USC: Clowney in the clear with autographs

Spurrier on Wednesday night: 'I am confident that Jadeveon has followed the rules'

jkendall@thestate.comAugust 7, 2013 

South Carolina has found no evidence of wrongdoing surrounding the signed, and purportedly authenticated, Jadeveon Clowney signatures on eBay, according to the school’s director of compliance.

“We have investigated things that have been on eBay with him and student-athletes before,” associate athletics director Chris Rogers said. “In the situations I can say we looked into, there was no further for us to go, and we determined there was no violation.”

In the wake of the NCAA’s reported investigation into whether Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was improperly paid for signing items that were later sold, schools around the SEC, the ACC and the nation are more focused on the potential landmine presented by the intersection of the sports memorabilia market and NCAA rules forbidding student-athletes from profiting from their name.

“We are regularly looking at things that are on those sorts of sites,” Rogers said. “It’s a difficult issue to get your arms around.”

Items signed by Clowney, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, among others, along with certificates of authenticity, are for sale on eBay.

Clowney, the Gamecocks’ junior All-America defensive end who is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, is the leader in volume, though. A search of the popular auction website for “Jadeveon Clowney” turns up 266 items for sale, including dozens that include a signature and come with a certificate of authenticity (COA).

“I have tried to tell Marcus (Lattimore) and JD not to sign for the autograph guys, but a little kid and a Gamecock person, we sign for all of them, so (Clowney’s) autograph is out there,” USC coach Steve Spurrier said. “I can get paid for mine and, occasionally, I have gotten paid, I don’t mind telling you that. Not much, but a little bit. They bring those Heisman things and helmets and stuff. College players know they can’t take money to do that. We have tried to get Jadeveon to not sign for everybody because those guys are selling them. I am confident that Jadeveon has followed the rules.”

Clowney’s name became connected to the Manziel story Wednesday morning as several national media outlets reported the volume of signed Clowney items that are available on eBay. Spurrier closed his team’s practices Sunday in part because of the distraction from autograph seekers stopping players, mostly Clowney, before practices.

One of the Clowney items for sale, a signed 8x10 photo, appears on eBay along with 11 photos of Clowney signing a photo in what appears to be a hotel room. The photos have the name Famouslyunknown written on them. Attempts to reach Famouslyunknown, who is listed as the seller of the item, through eBay were unsuccessful.

“I have seen pictures of him in a hotel signing stuff,” said Rogers, who confirmed he has seen the 11 photos with the 8x10 photo. “We are monitoring eBay regularly so any of those sorts of things that come, whether it’s autographed memorabilia, pictures of a student-athlete, whatever it might be, basically what we are trying to ascertain is, ‘Is there credible enough information for us to investigate further?’

“If you look up Jadeveon Clowney, there are hundreds and hundreds of hits. We are trying to ascertain which of those are worth pursuing and which are not.”

It is not an NCAA violation for a football player to sign an item. The problem would be if a student-athlete was paid for that signature, and South Carolina has found no evidence that has happened any time in the last academic year, Rogers said.

Clowney was not available for comment on the items. He was asked Sunday during the school’s media day about signing autographs.

“It’s difficult to say no to kids,” Clowney said. “A guy comes up to me for five or six autographs, and I’ll sign one. But I’m not going to sign all of them. I had a guy at the (Los Angeles) airport when I was last coming home from a trip, and they stopped me, with another guy, and I signed one and I left. He said, ‘What a …” He said something terrible to me. I was like, ‘Oh man, it ain’t my fault.’”

Rogers declined to say if he talked to Clowney as part of his investigation into the signed items, citing a policy to not speak on specifics of any investigation.

“Obviously, we have to deal in facts,” Rogers said. “When we are investigating those sorts of issues, we run out as far as we can run out with all the facts we have in front of us. Then you have to make a determination, is there any further to go or not?”

The NCAA declined comment when asked if it planned to investigate the matter further, citing its standard policy of not speaking publicly about investigations or possible investigations.

Many of the Clowney items for sale include signatures on the No. 7 of replica jerseys or helmets with inscriptions such as “2011 SEC ROY” (Rookie of the Year) or his 2012 statistics along with the signature. The placement of the signatures and the additional inscriptions make the items more valuable than an item that features a hasty scrawl that appears to have been made while a person was moving through an airport or another public venue.

Three hundred and seventy-seven Clowney items, many of them signed and including certificates of authenticity, have sold on eBay. The most expensive of the items is a pair of gloves said to be game-worn and signed that come with a certificate of authenticity and were on sale for $699. A replica full-size Gamecocks helmet with the signatures of Clowney and Lattimore also sold. That item was priced at $429.

At least one seller — “the_hub_collectibles” — has items for sale from both Manziel and Clowney, along with Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

More than 20 items with Boyd’s signature and a certificate of authenticity appear on eBay. At least 20 also have Watkins’ signature and a COA, the most expensive being a signed No. 2 jersey, with the signature on the number, selling for $399.

Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret told The State on Wednesday that the Tigers’ compliance office regularly monitors eBay and is “not aware of any (NCAA) problems” in regard to Boyd and Watkins’ signatures.

The numbers of signed items available are similar for other stars of the Southeastern Conference. A Georgia jersey signed by Murray, with the signature on one of the numeral ones in No. 11 and with a COA, is priced at $399.

An Alabama helmet with McCarron’s signature and the inscription “RTR” (Roll Tide Roll) is for sale for $499 and comes with a COA and a photo of McCarron signing the item, although the photo does not appear on the website.

A helmet signed by Crimson Tide running back T.J. Yeldon is priced at $399 and comes with a COA.

On Tuesday, Southern Cal released a statement saying it had investigated similar items for sale that were signed by star wide receiver Marqise Lee and had determined no NCAA violation was committed. The university also said it has issued a cease-and-desist letter to all sellers of the items with Lee’s signature.

Also on Tuesday, the NCAA disabled the search function on its website after former Duke basketball player and ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas pointed out that a search for “Clowney” brings up No. 7 jerseys for sale. The NCAA has tried to distance itself from being seen as profiting off specific student-athletes and does not sell jerseys with the player’s name on the back.

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