His signature is nothing to write home about but apparently enough people are willing to invest in Todd Gurley autographs that the Georgia star is a money-maker for dealers. Now, the University of Georgia’s leading rusher is on indefinite suspension and the reason, according to ESPN, is that he may have accepted money for autographs.
While Georgia’s athletic department stated only that the suspension was because of “an ongoing investigation into an alleged violation of NCAA rules”, ESPN and Sports Illustrated both reported the memorabilia connection on Thursday, with SI reporting that Gurley had accepted $400 to sign 80 items for a dealer last spring.
The magazine reported that Georgia’s compliance office had already been in contact with the man who paid for the autographs and that he indicated the existence of a photo and video of Gurley signing but that neither showed any money changing hands. That dealer, identified by multiple media outlets as Bryan Allen, has hired an attorney and according to a Georgia state representative, it’s possible he could be facing legal trouble.
On Friday, Deadspin posted a series of emails from a memorabilia dealer who indicated Gurley had agreed to do paid autograph signings, then made similar arrangement with other dealers, effectively devaluing the merchandise. The dealer’s way of getting back at Gurley, apparently, was to tell athletic officials about the improper payouts and get Gurley in trouble.
TMZ reported that Gurley was paid “just shy of $2,000 for two separate autograph sessions,” and that “someone was shopping the video”.
Gurley leads Georgia with 773 rushing yards and was an early Heisman Trophy candidate.
“I’m obviously very disappointed,” said UGA head football coach Mark Richt. “The important thing for our team is to turn all our attention toward preparation for Missouri.”
The story is strikingly similar to the investigation over Johnny Manziel’s signing sessions during his Texas A&M career, one that ended with the NCAA and Aggies’ athletic department saying they “found no evidence” Manziel had been paid for autographs. Manziel was suspended for the first half of the 2013 season opener against Rice. Why Manziel signed hundreds of autographs without compensation was a question that went unanswered. Gurley may not be so lucky based on the rapid nature of his suspension. On Friday, Manziel chimed in via Twitter:
— Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) October 10, 2014
On eBay, more than 200 signed Gurley items were listed as of Thursday night with over 250 having been sold since mid-summer including dozens of jerseys. Some carried certificates by James Spence Authentication and a couple of sellers had sold multiple jerseys, most in the range of $150-225.