Louisville’s football program announced Tuesday via Twitter that it will no longer permit student-athletes to sign autographs over concerns it could threaten eligibility.
Most of the focus surrounds Heisman Trophy favorite Lamar Jackson, who is not believed to have committed any NCAA infractions.
Howie Lindsey of CardinalSports.com detailed the complex situation, noting eBay has 271 items with Jackson’s name connected to them. He noted a specific instance after Louisville’s game against Charlotte on Sept. 1: Jackson was signing items for children, and adults were rotating in the line and attempting to sell signed helmets and balls in the parking lot.
Jackson has spearheaded the Cardinals’ 4-1 start, accounting for an NCAA-high 28 total touchdowns. He’s been considered a significant favorite for the Heisman since a 63-20 win over then-No. 2 Florida State in Week 3, though Clemson’s Deshaun Watson closed the gap a bit with Saturday’s 42-36 win over the Cardinals.
Odds Shark lists Jackson as a 2-5 favorite for the award. Watson is the only other player listed with 5-1 odds or better. Louisville has never had an athlete win the Heisman Trophy, which is awarded to the most spectacular player in college football.
Through the first month, there’s no question Jackson has been that player. Putting up numbers through the air and on the ground at a historic pace, Jackson has drawn raves reviews from analysts and former college stars; Michael Vick said Jackson is “five times” better than he was in college.
“Everything that you see him doing, you [saw] me do. Am I correct?” Vick told Steve Jones of the Courier-Journal. “He’s throwing touchdowns. You’re getting them through the air; you’re getting them on the ground. He’s making guys miss. He’s elusive. That’s everything I was when I was at Virginia Tech. And I was able to put together games where I was productive, and we won.”
This wouldn’t be the first time an autograph controversy has called a Heisman hopeful’s eligibility into question. A 2013 investigation into then-Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel led to his being suspended for one half, though the NCAA found no evidence he took money as alleged.
No one has accused Jackson of being tied to anyone selling items related to his name on eBay. However, their proliferation likely made No. 7 Louisville uncomfortable—especially given how much Jackson means to its College Football Playoff hopes.
Manziel was not suspended for signing autographs but, according to an NCAA bylaw (h/t SB Nation’s Peter Berkes), for the “the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind.”
If people are making money off Jackson’s name, it’s possible a similar situation could arise. Louisville is likely looking to cut this at the knees before any NCAA intervention.
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Source: Bleacher Report-CFB News