COLUMBIA — The autographs-for-money scandal that has ensnared Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M now threatens to include South Carolina star Jadeveon Clowney.
But USC football coach Steve Spurrier said after Wednesday night’s practice that he felt Clowney had not broken any rules or risked his eligibility.
“I’m confident that Jadeveon followed the rules,” Spurrier said. “College players know they can’t take money to sign autographs. I told Marcus (Lattimore) one time the best thing to do is to wait until your eligibility is up and then you can take all they can pay you. We’ve tried to get Jadeveon not to sign for everybody because guys will sell it.”
USC’s compliance and sports information offices said Wednesday there’s no evidence Clowney was paid for the many autographed items for sale on eBay.
“As far as I know, and I really believe, Jadeveon has never accepted anything for signing an autograph,” Spurrier said during an appearance on ESPN. Just this week, Spurrier closed USC practice to the public, citing autograph seekers as one reason.
Associate athletic director Chris Rogers told The State newspaper, “We have investigated things that have been on eBay with him and student-athletes before. In the situations I can say we looked into, there was no further for us to go, and we determined there was no violation.”
The NCAA is investigating whether Texas A&M quarterback Manziel was improperly paid for signing items that were later sold.
Media outlets reported Wednesday that items autographed by Clowney, many of them with certificates of authenticity, are available on the online auction site eBay.
“All these guys sign autographs, I sign them,”Spurrier said. “I don’t like signing them and mine isn’t as valuable as JD Clowney’s and Marcus Lattimore’s. I’ve tried to tell Marcus and JD not to sign for the autograph guys. A little kid or a Gamecock person, well, we sign for all of them.
“His autograph is out there, Marcus’ autograph is out there. Mine is out there, but I can get paid for mine and occasionally I’ve gotten paid to do it. I don’t mind telling you that.”
The fact that at least one eBay seller — known as “the_hub_collectibles” — listed items from both Manziel and Clowney attracted media attention.
The 19 Clowney items offered by that seller include signed helmets and footballs ranging between $299.95 and $399.95. The same seller has items signed by Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
USC senior defensive end Chaz Sutton said the players are warned about signing autographs all the time by coaches and school officials.
“You always have people coming up to you asking for autographs,” said senior defensive end Chaz Sutton. “You don’t know what their intentions are or what the case might be. You just have to be careful in what you say and what you do because everyone is under a microscope when you’re a major college football player.
“You’ve got to tell the guy no sometimes. If it’s for someone then you personalize it or you don’t accept anything even if they say they’ll give you such and such. You just go about your business and don’t autograph it all because you can jeopardize your eligibility.”
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said his school has found no evidence that Miller was paid for his autographs.
“We looked at it and most of the stuff was from the Big Ten Kickoff luncheon,” Smith told The Associated Press, referring to the league’s media days. “There’s no issue there ... But we’re not the only school — there’s a bunch of athletes up there and I’m sure [their schools] are all checking.”
Louisville officials said they were “comfortable no NCAA violation has occurred” with regard to Bridgewater.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron are some other star college players with signed items on eBay, also with certificates of authenticity.