With Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel under the NCAA microscope because he allegedly received money for his autograph, a larger debate has popped up: Should players be allowed to make money off their signatures?
In Athens, senior defensive end Garrison Smith has one view while his head coach, Mark Richt, takes another:
“You should be able to make yourself some money. You can’t have a job because of your football schedule, and school life is so busy. So you need some kind of way to get some income…
So if you can get something and get some money off a simple signature, why not? What’s so bad about a signature? How are you hurting somebody by just signing something? Some of the people you’re signing for are putting your signature on eBay. So they’re making money off of you, so why is it wrong for you to make some money off yourself? People have got families. A lot of players I know have kids. How are you gonna get your kids some diapers? How are you gonna get your kids some baby food if you don’t have money?”
“I just don’t know how it could all work where it didn’t become so hard to manage. If you just said, ‘OK, everybody can sell their stuff,’ you can just imagine yourself what that might turn into and how problematic it could become.”
Richt, his fellow coaches, and the SEC office are pushing the NCAA for the right to provide players with a couple of extra thousand dollars per year as part of full-cost-of-tuition scholarships. The other BCS-level conferences are pushing for the same thing and eventually this will lead to a new subdivision at the tip top of Division I college football.
For now, allowing athletes to sell their signatures is not the answer. We’ve touched on topic before so we’ll keep it short here.
If players were allowed to sell their autographs, cheating boosters would immediately take advantage of the enormous loophole created. Unscrupulous boosters from rival schools could create a bidding war for a high school player’s services via autographs.
“Come to State and I’ll pay you $10,000 a year for autographed memorabilia.”
“Did he say $10,000? Come to Tech and I’ll pay you $15,000 a year for signed items.”
And what of agents? Think an agent looking to get his hooks into a star college player wouldn’t start paying him — legally, mind you — thousands of dollars for autographs? It would have nothing to do with the signatures. It would have everything to do with locking up a future NFL star.
Like it or not, so long as the NCAA is based on the amateur model, cash-for-autographs is bad idea.