Blair Kerkhoff

Good signs in Mississippi; bad signs on minihelmets

Mississippi State's Richie Brown (39) returns an interception during the first half of an NCAA college football game Texas A&M on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss.
Mississippi State's Richie Brown (39) returns an interception during the first half of an NCAA college football game Texas A&M on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss. AP

Mississippi schools and autographs.

There’s your college football first-half summary. Totals and highlights after these messages.

The Bulldogs are No. 1 for the first time. Ole Miss, at No. 3, has its highest ranking since the 1964 preseason poll. These are happy times in the Magnolia State, and this year’s Egg Bowl ticket should be the hottest of all time.

The state has produced more than its share of talent. Now more players are deciding to remain in-state and play for coaches Dan Mullen of Mississippi State and Hugh Freeze at Mississippi. Both will be associated with other jobs after this season, but assuming the finances are in place — and with SEC Network cash soon to flow to all league schools, nobody will be hurting — why would they leave?

Top recruits, passionate fans, conference network. Unless a coach’s heart is elsewhere, the elements to sustain success seem in place at both schools.

Now, if they can just keep their players from autographing minihelmets for profit.

Those are among the items signed by Georgia running back Todd Gurley and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston that are being peddled for hundreds. Minihelmets, full helmets, jerseys and other memorabilia signed by the college star. Just check out eBay.

Which is fine, unless the athlete got paid for the effort. While Georgia is looking into the case, Gurley has been suspended.

Florida State hasn’t taken that step with Winston, although ESPN has reported Winston’s signed items that have been authenticated number more than 2,000. Coach Jimbo Fisher contends Winston has “never taken a dime” for his signature, which would violate NCAA rules.

Somebody is making a dime. A minihelmet signed by Florida State’s three Heisman Trophy winners, Winston, Chris Weinke and Charlie Ward was selling for $499 on line.

Whether players should be paid for their signature or likeness can and has been argued. But at the moment, this is no-brainer. Rules say college athletes can’t be paid for this stuff.

Earlier this week, I asked Kansas coach Bill Self how the basketball program handles this issue. Watching players accommodate fans in Allen Fieldhouse outside the locker room after games is a cool sight and a treat for fans. This happens for as long as an hour after games.

“We try to limit it to one thing and have it be a child rather than an adult,” Self said. “But there’s no telling how many times you have children come bringing you 10 items to sign that isn’t for them. It’s for the adult that told them to do it and gave them $5 to get it done.”

Ideally, an athlete would personalize the signature, make it out to a person, which devalues the autograph.

Schools can counsel, educated and plead with their players to not sell their signature. They know the rules. Following them is their decision.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @BlairKerkhoff.

First-half highlights

▪ OFFENSIVE PLAYER: Dak Prescott, quarterback Mississippi State

▪ DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Shaq Thompson, linebacker, Washington

▪ Coach of the year: Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

▪ BEST GAME: Baylor 61, TCU 58

▪ SURPRISE TEAM (Not from Mississippi): East Carolina

▪ DISAPPOINTING TEAM: South Carolina

▪ BIGGEST UPSET: Arizona over Oregon

▪ COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF TODAY: Mississippi State, Florida State, Mississippi, Baylor

▪ PROJECTED CFP: Mississippi, Michigan State, Florida State, Oklahoma

Three can’t miss games

▪ SATURDAY: Notre Dame at Florida State

▪ NOV. 8: Baylor at Oklahoma

▪ NOV. 29: Mississippi State at Mississippi

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