Georgia will be without its best player — and perhaps the best player in the country — indefinitely after the school announced that it had suspended Heisman Trophy frontrunner Todd Gurley indefinitely pending an investigation into potential NCAA rules violations.
Heres’s what you need to know:
1. Georgia Announced the Suspension Thursday
Though the matter being investigated involves NCAA rules and not team rules, the suspension was issued and announced by Georgia, which is preparing for an SEC showdown Saturday against Missouri.
Georgia coach Mark Richt issued a brief statement included in the school’s announcement:
I’m obviously very disappointed.The important thing for our team is to turn all our attention toward preparation for Missouri.
2. Gurley’s Future at Georgia Is in Question
Georgia said the suspension is indefinite, raising the possibility that Gurley, a junior, will never again suit up for the Bulldogs.
A junior with explosive speed and athleticism, Gurley is considered an elite NFL draft prospect and is widely expected to turn pro at the end of the season.
Georgia (4-1 overall, 2-1 SEC) has seven games remaining on its regular season schedule, with the finale coming November 29 against in-state rival Georgia Tech.
3. The Investigation Involves the Use of Gurley’s Likeness
Multiple media outlets are reporting that the investigation is into whether Gurley profited off of his likeness.
It’s against NCAA rules for players to profit on items such as autographs or memorabilia.
A source told ESPN’s Joe Schad that the NCAA investigation centers around whether Gurley was given money for autographs, memorabilia or the use of his likeness. Georgia officials did not reveal the alleged violation.
Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples reported Thursday that an unidentified dealer reported to Georgia’s compliance office this week that he paid Gurley $400 to sign 80 pieces of memorabilia on UGA’s campus last spring. Staples reported that the dealer claimed to have a photo and video of Gurley signing the items, but that neither the photo nor the video show money exchanging hands.
A check of the James Spence Authentication database revealed 90 consecutively numbered pieces of Gurley-signed memorabilia (J19709-J19799), as well as another lot of 20 consecutively numbered pieces (H85318-H85338) of Gurley-signed memorabilia. JSA is one of the leading autograph authentication services. Consecutive authentication numbers suggest all the items were submitted at once following a large-scale signing.
TMZ also reported Thursday that an unidentified person was trying to shop video and photos of Gurley signing memorabilia. It’s not clear whether the person referenced in the TMZ report and the person referenced in the SI report are the same person.
4. A Memorabilia Dealer Predicted on September 27 on Reddit That a High-Profile Player Would Be in Trouble
An unidentified memorabilia dealer wrote in a September 27 Reddit post that an unnamed by high-profile player would likely be getting busted for profiting off of memorabilia sales.
The user referenced an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) forum he had conducted in March in which he talked about his dealings with an unnamed player, with strong hints that the player was Gurley.
The dealer pointed out that there’s an enormous amount of Gurley memorabilia for sale on E-Bay — an amount that, as the Big Lead points out, is nearly four times the amount of memorabilia signed by Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariotta.
Here’s how the Reddit College Football Twitter account explained the events leading up to Gurley’s suspension:
In the March 27 thread, a Redditer asked the dealer how common it was for players to agree to sell their memorabilia and whether it was common for players to reject offers from dealers. The dealer answered that players commonly turn down requests for money and named Robert Griffin III, Tim Tebow and former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray — Gurley’s former teammate — as players who played by the rules.
It’s not illegal for college players to sign autographs, but it is illegal for them to profit off of them — an issue that prompted an investigation into a ton of autographs that Johnny Manziel signed at a New Haven, Connecticut hotel before the start of the 2013 season.
5. Gurley Had 8/5 Odds to Win the Heisman Before the Suspension
Entering the day, Bovada listed Gurley as the favorite to win the Heisman, just ahead of Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott and Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall.
A snapshot of the top of Bovada’s list:
Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: 8/5
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: 5/2
Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn: 11/2
Marcus Mariotta, QB, Oregon: 8/1
Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame: 10-1
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska: 12-1
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State: 20-1
Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M: 20-1
Melvin Gordon, QB, Wisconsin: 20-1