Gamecocks athletics director Ray Tanner said Friday he does not think Heisman Trophy hopeful Jadeveon Clowney will put himself in a situation to risk his eligibility with autograph seekers.
“He has been advised, and I think he understands that when you’re signing, you know exactly who you’re dealing with and who’s going to get the autograph and how it’s going to be used,” Tanner said. “It’s not just random where you sign things, and you don’t think twice about it. Many times, it’s innocent. You have to go back to he’s 20 years old. He assumes everybody is well intended and, certainly, he is.”
USC’s compliance department found no wrongdoing this week in hundreds of Clowney authenticated autographed items for sale on eBay. One of the listings included photos of Clowney signing autographs in what appears to be a hotel room.
The consensus All-America defensive end’s signature received attention after reports alleging reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M accepted payment for signing items. Student-athletes are not allowed under NCAA rules to receive compensation for autographs.
“The Manziel thing, I have no idea where that is going to go,” said USC president Harris Pastides, who is the SEC’s representative on the NCAA board of directors. “But I’m impressed that our coach believes that Jadeveon Clowney has not crossed the line.”
Tanner said he could not address how so many Clowney-autographed items landed on online auction sites.
“Is there somebody that might have had the wrong intent? Possibly,” he said. “But you’re signing autographs for people. You don’t think about it. I don’t think athletes sit down and go, ‘I’m going to make a bunch of money and sign autographs.’ ”
Tanner and Pastides said they think Clowney, who is expected to be the No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL draft, signs so many autographs because he wants to please people.
“He’s frankly an affable, friendly person who likes to make people happy,” Pastides said. “So I think he thinks when he doesn’t sign (someone’s) whatever, that that’s making him a bad guy or a bad dude, and I think he needs to not feel that way.”
Still Pastides believes Clowney and other Gamecocks “should know better.”
“I would expect none of our players — or coaches — would go into someone’s living room or office and sign large numbers of things unless it were like the Girl Scout troop of Gaffney,” he said. “I think you need to be on him and the other players — not all the time — but consistently.”
Clowney has received ongoing counseling from coach Steve Spurrier, other coaches and the USC compliance department since the Gamecocks’ win against Michigan in the Outback Bowl in January, Tanner said.
His hit during the game where he knocked off the helmet of a Wolverine running back and recovered a fumble became a national sensation and won the top play of the year during the ESPN awards show last month.
“I think he has listened to the counsel he has received,” Tanner said. “He went to the ESPYs (in Los Angeles) and handled himself very, very well. I think he’s done a tremendous job with all the attention he has gotten.”
Meanwhile, Pastides agreed with the NCAA’s decision to stop selling gear, including jerseys, for individual colleges on its online store. Hoops TV analyst Jay Bilas called out the NCAA this week for allowing shoppers to search for items on the online store by the names of players.
“We’re supposed to be the keepers of the faith,” Pastides said. “We stand up and take big, lofty positions about what’s wrong with collegiate athletics today. I think you have to walk the talk.”