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NCAA president Mark Emmert on Thursday said college sports' governing body would stop selling individual jerseys and other team-related memorabilia on its website, calling the practice a "mistake" and admitting others might view it as hypocritical.
The NCAA's decision comes on the heels of ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas exposing the controversial enterprise on Twitter earlier this week. Bilas criticized the NCAA for selling jerseys of popular college basketball and football players on its ShopNCAAsports.com website.
In the national office, we can certainly recognize why that could be seen as hypocritical, and indeed I think the business of having the NCAA selling those kinds of goods is a mistake, and we're going to exit that business immediately. It's not something that's core to what the NCAA is about, and it probably never should have been in the business.” -- NCAA president Mark Emmert on why jersey, memorabilia sales will stop
Bilas typed the names of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and other high-profile players into the NCAA site's search function and received back matching jerseys. The NCAA disabled the search function after Bilas exposed the results.
"In the national office, we can certainly recognize why that could be seen as hypocritical, and indeed I think the business of having the NCAA selling those kinds of goods is a mistake, and we're going to exit that business immediately," Emmert said. "It's not something that's core to what the NCAA is about, and it probably never should have been in the business."
Mark Lewis, the NCAA executive vice president of championships and alliances, confirmed the site will stop selling team and player merchandise.
"Moving forward, the NCAA online shop will no longer offer college and university merchandise," Lewis said. "In the coming days, the store's website will be shut down temporarily and reopen in a few weeks as a marketplace for NCAA championship merchandise only. After becoming aware of issues with the site, we determined the core function of the NCAA.com fan shop should not be to offer merchandise licensed by our member schools."
Emmert said he didn't know when the NCAA started offering individual school's merchandise on its website and added that the governing body didn't make money off the sales because it was an aggregator site. The NCAA retail site was copyrighted by Fanatics Retail Group. Emmert said the site would continue to offer NCAA-related merchandise.
"It's been done for a long time, so I can't tell you when and [how] long it's been doing it," Emmert said. "I don't believe [the NCAA] should have been in this business."
The NCAA is involved in multiple lawsuits regarding the use of names and likeness of college athletes. A group of current and former student-athletes, headed by former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon, is attempting to have a federal lawsuit against the NCAA, Electronic Arts and Collegiate Licensing Co. classified as class action. The plaintiffs claim their names and likeness are being used illegally in live broadcasts and video games because they're not being compensated for the use.
Meanwhile, ESPN's "Outside the Lines" reported earlier this week that the NCAA is investigating whether Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, violated its rules by signing photographs and other memorabilia for fees. A memorabilia dealer told ESPN that Manziel was paid at least $10,000 to sign several items while he attended the Discover BCS National Championship in Miami in January, and a second dealer said he paid Manziel $7,500 to sign merchandise.
Manziel, who is practicing with the Aggies during preseason camp, hasn't commented on the allegations.
While not speaking specifically about Manziel, Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch, the NCAA Division I board of directors chairman, said he agreed with the NCAA's current amateurism rules, which prohibit players from profiting from their likeness.
"I stand by the NCAA's commitment to amateurism," Hatch said. "I think the way we've done that is the correct way. I think the rules that we have I agree with."
Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon, chairwoman of the NCAA executive committee, added: "We have an obligation when we agree to join something to adhere to the rules that are essential for the integrity of that operation."
Emmert said he "absolutely agreed with those statements."
The NCAA executive committee concluded a series of meetings in Indianapolis on Thursday in which it discussed possible changes to the structure of Division I athletics. Last month, commissioners of several BCS football conferences voiced concerns about the way major college football is governed and suggested dramatic changes were needed. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby went as far as saying a fourth division or federation of major college football programs was needed to ensure they could make their own rules without resistance from lower-budget programs.
Hatch said discussion about a new structure of governance would continue through November with member institutions and conferences. Hatch said he hoped formal proposals of a new structure would be submitted at the NCAA Convention in San Diego on Jan. 15-18 and that changes might be made by August 2014.
"Our goal is to have a plan that can be adopted a year from now," Hatch said. "There's no doubt this is an ambitious timeline for this important work."
Simon also gave Emmert a vote of confidence, saying the embattled NCAA president was an "integral part of our process to move forward and to strengthen the NCAA as the voice of college sports."