Top Georgia running back, Todd Gurley, has been suspended indefinitely for NCAA rules violations involving the signing of sports memorabilia for money. His case is similar to that of Johnny Manziel who faced similar accusations last year. Gurley, a Heisman Trophy favorite and potential top NFL draftee, may miss the rest of the Georgia University regular football season.
It has been reported that the Georgia compliance office received evidence that Todd Gurley signed upwards to 80 items for which he received $400. While the report states that a video of the improprieties is available, it does not include any exchange of money. Bryan Allen, allegedly received signed memorabilia from Gurley and paid him for it. He then notified several news media outlets of the NCAA violation while also hiring Ed Garland, an attorney.
So far this season Todd Gurley has rushed for 773 yards in five games while scoring eight touchdowns. As a Heisman forerunner, his dreams of winning the trophy have, in all likelihood, been shattered. He faces the possibility that the suspension could last for the remainder of the season.
The University of Georgia released an official statement declaring it does not support any NCAA rules violation. It does, however, continue to support its student athletes and, in this case, provided Gurley with legal counsel.Todd Gurley retained counsel who has extensive experience in such matters. The university will pay for Gurley’s attorney, which is not a violation under current NCAA rules.
Lightfoot Franklin and White, from Birmingham, Alabama, is the law firm representing the athlete. Gurley’s lead attorney is William King. King has vast experience in eligibility matters having represented quarterbacks Cam Newton from Auburn and Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M. The NCAA quickly reinstated both athletes. King is representing Gurley directly, unlike the Manziel case where he represented the university.
Pay for college athletes has long been a source of contention with the NCAA Universities. They maintain that athletes receive free tuition and room and board, while athletes maintain that universities profit by millions of dollars from games and memorabilia alike.
The ongoing federal case of O’Bannon vs. NCAA is arguing this very fact. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken recently ruled against the NCAA by stating that earning limits applied by the NCAA “unreasonably restrains trade.” In addition she ruled that the NCAA is in violation of federal antitrust laws.
She also issued an injunction preventing the NCAA from enforcing its bylaws that would preclude football and basketball recruits from sharing in revenues generated from the use of athlete’s notoriety. Revenue sharing would be an additional benefit to the grant-in-aid received by the athletes.
While the judge indicated her ruling would not be stayed while awaiting any potential appeal, she did, however, stipulate that her ruling would not be effective until the next basketball and football recruiting cycles begin. That will be sometime in 2016.
Technically Todd Gurley’s suspension should not be affected by this ruling. It is well within the timeframe she stipulated in her ruling. King is well aware of Judge Wilken’s ruling as well as the negative publicity ramifications the $400 alleged payment could have on the University of Georgia and NCAA as well. Using legal leverage it is hoped the indefinite suspension can be reduced appreciably.
Commentary By Hans Benes
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