Texas A&M, Northwestern and Arizona to stop selling football jerseys with numbers connected to student-athletes


Johnny Manziel. (John Bazemore/AP)

Texas A&M, Northwestern and Arizona no longer plan to sell football jerseys that feature numbers tied to student athletes, ESPN reports. Instead, the schools will offer more generic jerseys.

In particular, Texas A&M, which made a mint off of No. 2 jerseys thanks to first-round NFL draft pick Johnny Manziel, will only sell No. 12 jerseys, as in “12th man,” the football team’s name for its fan base. Northwestern will only sell No. 51, the number Coach Pat Fitzgerald wore when he played. Arizona will only sell No. 14, inspired by the year 2014, ESPN reports.

Arizona Athletic Director Greg Byrne told ESPN, “We’ve been thinking about doing this for a while,” but failed to elaborate. Northwestern and Texas A&M declined to comment.

College sports experts, however, believe the schools are making this move now in light of the growing concern and legal measures being taken over the rights of college athletes, especially in light of a recent study by Drexel University and the National College Players Association that calculated the fair market value of a college athlete between the years 2011 and 2015 was on average about $178,000 for football players. For a player like Manziel, that figure rises to $547,000.

As to how a more generic selection of numbers will affect the schools, well, that’s up for debate. On the one hand, ESPN finds one licensing director at a school in a major conference that the move could result in a 25 percent decrease in sales. On the other hand, however, cutting off the student-connected numbers is a good way to stave off a least a small part of the debate over the treatment of student-athletes, which could save the school big time later on.

In the meantime, there are plenty of online shops still selling the officially licensed gear it the schools say they will discontinue. Mega sports retailer Fanatics.com has football jerseys featuring Aggies Nos. 2, 17, 25, 13, 8 and 32; Northwestern Nos. 5, 2 and 7; and Arizona Nos. 1, 8, 82, 10 and 33.

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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