Former USC running back Reggie Bush filed a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA on Wednesday, seeking to "hold the NCAA accountable for maliciously attacking" his character.
The case was filed in Marion County (Ind.) Court, where the Indianapolis-based NCAA is located.
The NCAA statement in question was issued to ESPN, along with other media outlets, on July 28, 2021, in response to an inquiry about the possibility of Bush having his records and participation restored in light of changes to name, image and likeness rules that went into effect earlier that month.
"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 in that statement. "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."
Bush's primary contention is that he did not engage in "pay-to-play" activities during his career at USC, which the lawsuit says is "widely understood to mean that Mr. Bush received payment in return for playing football," at USC.
Instead, in 2010, a four-year extra-benefits investigation determined that Bush and family members, while he was a student-athlete, accepted benefits from a would-be sports agent, who was not affiliated with USC. It was determined that would-be agent, provided cash, travel expenses and a home in the San Diego area where Bush's parents lived rent-free for more than a year and for which they were provided $10,000 to furnish.
Sanctions from the investigation mandated that Bush disassociate from USC and included a two-year postseason ban for the school, 14 vacated victories (including the 2004 BCS national championship) and the loss of 30 scholarships. His 10-year disassociation period ended in June 2020.
According to Bush's legal team from law firm McCathern, USC and Bush have reappealed the sanctions from the original investigation, to "re-establish his eligibility and restore the records and achievements earned during his time at USC."
This all has to do with Bush's attempt to have his 2005 Heisman Trophy reinstated. The Heisman Trophy Trust has long maintained that because Bush's 2005 season was vacated by the NCAA, he was not eligible to win.
The lawsuit asks for a jury trial to determine presumed and compensatory damages and punitive damages. The NCAA did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.