According to the NCAA student-athlete code of conduct, student-athletes are unable to make money off of their celebrity football status, including public appearances, bribes, and gifts.
After yesterday’s events, no football program should understand that better than the University of Georgia.
For the second time in the past five years, the Bulldogs saw a star player under investigation for charging money for autographs, as running back Todd Gurley was suspended indefinitely while an investigation takes place. Gurley, a Heisman frontrunner, follows in the footsteps of former Bulldogs wide receiver A.J. Green.
Darren Rovell of ESPN, reported through a source that “it was known that Gurley was seeking between $8 and $25 per signature, charging less to an autograph dealer if he signed more pieces.” This incident falls under the impermissible benefit category of the NCAA, one that has been taking heat while universities exploit their student-athletes for millions of dollars.
According to FOX Sports’ Bruce Feldman, Gurley’s suspension is expected to be 2-3 games, meaning he would return for either the November 1 meeting with rival Florida, or November 8 against Kentucky. Gurley is 7th in the country in rushing yards with 773 and is averaging an astounding 8.2 yards per carry. The junior running back has back-to-back games of at least 150 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Gurley even completed a 50-yard pass earlier in the year.
His impact on the Bulldogs’ offense couldn’t be more great, and head coach Mark Richt will have to survive the storm in the heart of the SEC season.
Richt issued a statement through the school and it was your typical coach lingo. “I’m obviously very disappointed,” Richt said. “The important thing for our team is to turn all our attention toward preparation for Missouri.” With the shocking starts of Ole Miss and Mississippi State, the SEC is deeper than ever and dropping even one game is a major setback.
Georgia will have to dodge three potential bullets without their best player.
Richt and Georgia went through this before with Green, who is now a star receiver with the Cincinnati Bengals. Green was suspended the first four games of the 2010 season after he sold autographed memorabilia to what the NCAA perceived as an agent.
Green entered the draft after the shortened season and it wouldn’t be surprising if Gurley, a possible Top 10 pick, did the same.
Gurley’s suspension is just the latest blow to their backfield depth, which has been depleted all season. Backup Keith Marshall and talented freshman Sonny Michel have both suffered injuries and missed games this season.
Nick Chubb, who has 234 rushing yards this season, is expected to start against Missouri, but he’s no Todd Gurley.
As with any other controversy in sports, social media was filled with opinions left and right, most of them supporting the embattled running back. The “#FreeGurley” hashtag was trending in the United States yesterday, as fans voiced their displeasure about a student’s inability to make money off his success just because he is a college athlete.
Meanwhile, retailers and schools are able to make money off their student-athletes. A Gurley replica jersey can be bought online for $90. Last year, the Georgia athletic program brought in nearly $100 million in revenue, paying the players zero dollars and zero cents of that.
That’s another issue in itself that the NCAA will have to figure out.
Whether or not Gurley’s alleged incident is fair or not, it’s an NCAA rule, and Gurley knew it. His actions will certainly dampen Georgia’s slim hopes of making the inaugural college football playoff and his name will be included with the likes of other SEC stars like Johnny Manziel and Marcel Dareus.
Gurley will be making millions of dollars in the NFL shortly, but his mistake for what will soon be petty cash, will cost him some of the last games of his college career.
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