CLEMSON — The drama surrounding star college athletes and their autographs, starring 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and featuring reactionary rulings by South Carolina, Louisville and Miami, has hijacked college football preseason headlines.
One of the high-profile players whose signature and semblance would be worth considerable sums of money, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd is undeterred by the scrutiny and controversy.
“You can’t control people, man,” Boyd said, “but at the same time, it doesn’t take my joy away from signing things for these kids and these families.”
Clemson’s Fan Appreciation Day is Sunday from 2:30-5 p.m. inside Memorial Stadium, when Boyd, head coach Dabo Swinney and the Tigers are available for autographs. Admission is free to the public.
Clemson utilizes the same policy as last year: only one autograph per person per player, but fans are permitted to bring in their own items for Swinney and the Tigers to sign.
That’s different than South Carolina, which only allowed players to sign the team-issued official poster at last week’s event. There was extra security flanking star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to ward off potential sellers, after the school’s brief internal investigation found no violations in terms of Clowney-signed memorabilia available at online retailers. (A Clemson spokesperson has said no plans are made for extra security around Boyd.)
At Miami, players only signed the team’s official poster Saturday, and in Louisville, no players will give autographs at all during today’s Fan Appreciation festivities featuring Heisman contender Teddy Bridgewater. Such decisions were made in response to breaking news of an NCAA investigation of Manziel’s potential pay-for-pen interactions with autograph brokers.
“We have monitored the situation closely, and we decided to protect the eligibility of our players and operate under the principle that it not permissible to accept any type of compensation for their autograph or the sale of memorabilia,” Louisville head coach Charlie Strong wrote in a university statement. “I know this will disappoint a lot of our fans, especially the young children who look up to our players, but I strongly feel this is the best decision for our football program.”
Clemson’s NCAA compliance department issued the following statement to The Post and Courier on Aug. 7.
“NCAA rules do not prohibit student-athletes from providing their autographs except when in exchange for money or other benefits. We educate our coaches and student-athletes on extra benefit legislation at the beginning and throughout the year. As an athletics policy we do not provide student-athlete autograph items or access to our student-athletes except at Fan Appreciation Day or any other sanctioned promotional event.”
Meanwhile, Boyd hears the hubbub about his likeness being used without any financial benefit for himself, the record-setting Clemson quarterback.
It simply doesn’t bother him.
“Not really. I mean, you can’t control if something gets sold,” Boyd said. “It’s not going to make me more cautious, because it’s at the point now where you can say anything. Somebody can take this towel, (sign it as) Tajh Boyd and then sell it.”
The lines will be long Sunday for Boyd and his teammates, which is why the fifth-year senior has worked on his efficiency with a pen in his hand.
“I think I finally perfected my signature,” Boyd said boyishly. “If you look from when I signed stuff from my freshman year to now, it looks like two different people signed it. I shortened it down, but it looks good, man. Looks better than ever.”
Whereas some star players tolerate Fan Day, Boyd calls it “cool” and awaits it eagerly.
“That’s why it’s so important for me to maintain a great image. And I pride myself on that,” Boyd said. “As much as people don’t think they’re role models, and much as they don’t want to be asked to be a role model … when you play football and put the uniform for Clemson, you’re a role model. It’s important to make sure you carry yourself in that manner.”