On Thursday, the University of Georgia announced that the Bulldogs star running back Todd Gurley was indefinitely suspended pending an investigation into an alleged violation of NCAA rules. This allegation, if true, can hurt Gurley in more ways than dropping his chance at winning the Heisman Trophy this season.
Sources report that the NCAA investigation centers around whether Gurley was given money for autographs, memorabilia or the use of his likeness. Georgia officials did not reveal the alleged violation.
“I’m obviously very disappointed,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said in a statement. “The important thing for our team is to turn all our attention toward preparation for Missouri.”
Gurley was considered the Heisman frontrunner at this time, with him missing just one game practically blows his chances to grasp the award.
Another way this suspension is damaging is the timing and how it will affect the Bulldogs on the field. Gurley, a junior, leads the Bulldogs with 773 yards and eight touchdowns on 94 carries. He also has 11 catches for 53 yards. Plus, you can also add to his list of accomplishments another score from his duties as a kick return specialist. It is quite obvious that he is the most important part of the Bulldogs’ offense and considered one of the most productive players in the country. Now they have to look in their running back corps to find a player to compensate what Gurley was giving them. Freshman Nick Chubb, who ranks second on the team with 234 yards rushing and has three total touchdowns, is the likely candidate to start this Saturday when the No. 13 Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1 SEC) face No. 23 Missouri (4-1, 1-0) at Faurot Field in a crucial Eastern Division game.
This unpleasant situation started when a person confirmed to Georgia’s compliance office this week that he paid Gurley $400 to sign 80 items on campus in Athens, Ga., one day this past spring. The person claimed to have a photo and video of Gurley signing the items, but neither the photo nor the video showed money changing hands. In addition, Deadspin had an email from the same individual and he told the liberal sports website that Gurley “screwed him.”
“I spent a few grand on the signing and Gurley has since kind of screwed me by doing this with about 30 other guys. The stuff has lost a ton of its value. Just wanna recoup some of my money.”
One source in the autograph industry told ESPN’s Darren Rovell 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. Noted autograph authentication company James Spence Authentication, meanwhile, has authenticated at least 500 Gurley signed items with certificates of authenticity, including more than 300 jerseys, more than 30 mini-helmets, more than 70 photos and even 10 baseballs and nine Nike cleats.
ESPN verified the authentication through JSA’s website, which allows the purchaser of an authenticated item to type in the serial number on the card provided with the item and match it with the authentication owner’s records. Items with serial numbers L39251 to L39551 all showed up as Gurley-signed jerseys, meaning it was likely done at one time and sent in by the same person or company. Whether Gurley received money for them, however, is unknown.
According to NCAA rules, the school is required to immediately declare a player ineligible if they discover a violation has been committed. A suspension depending on the value of the benefit. If the value of the impermissible benefit is $100 or less, the player must repay the amount he or she received. If the value ranges from $100 to $400, a 10 percent withholding penalty is applied in addition to the repayment. That withholding penalty increases to 20 percent for amounts from $400 to $700, and to 30 percent to amounts greater than $700.
A 10 percent withholding penalty would equal 1.2 games (based on a 12-game season) and be rounded up to two games. A 20 percent withholding would equal 2.4 games and be rounded up to three games. A 30 percent penalty would equal 3.6 games and be rounded up to four games. Lengthier penalties could be applied, and mitigating circumstances can also affect the penalties. Schools may then apply for the player’s reinstatement
There’s been players in the past who have violated the NCAA bylaws and went on to have promising careers in the NFL. One example was former Georgia star receiver A.J. Green. He was suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season after he acknowledged selling his Independence Bowl jersey to a former North Carolina player, who was regarded as an agent by the NCAA. Green had to repay the $1,000 he received, which went to charity, and the suspension darkened his final season with the Bulldogs. He went on to become a first-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals.
One might think that there’s discrepancies between what’s happening to Gurley and what happened to former Texas A&M star quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was investigated before the 2013 season when reports surfaced that he had received money for signing autographs. The NCAA reached an agreement with the school for Manziel to sit out the first half of the opening game against Rice, with no finding that the player did anything wrong. Even though you can still be skeptical about “no findings” part with the Manziel situation, there’s proof that Gurley did the on-campus signings last spring. It was thoughtful for Manziel to show his support for Gurley.
— Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) October 10, 2014
I’m one who believes that college athletes should get some type of stipend while they are in school and making money for the school, whether it is on the basketball court, football field or any type of athletics where the player AND the school would get some exposure. Right now that is not in existence and there are NCAA rules prohibiting you from making money off of yourself. Most of us may not like it, but rules are rules and Gurley allegedly broke it and he might end up paying for it by missing his chance of grasping the Heisman trophy and if he thinks about entering the draft next year, this is how his college football career will end.