Ohio State & Others React to O'Bannon Pressures by Limiting Jersey Sales
If - heaven forbid - you desire to purchase an Ohio State University football jersey this season, your options will be limited. Very limited. By "limited," I honestly mean you will only be able to buy either #1 or #15. OSU told Nike to only produce jerseys with these two numbers, and retailers can only sell jerseys with these two numbers. According to the university, #15 represents the year 2015 rather than this season's Heisman hopeful Ezekiel Elliott, and #1 represents OSU's national ranking as defending champions as opposed to the former Heisman candidate who not only switched positions but switched from #5 to #1. It is safe to say that Zeke will have one heck of a support section in his quest for the Heisman Trophy.
If, regardless of whether you desire to purchase an OSU football jersey this season, you want to enjoy the college football experience as you have known it in the past (e.g., buying an officially licensed jersey with a particular number out of a wide selection), your opportunity is walking out the tunnel, or at least being sidelined for the moment. Abrupt changes to how we experience college football before it even kicks off next week are here in large part courtesy of the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit.
OSU was the first school to implement the jersey-number policy “given the O’Bannon case and other sensitivities related to use of player names, likenesses or associations,” but my alma matter (Michigan), Nebraska, Miami, Arizona, Mississippi State, Connecticut, and Northwestern have made similar reports about restricting which jerseys are to be sold. For example, a spokesperson for Michigan said that the university will only be selling jerseys donning #1, #16 in honor of the senior class of 2016, and #4 in honor of 1980s Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh returning to the maize and blue.
This could happen at the member institution that you cheer on. As OSU's director of trademark and licensing stated, "moving to the generic numbers seemed like the next best thing" since the numbers of desirable players tend to sell and they cannot be compensated under the rules to date.
Change does need to happen, and it is beginning with the deregulation that should pass in the near future and continues with somehow preserving the student-athlete mantra. For better or for worse, these are the types of changes being made in the short-run that will shape the future of college football in the long-run if passions cannot find common ground. Let's quickly get our brilliant minds together, brainstorm with Mark Emmert, and draft a monetarily and socially acceptable plan to acknowledge those who deserve it that will also get passed by the required member institution vote.