Several Colleges Not Selling Jerseys Of Star Players Amid Commercial Rights Battle
Several colleges have “decided not to sell football jerseys with star players' digits on them this upcoming season” because they are “worried about the ramifications of selling the numbers tied to student-athletes,” according to sources cited by Darren Rovell of ESPN.com. Sources said that the “only jersey available at retail" for Texas A&M "will be the No. 12 -- as in the ‘12th Man,’ a jersey the school has sold for years.” Northwestern will “limit sales to No. 51, which was used by current head coach Pat Fitzgerald during his heralded playing career," while Arizona will “only offer No. 14,” as in the year ‘14. Arizona AD Greg Byrne: "We've been thinking about doing this for a while." Sources have “expected a move like this designed to lessen the legal exposure of the schools and change the public perception of taking advantage of college athletes, as they fight harder for their commercial rights.” Rovell noted schools “typically make between $3 and $4 in royalties” from a jersey that sells for $60. However, going to more generic jerseys "is expected to come at a cost.” One source said that not having specific jerseys available could result in a 25% decrease in sales for “schools with marketable players” (ESPN.com, 6/5). AL.com's Mike Herndon noted the moves come as the NCAA "prepares for the Ed O'Bannon trial to begin next week -- a case that charges the NCAA with marketing players' likenesses without compensation" (AL.com, 6/5).
SIGN OF THE TIMES: ESPN’s Brad Edwards said schools have "woken up to the fact that they can no longer pretend that they’re putting a jersey out there and it’s just a number." Edwards: "Everybody’s got the number of the starting quarterback in the bookstore and they recognize, now, that they can’t get away with it anymore. They are definitely making money off of using a player and it’s going to come back to bite them." ESPN’s Andre Ware: “It goes to show the day and age in which we are in college sports” ("College Football Live," ESPN2, 6/5).