Former Southern California star Reggie Bush, who had his Heisman Trophy victory in 2005 vacated for committing NCAA violations, is among the players making their first appearance on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot this year.
The National Football Foundation announced on Wednesday the players and coaches eligible for election into the Hall of Fame, and 26 of the 78 FBS players will be debuting on the ballot.
Hall of Fame ballots go to more than 12,000 NFF members and current Hall of Famers. The votes are considered by the NFF’s Honors Courts, which then deliberates and selects a class of about a dozen players and two or three coaches.
College Football Hall of Famer and two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin from Ohio State is the chairman of the Honors Court, which includes athletic administrators, Hall of Famers and members of the media from all over the country.
Other first-timers on the ballot included quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Kellen Moore of Boise State, Penn State star linebackers LaVar Arrington and Paul Posluszny and former California running back Marshawn Lynch.
Bush’s Hall of Fame case is most intriguing. Based solely on his play, he would be a slam dunk. Bush helped USC win two national championships and won the Heisman Trophy as a junior in 2005.
Bush averaged 7.3 yards per carry in his career at USC, including 8.7 yards during his Heisman-winning season.
But his Heisman was later vacated after USC was hit with NCAA sanctions after it was found Bush and his family received money and gifts during his time with the Trojans from fledgling marketing agents who were hoping to represent the rising football star.
The Heisman Trophy Trust asked Bush to return his trophy in 2010 and stripped him from its record books because he had compromised his NCAA eligibility while playing for USC.
The NCAA imposed a 10-year ban on Bush associating publicly with USC. That ended last year. USC joyously welcomed Bush back into the Trojans community and started making plans to honor him.
When the NCAA-imposed disassociation ended, it allowed USC to nominate Bush as a Hall of Fame candidate.
“That was good enough for us,” said Steve Hatchell, president and CEO of the National Football Foundation.
Bush otherwise could have been eligible for the hall and appeared on the ballot as early as 2017, a year after his 11-year NFL career ended.
The College Hall of Fame has shied away – at times – from honoring players and coaches who have been attached to NCAA or other off-the-field scandals.
But there are no clear-cut guidelines.
Last year, Eric Dickerson, who played at SMU in the early 1980s, was finally elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Dickerson played during the era in which cheating was rampant at SMU and the program eventually was given the so-called death penalty by the NCAA for paying players. Dickerson himself was never proved to have broken any NCAA rules.
Bush might not have to wait as long as Dickerson to make the hall, but he is unlikely to make it on the first ballot.
The NFF tends to steer away from having a school represented in consecutive classes, and former USC quarterback and 2002 Heisman winner Carson Palmer made it last year.