3 major colleges to stop selling jersey numbers of star players

Submitted by Wolverine Devotee on June 5th, 2014 at 5:31 PM

Normally I don't like doing more than one thread in a day, but this is some pretty big news.

Arizona, Northwestern and Texas A&M will not be selling the jersey numbers of star players this season. Instead, they will move to generic numbers. 

Example: A&M sold thousands of #2 jerseys last year. This year, they will only sell #12. For the 12th man tradition they have.

A couple of posters on here were mentioning this topic on Twitter so I thought it'd be interesting. 




June 5th, 2014 at 5:35 PM ^

They're going to make less money on jersey sales so - they hope - they don't have to share more of what they make now on jersey sales with the players.  


June 5th, 2014 at 5:40 PM ^

Or because under the current rules they can't share it with the players.  I'd imagine there are some schools that wouldn't mind sharing revenue from things like jersey sales with players if it allowed them to sell more jerseys.  But it's a liability to sell "player's jerseys" as the NCAA is batting .000 in their EA lawsuits.


June 5th, 2014 at 5:47 PM ^

Michigan can't give Denard Robinson a percentage of the No. 16 jerseys sold, but he may well be able to get that money if he sues the school.  There ought not to be a situation like that.  Something is standing in the way of common sense here, and that something is the NCAA. 

Your point is a good one given the current system, but I imagine Northwestern in particular is doing this to try to keep that system more than to try to avoid liability. 


June 5th, 2014 at 5:37 PM ^


Really hard to define 'generic'.  98 would be extremely generic for most schools.  #1 wasn't much before A.C.  What if Michigan had been selling #16 as generic pre-Denard..would they then stop selling #16 and go to #7? If A & M's next star happens to wear #12 will they stop selling it? 

Seems really hard to control/predict.

Mr Miggle

June 5th, 2014 at 9:45 PM ^

Giving individual players a cut of their jersey sales is going to be tricky. Offering recruits #1 or #2 and probably #16 jerseys here would be a way of guaranteeing them extra money. Then there will be the issue of schools promoting one or two players, like some of those Heisman candidates.

I bought the number of my class year as a freshman. I have to admit I didn't know who wore it.


June 5th, 2014 at 5:38 PM ^

Ace and I debated this for a while on Twitter.  I think the idea sucks, but that's because I want to buy the numbers of the current stars like has been the system.  People who like to wear jerseys, like to wear the numbers of their favorite players, be it past or present.  And when I buy my son a jersey, he likes to see that guy out on the field.  

I don't know how Michigan would handle this.  Ace suggested they pick the number of a former star, but then the school couldn't allow a current player to wear that number.  


June 5th, 2014 at 6:04 PM ^

to the "build your own" jersey company. Michigan gets some cash and avoids the responsibility of directly selling the player's jersey.

Conversely, Michigan could set up a web site where all numbers are available and the buyer builds the jersey. That way Michigan isn't directly promoting one guy (or a couple). Want a #1 jersey? Buy it to represent the former or current player of your choice.


June 5th, 2014 at 6:22 PM ^

Again, I don't know if that would solve it though, it might just put the liability on the jersey company.  Just like now I can buy a jersey with whatever number I pick with my own last name on the back, unless my last name is Morris and I want #7, for example.  I feel like your solution would be a problem for the same reason.


June 5th, 2014 at 6:49 PM ^

A customer purchases a Jersey sans name and number and then at a shop around the corner he asks them to to apply a few numbers and letters.  And suppose the numbers he chose are a four and a seven, with letters J M F R.  Who does Jake Ryan sue and for how much?


June 5th, 2014 at 7:00 PM ^

It depends on how much affiliation, if at all, that little place has with the university.  If it's truly just a little shop on a corner and nothing else, than it doesn't make enough business to worry about.  Just like if my mom makes me a t-shirt with 47 and "Ryan" on the back, no one will sue my mom.  But if any entity starts doing that at a decent volume, then there's a problem.  

Wolverine Devotee

June 5th, 2014 at 5:42 PM ^

Here is my solution, and as a jersey dweeb, scratch that, an apparel dweeb who flocks to buy the next thing out.....why not just do ONE Home jersey and ONE Road jersey. Fan's choice of number.

M-Den already does this. Make all the pre-made #98s disappear. If someone wants a #98, they can choose to get it. 

If a place like Dick's Sporting Goods wants a rack of #47 jerseys, they can put in an order for X amount of #47 jerseys. 


June 5th, 2014 at 5:56 PM ^

Which is a cool idea, but what if Michigan wants to give someone the #1?  Does the AD have to sell a different number that year?  A better example would be one of our retired numbers, but those have been unretired now.  If we ended that tradition it could work, but most of them are weird numbers that fans wouldn't be excited to buy.  


