Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon's signature is a popular one these days and plenty of peope are making money off it.
MADISON - If you type the name Melvin Gordon into an eBay search, more than 620 matches pop up for the University of Wisconsin running back. Of those, 41 claim to have Gordon’s authentic signature on them. The asking price varies – with the low end at $12.95 for an 8x10 picture, and the high end being a full-size goal line pylon for $209.
How much money does Gordon make on those? Absolutely nothing due to NCAA rules on autographs and memorabilia.
“It’s crazy that they’re making money,” said Gordon, who went to a similar auction website just to see what was out there with his name on it. “It’s crazy. You think, like, man what if I got some money off that. I should get something, but it just doesn’t work out like that right now.”
It doesn’t and some of Gordon’s brethren are finding that out. Georgia’s Todd Gurley, who Gordon will likely battle to be the first running back off the board in the 2015 NFL Draft, has missed the last two games as the NCAA investigates whether the junior took $400 from a memorabilia dealer in exchange for signing 80 items. Up on eBay, there are 178 items with his autograph.
Down at Florida State, compliance officials have started an investigation into whether Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston received money for his signature. That came after ESPN reported that an authentication company was able to confirm that hundreds of items signed by Winston had been done so in sequential order, which raised some eyebrows.
However, to this point no one has stepped forward to say that they paid Winston to sign items, and his coach, Jimbo Fisher, stressed how accommodating his quarterback has been to fans and cited that as the reason for there being so many items.
Gordon can relate to Winston in that respect. The UW running back has become the face of the program and is among the leading contenders for the Heisman Trophy right now. He leads the country in rushing at 174.3 yards per game and is on pace to break Ron Dayne’s school record for yards (2,109) in a season. The line to get Gordon’s autograph at UW’s annual Family Fun Day in August stretched longer than anyone else’s. But that’s only one of the places Gordon is approached to sign something.
“You’re just walking and you have people come up and ask you to sign things,” Gordon said. “You never want to jump to conclusions, especially with the Jameis Winston thing. They say he had so many. Well he won the Heisman. So if it’s crazy for us, you can only imagine how crazy it is for him with signing things.”
The idea of others making money off an athlete without that athlete getting a dime has been front and center in recent years, most famously with the Ed O’Bannon case. The former UCLA basketball player sued the NCAA, arguing that the organization violated anti-trust laws by not allowing athletes to be compensated for the use of their likeness, names or images. The judge ruled in favor of O’Bannon in August saying players should be able to benefit, on a limited scale, from their school’s commercial efforts that use them.
Though the ruling is currently being appealed, it is just one aspect of a seismic shift when it comes to the NCAA and the way they do business.
Whether that will ever impact the player’s ability to make money off things they sign is unclear. NCAA president Mark Emmert told business leaders in Chicago on Monday that there has been no discussion of allowing it. But Gordon would certainly be on board if it did.
“I wouldn’t mind it all. It would be nice,” Gordon said. “I wouldn’t mind getting money for what we do.”