Reggie Bush’s remorse too little, too late

Imagine that. Perhaps a conscience exists within Reggie Bush after all.

That, or the alumni perks at Southern California must be off the charts.

What, do all former football players in good standing get to personally judge song leader tryouts each year?

Do they get to determine the sizes of those white sweaters?

Yawn. How is that for an immediate response to Bush possibly taking some form of responsibility for stiff NCAA sanctions placed on USC’s program dating to his short, successful, fraudulent college career?

That he feels bad about the fallout from all the wrongdoing — which is what you call it when you accept improper benefits such as a house for your family, new furniture, shiny appliances, hotel rooms, limousine rides, a total of $300,000 in gifts — is a notable gesture and, yet, 30 lost football scholarships over a three-year period late.

I’m guessing all the present-day USC players are just giddy about the fact Bush seemed contrite in a telephone call to new athletic director Pat Haden.

They can discuss it sitting at home the next two postseasons, serving a bowl ban that is part of the disciplinary action handed down by the NCAA in June.

I’m guessing when they watch Oregon or Oregon State or — heaven forbid — UCLA in the Rose Bowl, all will be forgiven now that Bush has somewhat stopped pretending he played no part in the life-sized hammer brought down on USC’s athletic department by the infractions committee.

“He knows he made a series of mistakes,” Haden told USA Today. “It wasn’t just one mistake. It was a series of mistakes … He told me, ‘If I could turn back the clock, I would. If I could give the Heisman Trophy back, I would.'”

The latter isn’t necessary. Never has been. Bush won college football’s highest individual honor because he was the game’s most outstanding player during the 2005 season. He won it on Saturday afternoons racing up and down grass fields, hurdling UCLA defenders with the ease of a toddler stepping over a Tinker Toy.

If we are going to begin demanding every past Heisman winner who failed to combine on-field excellence with off-field integrity return the award, there will be a lot more of the statues with the famous pose being shipped back in cartons. Charles Woodson might even include all his receipts and maybe some of the cash.

This has always been bigger than Bush. Agent is the dirty little word around college athletics today for good reason. USC and its coaching staff also didn’t do a good enough job monitoring the actions of its star running back.

Simply, there is plenty of blame to go around for the state of USC’s football program and more than Kim Kardashian’s ex-boyfriend to point fingers at.

But it has been too contrived a mess on Bush’s part to now take seriously any act of repentance, which Haden pointed out late Friday was not an apology.

Of course not.

Bush agreed to be interviewed by NCAA enforcement officials but refused to cooperate fully. He wouldn’t provide requested information. He continued for years to sidestep all opportunities to be truthful as he might a blitzing linebacker.

Even on the day of findings being released, Bush issued a statement saying he disagreed with the NCAA’s decision and was disappointed with the investigation’s outcome. Even then, he ran from the truth like he once did a Fresno State safety.

So why soften his stance now?

Is guilt that heavy a burden for a Super Bowl champion to carry?

Is the fact Bush has been banned from anything and everything USC too embarrassing a fact to own?

Is it time to decide the sizes of those white sweaters?

“I would love to ask Reggie to come talk to our football team,” Haden said. “He’s not allowed on the campus. But I think he would tell them what a big mistake he made and how sorry he is.”

Maybe it’s that simple. Maybe it’s just a way for Reggie Bush to sleep better at night. He’s certainly not the first college athlete to cheat and won’t be the last. Many have done far worse and taken far more.

Here’s an idea: If ever a day comes when he really is sorry and has the backbone to publicly apologize, perhaps Bush could get out his checkbook and write in an estimated amount for all the revenue USC will lose by not playing in bowls the next two seasons. Merchandise. BCS payouts. Ticket sales. He could add a few zeros when quantifying how much such games mean for recruiting and prestige.

Or, better yet, hold a press conference and detail every penny he accepted. Answer every question, truthfully this time.

Now those would be acceptable forms of apologies.

Until then, yawn.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618.

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