The National Collegiate Athletic Association is stopping sales of athletic jerseys, saying such business “could be seen as hypocritical.”
NCAA President Mark Emmert said the practice, which passes no money on to the athletes, was a mistake. He gave no estimate on revenue from the sales and said the governing body for U.S. college sports might not have received any revenue from the practice.
“I can’t speak to why we entered into that business,” Emmert said yesterday on a conference call with reporters. “It’s not appropriate for us. There’s no particularly compelling reason why the NCAA ought to be reselling jerseys from institutions.”
The decision comes at what Michigan State University President and NCAA Division I Board of Directors member Lou Anna Simon called “a critical time” for college sports.
The NCAA and Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) are defendants in a federal lawsuit alleging they didn’t compensate athletes for using their likenesses in football and basketball games the company produces. The NCAA last month said it wouldn’t renew the contract with the video-game manufacturer because of legal action over athletes’ likenesses.
Emmert’s announcement comes amid a controversy surrounding Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, who according to ESPN was paid for signing memorabilia in what would be a violation of NCAA rules.
Emmert, Simon and Wake Forest University President and NCAA Division I Board of Directors Chairman Nathan Hatch said on the conference call that they don’t see any reason to alter the rules that prohibit an athlete from profiting by signing his name.
“We stand by the NCAA’s commitment to amateurism,” Hatch said. “The way we’ve done that is the correct way.”
Moody’s Investors Service in June said it may downgrade NCAA debt because of pending litigation and uncertainty over its amateur business model.
A judge in Oakland, California, heard arguments in June in connection with a lawsuit filed by former University of California-Los Angeles basketball player Ed O’Bannon and others challenging the right of college sports’ governing body, conferences and schools to keep proceeds from selling the rights to athletes’ likenesses in TV broadcasts, video games and on apparel. The plaintiffs say a victory could reduce the $6.4 billion in annual revenue universities earn from athletics by as much as 50 percent.
Former Duke University basketball player Jay Bilas, now an analyst on ESPN, earlier this week pointed out on his Twitter feed that the NCAA’s official online store, ShopNCAAsports.com, takes you to specific player pages if you search for a star athlete, including Manziel, by name. The player search function was disabled.
Hatch said the NCAA’s board meeting centered on the structure, process and culture of college athletics.
“No decisions have been made,” he said. “The goal is to have a plan that can be adopted a year from now.”
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