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NCAA's Autograph Rule Is Dumb

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No matter how much money colleges and the NCAA collect from memorabilia, players aren't allowed to receive a penny for signing autographs. Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images.
No matter how much money colleges and the NCAA collect from memorabilia, players aren't allowed to receive a penny for signing autographs. Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images.

There’s a road not far from where I live that leads to a bridge crossing the Hudson River. It’s two lanes traveling in each direction and they are as wide as you’d find on any major interstate in the country. 

The problem with this road is that it travels down a pretty steep hill, and the speed limit is only 25 mph. 

Nobody actually follows the speed limit on this road because the road has no earthly right being a 25 mph zone. As a result, local and state law enforcement have turned this into a happy hunting ground. It’s only when you see another car pulled over, or if you get pulled over yourself, that you remember how truly dumb are the rules placed on this particular stretch of road. 

The extremely low speed limit may be a parfait with flavored ice cream and fruit and nuts coated in stupid to fill in the layers, but it doesn’t change the reality of the speeding ticket the cops continue hand out. The law is the law, as they say. 

In the wake of the Johnny Manziel autograph debacle, fellow stars Jadeveon Clowney, Teddy Bridgewater, Marquise Lee, and Braxton Miller all had their respective schools check in to make sure they didn’t get paid for the autographs they signed. Thankfully, all players were cleared in the probes. 

The entire run of events — from Johnny Football’s latest faux pas to the probe into the other players — made me think of this patch of asphalt leading up to the Mid-Hudson Bridge. Nobody’s quite sure why this rule is in place. It’s certainly a stupid rule. But the people who break it are equally as foolish because the media has documented other, similar offenses in the recent past. 

If you strip away the legalese contained within the rule, it essentially states that no student athlete can profit off of his or her celebrity. Only the NCAA and the student-athlete's school get to do that. 

Putting hypocrisy aside, it’s important to remember we aren’t talking about pay for play or contracts that would require agents. We’re talking about an individual having the ability to profit from his or her own marketability, which, as we’ve learned, can be a fleeting position. 

I didn’t have a discernible skill set in college that would have made my name worth anything, but you can rest assured if I did, I would have attempted to make some money off of it and I would have been allowed to because I wasn’t on scholarship.

The NCAA and the schools aren’t the only ones to blame. The rule may be idiotic, but they aren’t the ones breaking it; the student athletes are. 

Just three years ago, Ohio State fired Jim Tressel after Terrelle Pryor and four other players got busted for trading memorabilia for tattoos. Earlier in the same year, Georgia’s A.J. Green served a four-game suspension for selling a jersey for $1,000. 

With the level of publicity that both violations got, there’s no excuse to be unaware of the consequences.

The problem is, the NCAA can’t repeal the rule. Boosters would make millionaires out of student-athletes within a week through appearance fees alone. 

Reworking the rule so a player could capitalize on his name would be a good start. Some people might even call it smart. Keeping regulations on the amount of money players can make and the amount of hours they are allowed to make it would keep things fair. 

What would we have to talk about if the stupid autograph rule was gone? Football?

That day can't come fast enough.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a court date for doing 40 mph in a 25 mph zone.