ORLANDO, Fla. – Another fan day came and went at the University of Florida on Saturday and, once again, not one of the thousands of signed autographs will likely show up for sale on eBay.
That’s because Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley and his NCAA compliance guru – associate athletic director Jamie McCloskey – predicted nearly two decades ago that there was big money and big trouble in college football players signing their names on helmets, jerseys and other expensive keepsakes. That’s why the Gators – much to chagrin of many fans and autograph dealers – instituted a policy on fan day during the 1990s that their players could sign only school-issued team posters.
Good for them.
Shouldn’t getting an autograph be about the memory, not the memorabilia?
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“We made the decision some 15 years ago that we wanted to try to limit the risk of potential issues that could arise from our annual fan autograph day,” McCloskey said in a statement earlier this week. “The last thing we want to do is to put our student-athletes in a situation where we could have affected their eligibility from an event that we held on our campus. It wasn’t a very popular decision, but we thought it was the right thing to do.”
Although they would never say it, you know McCloskey and every other nerdy, nitpicky NCAA compliance director worth his weight in pocket protectors is just shaking his head and wagging his finger at Texas A&M’s inept monitoring of Johnny Manziel’s autograph-signing binge. If you’re scoring at home, Manziel reportedly has had six organized signings for three different memorabilia dealers in three different states. He allegedly has been paid tens of thousands of dollars for signing at least 4,400 items.
The question is how could Texas A&M know nothing about it? Earlier this year, when it became common knowledge that the Internet was inundated with top-of-the-line autographed Manziel memorabilia, A&M presumably just swept it under the rug and hoped it would go away. Not until ESPN and other media got involved did it become public that Johnny Football is really Johnny Paycheck.
The question now is this: Was A&M inept or corrupt – and which is worse? Did school officials bury their heads in the pile of money that Johnny Paycheck made for them and not want to know what was going on around them? Or did they actually know what was going on and choose to ignore it, hoping that Johnny Paycheck would make them another big pile of money this season?
Either way, the NCAA needs to come down and come down hard on Manziel. Actually, if Texas A&M has any integrity, the Aggies themselves should recognize that Manziel blatantly broke the rules and immediately suspend him for the season.
You don’t need a photograph of Manziel actually accepting money to know he is a blatant cheater. He spent several days signing thousands of autographs for known memorabilia dealers. Does anybody other than the most blind A&M fans really believe he was doing this not for money, but out of the goodness of his heart?
Besides, what is being overlooked here by many in the media is that Manziel committed a NCAA violation even if he signed the autographs for free but knew they would be sold for profit. And let’s be real here: Anybody who signs thousands of autographs on expensive football helmets for known memorabilia brokers absolutely, positively knows they are going to be sold for profit.
And please spare us the ridiculous sob story about Manziel being the poster boy for why college athletes should be paid. Good grief, he’s not a kid from a needy home just trying to make $50 or $75 so he can take his girlfriend out on Saturday night. Manziel allegedly took tens of thousands of dollars presumably because he is spoiled, entitled little brat.
Johnny Football is the ultimate escape artist on the field, but there’s no escaping this:
He is not an amateur athlete anymore.
He’s a professional autograph-signer who has no business playing college football.