- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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Texas A&M fans won’t be able to buy and wear No. 7 jerseys in the stands at Kyle Field this year, as Aggies officials have turned down requests from at least two national retailers that contacted the school after the performance of quarterback Kenny Hill last Thursday night in the team’s 52-28 win over South Carolina.
The retailers were trying to get the university to change its stance that it wouldn’t sell specific player jersey numbers this season.
Despite the potential lure of royalties, sources say Texas A&M, as well as other schools including Arizona and Northwestern, have shied away from allowing licensees from making and retailers from selling specific player jersey numbers in light of current litigation brought by former players against the NCAA. While the O’Bannon decision doesn’t address how and if players would be compensated specifically for jersey sales, some programs are being conservative to minimize potential future liability.
Northwestern is only selling No. 51, the former jersey number worn by its head coach, Pat Fitzgerald, when he played at the school in the mid-90s. University of Arizona is selling No. 14, as in the final two digits of the year, while Texas A&M has decided to only sell No. 12. The move by A&M to deny requests to make product with Hill’s number confirms the school’s desire to stay away from the ambiguity of selling jerseys that can be attributed to current players.
“Texas A&M has a long history of using the number 12 on jerseys out of respect for Texas A&M’s famous 12th man tradition,” said Shane Hinckley, interim vice president of marketing and communications for the school. “As previously stated, we will only be using the number 12 on jerseys going forward despite requests for other numbers.”
Hill, a sophomore, threw for 511 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in the season-opening win.
In the wake of Hill’s performance, fans and retailers have been quick to clamor for anything related to the new man at the helm.
One Texas man filed for a “Kenny Football” trademark, a play on “Johnny Football,” the moniker for Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winner whose No. 2 jerseys have been the most popular in the country over the last two seasons. Hill himself said Tuesday he preferred “Kenny Trill.” Trill is a mix of “true” and “real” that has made its way into the hip-hop lexicon thanks to Houston rapper Bun B.
While much attention was focused on the school selling Manziel jerseys, only 2 percent of total royalties the school took in from merchandise came from jersey sales. Over the last two school years, Texas A&M has made a total of $152,133 on jersey sales.
4hEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf