The NCAA is getting out of the memorabilia business.
NCAA President Mark Emmert said Thursday it would stop the practice immediately after reports this week that team jerseys and other items linked to individual schools could be found on its own website by searching for specific player names.
“I think seeing the NCAA sell those kinds of goods is a mistake,” Emmert said during a conference call with reporters. “It’s not what the NCAA is about. So we’re not going to be doing that any longer.”
The NCAA is being sued by former players and a handful of current college players in federal court over the use of athlete images and likenesses. And just this past week, ESPN reported that the NCAA is investigating Heisman Trophy-winner Johnny Manziel for allegedly being paid to sign memorabilia, which if true could jeopardize eligibility as a violation of NCAA amateurism rules.
Emmert said the commercial site won’t be completely removed because there is still a market for generic NCAA apparel. He said the NCAA had hired another company to run the site, ShopNCAASports.com.
Mark Lewis, the NCAA’s executive vice president for championships and alliances, also released a statement, saying university merchandise would not be offered, either.
“In the coming days, the store’s website will be shut down temporarily and reopen in a few weeks as a marketplace for NCAA championship merchandise only,” Lewis said. “After becoming aware of issues with the site, we determined the core function of the NCAA.com fan shop should not be to offer merchandise licensed by our member schools.”
The move overshadowed a news conference that was intended to update reporters about possible changes to the NCAA’s governance structure. Members of the board of directors and executive had a preliminary discussion on potential changes, though no vote is expected until next August.
Instead, the hot topics became Manziel, NCAA rules and the website fiasco.
Board chairman Nathan Hatch was asked whether some of the NCAA rules regarding payments to college athletes should be modified.
“I stand by the NCAA’s commitment to amateurism, and I believe the way we’ve done that is the correct way,” the Wake Forest president said. “So I believe the rules we have, we agree with.”
The NCAA’s new enforcement chief, Jonathan Duncan, later told The Associated Press he does not anticipate modifications to those rules, either.
“Based on my experience before coming to the national office, I know that lots of member groups, cabinets and committees have looked over the years and that lots of changes have been proposed and have not been approved,” he said. “It’s up to the membership and if they change the rules, the enforcement staff will follow their lead.”
And, of course, back to more memorabilia questions.
“We’re exiting it as soon as we feasibly can,” Emmert said. “Again, I think it was inappropriate for us to be in that business, and we won’t be in the future.”