Todd Gurley knew the rules, even if they're stupid; he'll have to pay the price if he broke them

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Todd Gurley is indefinitely ineligible while Georgia investigates whether he signed autographs and merchandise for money, a source confirmed to Yahoo Sports. The news originally was reported by Fox Sports and other outlets.

If true, Gurley has violated an NCAA rule that is outdated, offensive and under fire, given the appealed lawsuit that overturned bylaws which limit what college athletes can receive for their name, image and likeness.

But it's still a rule.

And Gurley had to know the rule. Every college football and basketball player does.

So while I can disdain the hypocrisy of a system that allows schools to make tens of millions every year in media-rights money while prohibiting players from signing a football for a buck, I have little sympathy for the Heisman Trophy candidate running back. This isn't an existential question or philosophical debate or a legal argument: If you risk skirting the rules, you risk doing the time on the sideline if you get caught. That's the way it works in the real world.

How much time Gurley might do on the sideline is the question.

Todd Gurley was a top-three Heisman candidate in most polls. (AP)
Todd Gurley was a top-three Heisman candidate in most polls. (AP)

There is no shortage of Gurley-autographed items for sale on the Internet. All, some or none of those items might have been signed for free – but the proliferation of them at least raises the question of whether the junior had a significant cottage industry going. At the very least, he appears to have worn out a few Sharpies scrawling his signature on jerseys, pictures and other stuff.

By all reports, Georgia acted on its own to suspend him indefinitely while it looks into the situation. That's certainly a different tactic than the one employed last year by Texas A&M, which never seemed willing to unilaterally sit Johnny Manziel in a similar situation until agreeing to a lame, half-game penalty assessed by the NCAA. Against Rice.

The Bulldogs (4-1) are not playing Rice this weekend. They are playing Missouri (4-1) on the road, in a game that could have huge repercussions in the SEC Eastern Division. The Tigers currently are the only team in the East without a conference loss.

Thus this suspension – if it continues through Saturday – is a huge one. For the Georgia team and also for a guy who was in the top three in virtually every Heisman straw poll at this point in the season. There is much to lose.

Despite that, the Bulldogs apparently didn't blink. They're sitting their star for now.

Georgia has been aggressive in dealing with NCAA rules issues recently. It suspended legendary swimming coach Jack Bauerle for most of the 2013-14 season during an investigation into an academic situation involving star men's swimmer Chase Kalisz, and Bauerle remains suspended as this season starts as well.

That case will go before the Committee on Infractions next week, sources told Yahoo Sports. Which, come to think of it, might also be a reason why Georgia is dealing pre-emptively with Gurley. A cavalier response to a potential rules violation the week before the school has an NCAA hearing on another matter wouldn't be a good look.

This will, of course, renew the howls of outrage about the NCAA and its rulebook. There will be fresh calls for the power-five schools to secede and form their own governing body, which at least theoretically would allow a freedom for greater earning potential for athletes. The air will be filled with rants about the injustice of it all.

Which is all excellent existential fodder. But here in the real world, there is a set of rules for athletes to follow and they know what those rules are. If they smoke pot and fail a drug test, they're subject to penalties. If they accept free meals from local restaurants and get caught, they're subject to penalties. If they sign memorabilia for money and word gets out, they're subject to penalties.

College athletes may not like the rules, but that doesn't mean they don't exist or won't be enforced. Until they're changed, violating them risks everything.

More NCAAF coverage: