Mark Emmert acknowledges hypocrisy of NCAA selling jerseys, insists it will stop
Jay Bilas didn't just send NCAA officials scrambling to remove the search function from ShopNCAASports.com with his Twitter rant earlier this week.
The ESPN college hoops analyst also apparently singlehandedly shut down a minor NCAA revenue stream.
In a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon, NCAA president Mark Emmert admitted it was "a mistake" for his organization to be involved in any capacity in the sale of player jerseys. Emmert wasn't sure how much money the NCAA made annually from merchandise sales if any, but he said that didn't matter, insisting "We're going to exit that kind of business immediately."
The change of direction from the NCAA comes two days after Bilas exposed the hypocrisy of amateurism rules forbidding schools from selling jerseys with player names on the back but allowing the sale of jerseys with a star player's number. Bilas encouraged his 542,000 Twitter followers to visit ShopNCAASports.com, type the names of prominent college football and basketball players in the search box, and watch jerseys from their corresponding school and with their corresponding jersey numbers pop up for sale.
[Y! Sports Radio: Ed O'Bannon discusses his suit against the NCAA]
It worked for numerous star athletes from Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel to Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd to South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, to Louisville point guard Peyton Siva, to Kentucky center Nerlens Noel. Jerseys for dozens of other players might have appeared the same way had the search function on ShopNCAASports.com not vanished from the site two hours after Bilas began his rant.
"I certainly understand how people can see that as hypocritical," Emmert said.
The abrupt policy change was probably Emmert's attempt at damage control. The NCAA certainly doesn't need more negative press at a time when its amateurism model is under fire from all corners. Furthermore, the entire incident was providing further ammunition for Ed O'Bannon's lawyers in his legal battle over revenue generated from athletes’ likenesses.
The only remaining question following Emmert's press conference is whether schools will ever follow the NCAA's lead. That's highly doubtful since jersey sales are a far greater source of revenue for schools than the NCAA.
Regardless, Emmert's statements were significant because they represented one of the few times the NCAA president has publicly acknowledged the hypocrisy of one of his organization's rules.
Credit Emmert for his honesty. And credit Bilas for forcing the NCAA president's hand.
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