Basketball analyst Jay Bilas loves college sports but is no friend of the NCAA, and that led Tuesday to a fascinating episode on Twitter that added a sidebar to the Johnny Manziel saga.
Bilas posted on his Twitter account a snapshot of the website ShopNCAAsports.com
, which was selling replica Texas A&M football jerseys with the No. 2.
The site is affiliated with the NCAA, and includes the organization trademarked logo on the page.
So, nothing to see here, right? All major sports leagues and organizations have online shopping sites.
Except, the NCAA is defending itself in lawsuit filed on behalf of athletes who are demanding compensation from the NCAA, claiming their likeness is being sold on items like jerseys.
The NCAA has insisted jerseys for sale and likenesses on video games are not connected to specific players. But Bilas typed in “Johnny Manziel” in the search box on the NCAA Shop page and the result was four different Texas A&M replica jerseys, uniform No. 2, which is Manziel’s.
Bilas, an ESPN analyst, also searched the NCAA site for South Carolina All-America defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and other current college football stars and was offered to purchase replica jerseys with their numbers as well. About an hour after Bilas’ tweets were posted Tuesday, the search function on the NCAA Shop website was removed, but Bilas and others on Twitter captured screen shots of their search results.
The seemingly conflicted message: The NCAA can cash in on replica jerseys that the organization believes have value because players such as Manziel and Clowney wear them. But the NCAA is essentially telling a federal judge in the Ed O’Bannon case that Manziel and Clowney don’t exist.
ESPN has reported Manziel is under NCAA investigation for selling his autograph to brokers after winning the Heisman Trophy and collecting as much as $10,000.
Manziel has practiced with the Aggies but did not meet with reporters during the football program’s media day on Monday, one day after the pay-for-autograph story surfaced.
If Manziel signed autographs for pay, he likely violated the NCAA amateur rules and could be ruled ineligible. If that happens after the season begins, and Manziel plays, the Aggies could be forced to forfeit games he played.
One thing that likely won’t happen: Pleading ignorance to the rules. Major college athletes are drilled in the amateur dos and don’ts — and cashing in on an autograph is an unequivocal don’t.
“Any student athlete who would say they didn’t know, they’re just not being truthful,” Kansas State athletic director John Currie said.