The NCAA's legal battles are already affecting the ways some schools have decided to produce jerseys for fans to purchase for the 2014 season.
According to ESPN, Arizona, Northwestern and Texas A&M will all produce jerseys without the number of a player on the 2014 roster. While college jerseys sold to the public don't have names on the back (because they're the jerseys of the school and not the players, remember?) the jerseys are typically produced with the number of the most popular players on the roster.
In Johnny Manziel's two years at A&M, the No. 2 jersey was a hot seller. It's easy to figure out why it was.
But in 2014, it will sell No. 12, which symbolizes the 12th Man tradition the school holds near and dear to its heart. Northwestern will sell No. 51, while Arizona will sell No. 14 for 2014. Arizona's athletic director told ESPN the school had been debating making the move for a while.
Officials with Northwestern and Texas A&M declined to comment, but college sports insiders have expected a move like this designed to lessen the legal exposure of the schools and change the public perception of taking advantage of college athletes as they fight harder for their commercial rights.
The move to No. 51 is for Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, who wore the number when he played at the school. Fitzgerald, has been a staunch advocate of the school in the union movement led by Kain Colter. Given the National Labor Relations Board's ruling that the Northwestern players were employees of the school and had the right to form a union if they so chose, will people buy Fitzgerald's number as a sign of support for the school? Putting his number on the jersey is not only convenient and avoids any likeness complaints, but it can also be seen as a marketing tactic of sorts.
Last year, Northwestern sold No. 2 jerseys. That was Colter's number.
Could the lack of real numbers mean a decline in revenue? Possibly. But there's also another angle to consider. While A&M had Manziel last year, Arizona had Ka'Deem Carey, one of the best running backs in the country and Colter played all four years at Northwestern. All three were widely recognizable and no longer on their teams' rosters. Going to a non-associated number is an easier decision without a big name on the team. If Manziel had stayed for his junior season, would Texas A&M still be selling No. 2 jerseys? It's certainly an interesting thought.
- - - - - - -