015 and is currently the committee's vice chair.

"The COI, which I sit on -- Committee on Infractions -- had recently put through a rule change. It's called an IOP -- internal operating procedure -- which basically reduced any disassociation to a 10-year disassociation, much like what was given to [former Michigan basketball star] Chris Webber," Roberts explained. "So in June of 2020, the disassociation for Bush will expire and it's going to be up to the university what the university wants to do."

Roberts said this IOP actually was adopted back in October of 2017, but it has not yet crept into the external dialogue surrounding Bush's ongoing distance from USC.

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It became a major story again last month when he was back for the first time since the disassociation went into effect, as he was in the Coliseum for USC's win over Utah in his role as a FOX Sports college football analyst. Fans stood in the stands with Bush's No. 5 jersey as he taped the pregame show alongside his former USC quarterback Matt Leinart and the rest of the FOX crew.

A "Reggie, Reggie, Reggie" chant eventually emerged from the fans, and Bush found himself in the spotlight again late in the game as he gave Trojans running back Markese Stepp a celebratory embrace after a touchdown (resulting in a penalty flag on Stepp). The fans loved it, though.

Bush, of course, rushed for 3,169 yards and 25 touchdowns along with 1,301 yards and 13 touchdowns receiving from 2003-05 for the Trojans -- during which time the program claimed two national championships -- before being selected No. 2 overall in the 2006 NFL Draft.

The fallout came later after a four-year investigation from the NCAA determined Bush and his family had received impermissible benefits through a sports agency, leading to USC vacating wins including the 2004 BCS national championship (although the Trojans were still recognized as the AP national champions that year), while the athletic department was hit with a four-year probation, the football program received a two-year postseason ban and a loss of 30 scholarships over a three-year period, Bush returned his Heisman Trophy and the disassociation took effect.

Bush was allowed to be on the field for the Utah game because it was in a working capacity, but the door would be open for such limitations to be removed come the summer of 2020, according to Roberts.

"[There would be] nothing physically impeding from the NCAA," Roberts confirmed. "Now, whether or not the university wanted to ask him to do something or what stance they would take, that's going to be up to the president and the athletic director, I'm sure, in June of 2020."

Roberts was asked if the matter is discussed internally much.

"Not really," he said. "There are a lot of people who would like Reggie to be back with the program. I think those people also recognize there's probably some things that would have to be addressed or looked at for that to happen, but again, that would be up to the president and the AD sitting at the time."