June 5th, 2014 at 5:49 PM ^

...or even about "school spirit" or something like that.  But this is almost certainly mostly about avoiding unions and player requests for better compensation.  It seems very unlikely to me that only these three schools have lawyers who are so worried about liability that they've decided to make this change. 


June 5th, 2014 at 8:37 PM ^

Maybe, but I'm not sure it how much liability this would really absolve.  Yes, it would be harder for an individual player to point to sales of a specific jersey, but that would only speaks to amount of compensation they might be entitled to, not the liability itself.  In other words, the question of whether or not the school would be liable to players and the question of how much compensation a player would entitled to once liability has been found are two different legal questions.

Even then, it would not change the total theoretical amount the school might be liable for - the school would still have the same total amount of liability to all of the players as a class, even if no one player would be able to point to sales of a specific jersey.  


June 5th, 2014 at 5:59 PM ^

Just give these guys a cut and call it a day.  No one wins if they just stop selling the numbers of the most popular players.  Especially the fans.  


June 5th, 2014 at 6:17 PM ^

I agree that no one wins in this scenario.  But in terms of paying the players, do you pay the former players too?  If some walk-on or redshirting freshman takes #16 the year after Denard graduates, does he get the money for the #16 jerseys sold that year?  Or the guy who grabbed #2 after Woodson left?  

j.o.s.e maizenblue

June 5th, 2014 at 6:00 PM ^

"1234" would be the perfect jersey number... they would never have to worry about it being worn by anyone, its as generic as it gets and it would open the door to other popular jerseys numbers such as 1243,1324, 1342, 1423, 1432, 2134, 2143, 2314, 2341, 2413, 2431, 3124, 3142, 3214, 3241, 3412, 3421, 4321, 4231, 4123, 4132, 4231, 4213.... now if they really want to get creative they could use consecutive numbers like 1111, 2222, 3333, 4444 or even better use symbols such as !,@,#,$


June 5th, 2014 at 6:10 PM ^

You know, the way that I think the NCAA got around the number questions until the outcome of the O'Bannon suit was to say that these numbers which they chose to sell were random numbers, even if they were obviously not. I could be wrong, but I believe a couple ADs mentioned this at points in defense of the practice. Now that they've lost that argument, it seems like there is a growing retreat from this in favor of, well, either numbers that do not attach to people or history as much, or to symbolic numbers, like TAMU's #12. 

I sort of agree with the guys at SBNation - this seems to be about the lack of faith school have the NCAA's arguments about the supposed "randomness". It does seem like schools are starting to wonder if that was not the correct path, if you will, and we are beginning to see some concessions being made. Most schools don't make much on merchandising compared to other revenue streams, so a 20%-25% cut in that figure might create less leeway in the budget, but it won't kill them. 

Avon Barksdale

June 5th, 2014 at 6:33 PM ^

If Michigan did "generic numbers," what would you want to see? Personally, generic or not, the only three numbers I would want to buy would be #1, #7, and #77.

Bando Calrissian

June 5th, 2014 at 6:41 PM ^

Here's a little secret: Northwestern doesn't make very much on jersey sales. Or, really, merchandise sales as a whole. It's a fraction of the megaindustry schools like Michigan, Texas, Ohio State, etc. have going for them.

In the long run, this probably helps them out.


June 5th, 2014 at 6:41 PM ^

The idea that anyone buys a jersey because of a particular player couldn't be further from the truth.  Michigan fans buy Michigan jerseys.  The popular numbers change every couple of years, but nobody is buying a Michigan jersey with Denard Robinson's number simply because they like Denard Robinson.  They are Michigan fans who like the guy who plays for Michigan, not Denard Robinson fans who subsequently like the school he attends.  Don't forget that a lot of jerseys with Tate Forcier's number got sold, too.  There may be slight upticks or numbers that are particularly popular, but those players wouldn't sell anything if they were playing in a minor league or at a smaller school.  Just ask Darron Thomas how many of his Portland Thunder jerseys are flying off the shelves.

If Manziel had gone to Sam Houston State they may have sold more jerseys than usual, but nowhere near as many as A&M does.  Every year.  Before and after Manziel.  The value added pretty much all comes from the schools and their history, tradition, and giant fanbases.


June 5th, 2014 at 6:48 PM ^

99.99% of people with a Denard jersey are obviously more Michigan fans than Denard fans.  But I bet Michigan sells more jerseys when it puts star players' numbers on them than when it doesn't.  I bet Dave Brandon could tell you how many more jerseys he (at least estimates he) sells every year thanks to the star players' numbers.  People like Michigan and Denard, and they're probably more likely to buy a jersey that represents both.