NEW YORK (AP) — Reggie Bush says he is forfeiting his Heisman Trophy.
It's the first time college football's top award was returned by a recipient.
"While this decision is heart-breaking, I find solace in knowing that the award was made possible by the support and love of so many," Bush said. "Those are gifts that can never be taken away."
USC was hit with heavy sanctions by the NCAA this summer after it determined Bush had received improper benefits. The NCAA ruled that Bush was ineligible for the 2005 season, which opened the possibility that the Heisman Trophy Trust would take back the award.
One of the few guidelines given to Heisman Trophy voters is that a player must be in compliance with NCAA rules to be eligible for the trophy.
The eight-member Heisman Trophy Trust, based in New York, had said it would have to consider what to do about Bush, who won in a landslide vote over Texas quarterback Vince Young.
There was no immediate word from the Heisman Trust if the award would be vacated or given to Young.
"My opinion would be; I would love for the Heisman Trust to look at a re-vote or give it to the second guy, which therefore would be Vince," Texas coach Mack Brown said.
Allegations that Bush and his family had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from two California-based marketing agents were first reported by Yahoo! Sports in September 2006, months after Bush had already been drafted No. 2 overall by the New Orleans Saints.
The NCAA and Pac-10 began investigating Bush and the USC football program soon after, and the running back immediately denied any wrongdoing.
But Bush never met with investigators.
One of the marketing agents, Lloyd Lake, sued Bush trying to recoup nearly $300,000 in cash and gifts. Bush was supposed to give a deposition in the case but never did and eventually the case was settled with Bush never having given his side of the story publicly.
It took four years for the NCAA to complete it's investigation. When it finally handed down its punishment in June, it was harsh.
The NCAA cited USC for a lack of institutional control. It's report cited numerous improper benefits for Bush and former basketball player O.J. Mayo, who spent just one year with the Trojans.
The penalties included the loss of 30 football scholarships over three years and vacating 14 victories in which Bush played from December 2004 through the 2005 season. USC beat Oklahoma in the BCS title game on Jan. 4, 2005, and won 12 games during Bush's Heisman-winning 2005 season, which ended with a loss to Texas in the 2006 BCS title game.
After the 2009 season, coach Pete Carroll left to take over the Seattle Seahawks.
In July, USC replaced athletic director Mike Garrett with Pat Haden, and one of the first moves Haden made was returning USC's copy of Bush's Heisman Trophy.
AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno contributed to this report.