Advertisement
Sports

Column: It’s time for NCAA to free Reggie Bush and USC

Former USC star Reggie Bush.
Former USC running back Reggie Bush inadvertently caused a minor scene during Friday’s game between the Trojans and Utah. It showed how some of the absurdity behind Bush’s USC ban by the NCAA.
(Getty Images)

Markese Stepp was 5- years old when Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy in 2005. He was too young to remember Bush’s highlight-reel runs at the Coliseum, and never dreamed of being the next great USC running back.

The Indiana native was a Notre Dame commit for more than a year before switching to USC. He grew up in an area where the “Bush Push” is cursed, not celebrated, during USC-Notre Dame week.

But Stepp helped Bush enjoy one more moment under the Coliseum lights last Friday night when he pointed at, and clasped hands with, the former Heisman Trophy winner after scoring his first career touchdown in USC’s 30-23 upset win over No. 10 Utah.

Their exchange was quickly broken up by an official and USC drew a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct. It was a small price to pay for a long overdue bridge between Bush and the current Trojans.

Markese Stepp and Reggie Bush celebrate.
USC running back Markese Stepp, left, celebrates with Reggie Bush after scoring his first collegiate touchdown during Friday’s win over Utah. USC was slapped with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for Stepp’s actions.
(Los Angeles Times)
Advertisement

Bush was back at USC for the first time since 2010 when the NCAA imposed severe sanctions on the football program, stemming from improper benefits Bush received while at school.

USC was ordered to permanently disassociate itself from Bush as part of the sanctions. While the ruling is still in place, USC and Fox worked with the NCAA to make sure the sanctions didn’t prevent Bush from doing his job as an analyst for the network’s college football show, which took place at the Coliseum.

After the game, many USC players pointed at Bush and gave him the “Fight On” sign as they walked off the field. Bush returned the gesture. In the crowd, fans wearing No. 5 jerseys chanted Bush’s name and held up “Free Reggie” signs. During the postgame show, USC quarterback Matt Fink sat between Bush and Matt Leinart as Bush congratulated him on his first win and patted him on the back.

The interaction between Bush and the Trojans last Friday highlighted the absurdity of forcing USC to continue to dissociate itself from Bush. The school and Bush are forever intertwined. Demanding that USC act like he never went there and preventing Bush from being a part of the program 15 years after leading them to a national championship is pointless.

Advertisement

Basketball star Chris Webber was indicted on five charges, including obstruction of justice and lying to a federal grand jury, for misrepresenting his relationship with Ed Martin, a Michigan basketball booster who testified he paid Webber $280,000 in cash and gifts while he played for the Wolverines. The NCAA ordered Michigan to disassociate itself from Webber for 10 years, a record length at that time.

The NCAA did not respond to numerous requests for a comment as to why there was a discrepancy in punishment.

USC has tried to appeal to the NCAA to adjust the dissociation ruling on Bush. The requests were declined.

“USC has long said that we would love to have Reggie back around campus, but the NCAA has mandated the school permanently disassociate from Reggie,” USC sports information director Tim Tessalone said. “If we did so, it would lead to further NCAA penalties. We have tried several times to appeal the permanent disassociation with no luck. … We’re going to keep trying, but this isn’t a USC decision.”

::

The NFL has made strides recently to improve player safety and get rid of dangerous hits that used to be celebrated as much as big touchdowns. If the league had done this sooner, the life of one of the greatest sprinters of all time might be different.

“I got a lot of offers to go to the NFL,” said eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt. “It was something that scared me at the time. I think it’s better now. Back then, it was really a rough sport. If it was like it is now, I think I would probably transition and try to play in the NFL.”

Former Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt celebrates scoring a goal for a soccer team in Australia in 2018.
Former Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt celebrates scoring a goal for a soccer team in Australia in 2018.
(AFP/Getty Images)

Bolt retired from track and field in 2017 and turned 33 in August, but at 6 feet 5, 207 pounds, he said he got multiple offers from NFL teams to play wide receiver after the 2008 and 2012 Olympics when he was 22 and 26.

Advertisement

“I think I’m too old for it now, but I really enjoy watching the NFL,” Bolt said. “I’m a Green Bay Packers fan.”

Bolt has been a household name among sports fans for a decade, but is hoping his name will be as recognizable as Uber and Lyft by the time the Summer Olympics come to Los Angeles in 2028. This week “Bolt,” the mobility company the Olympic sprinter co-founded last year, is launching carbon-free e-scooters in L.A.

“Los Angeles is going to be a great host city,” Bolt said. “Hosting an Olympics is a big deal and just seeing the different cities over the years that I’ve been to it brings so many people from around the world. It’s a different energy. I’m excited to go to the Olympics next summer actually. It’s the first time I’ll be able to go see other events. I just want to take it in as a spectator and feel the energy.”

::

As Gennady Golovkin prepares to fight Sergiy Derevyanchenko for the vacant IBF world middleweight title next month in New York, he realizes the only fight most fans care about is a rematch against Canelo Alvarez.

Champion boxer Canelo Alvarez has to deal with plenty of drama outside the ring in recent months. Will it affect Sergey Kovalev fight preparations?

During breakfast near his home in Santa Monica on Monday, Golovkin expressed frustration that trilogy clash with Alvarez continues to elude him even after he signed a six-fight deal with DAZN in March.

Oscar De La Hoya told the Los Angeles Times last week that Alvarez and Golovkin will fight in 2020, but Alvarez said that’s not true. “Oscar says many things that make no sense,” Alvarez said. “Gennady Golovkin does not represent anything for me right now.”

Golovkin was prepared to fight Alvarez this month, but doesn’t know when or if he will get a chance to face him again. “We had a contract. We were supposed to have a fight on September 14 and he just runs away,” Golovkin said. “What do you want me to do?”


Newsletter
Get our daily Sports Report newsletter
Advertisement