Georgia RB Todd Gurley suspended, stands accused of being paid for autographs


Georgia running back Todd Gurley, shown here stiff arming a Vanderbilt Commodore defender, is going to have more trouble stiff arming the NCAA.  The Bulldog tail back, regarded as one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy this far into the season, has been suspended, pending an investigation looking into whether Gurley accepted money for signing memorabilia.  As it currently stands, Georgia will be without their premier back as they prepare to take on Missouri in a monster game in the SEC East.

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A company that specializes in autograph authentication, James Spence Authentication or JSA, has stamped in excess of 250 items with their authentication with regards to Gurley’s signature.  The question facing the investigation is whether or not Gurley accepted money in exchange for the service, which would be against NCAA rules.

This particular issue came up with Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M last year where college football’s version of a plea bargain was reached and Manziel missed the first half of their opening game against Rice.  The issue of profiting off of one’s memorabilia is no secret to Georgia either after they lost their star-studded wide receiver A.J. Green for several games when he sold a game worn jersey.

While the offense hurts Gurley and his teammates in the short term, the NFL has never shown that this type of issue matters to them.  Green was selected 4th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft and has gone on to be a superstar for the Cincinnati Bengals.  Manziel was selected 22nd overall by the Cleveland Browns.

Issues when it comes to players, especially players that come from tougher backgrounds, regarding money never really have a big impact.  It is obviously legal for the NFL to pay players and they can pay them substantially.  If the only reason a player is stepping out of line is due to the fact that they were desperate for money, that issue resolves itself.

Nevertheless, this issue always comes back to the question of whether players should be able to be paid or not and what they should be able to profit off of due to their college fame.  In Gurley’s case, if he did indeed accept money, he was paid for writing his name.  He did not sell anything the school had given him or anything else; he simply wrote his name.  Some will argue players should be paid by the schools but the critics simply point out that even if collegiate players are paid, there will always be players that want more, will continue to take money illegally by NCAA standards and the problem does not go away.  In the meantime, Georgia has a huge distraction as they play a crucial game in their bid to win the SEC East.

Gurley is eligible to declare for the 2015 NFL Draft and if he did take money and he did need money, it is likely he will opt to declare for the NFL and this season will be his last in college.  Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix of Alabama ran into an issue last season where he took a loan from an assistant coach, who was later fired.  He then declared the draft after the season.  Greg Robinson made mention that he would have liked to stay another season at Auburn, but that pressing financial concerns for his family forced him to declare for the NFL Draft as a red shirt sophomore.  This investigation will only add fuel to the fire that Gurley is going to the NFL next season.