Sports memorabilia dealers are highly protective of the athletes name on rings - a unique practice in a business based largely on the athlete's name.
Individuals and dealers claim it is to protect the athlete's privacy, but I only encountered 1 who didn't reveal the names, or reveal enough information to derive the player. I suspect many rings were purchased by the seller while the athlete was still on the team - an NCAA violation. I believe another reason is to keep the price of rings from lesser known players inflated - it appears the better known the player, the less likely his name is concealed. I also discovered the dealers' definition of "Starting player" is different than our definitions.
There are few legitimate reasons college athletes would sell their award or gear to a sports memorabilia dealer rather than listing on eBay. It isn't privacy because most eBay listings don't identify the athlete. It isn't money - dealers generally pay OSU athletes $1,000 to $1,800 and list for $2,200 to $3,000. If an athlete sold his ring on eBay buy-it-now at $1,200 to $2,100 (well below the lowest recent sales and listings) he would still come out ahead after eBay and PayPal fees. It isn't the hassle - eBay buy-it-now can be set up not to accept offers until they are paid for with PayPal.
I suspect many NCAAF rings offered for sale by sports memorabilia dealers, where the athletes name is kept private, were purchased in violation of NCAA rules.
June 1 thru June 8 – Fun with Ed Rife
I was in contact with felon Ed Rife (of the original OSU scandal) or someone acting on his behalf thru eBay messaging. False information was illegally given about the rings he was selling.
June 10 – Suspicions Become Reality
SellerA (a sports memorabilia dealer) revealed by e-mail the athletes names on several rings. 3 names caught my attention. I believe the 1st player just recently graduated and likely sold rings before graduation, the 2nd player left OSU before he had used all of his eligibility (highly suspect), and the 3rd player is still on the team.
In the "Best scenario" 2 waited until after leaving the program to sell their ring, the 3rd already admitted to selling their rings and has already been punished, and no other infractions were discovered. All 3 missed at least a few games. The NCAA and programs protect the player's privacy and often conceal the real reason. Frequently there is no way of knowing if a player is absent from games or leaves the program because of personal reasons, lack of playing time, injury, illness, roster cuts, academic problems, team rule violations, NCAA rule violations, or other reasons. Even if it is announced as a disciplinary action, the full extent of rules broken may not be revealed.
In the "Worst scenario" they may not have been punished for breaking NCAA rules in the eyes of the NCAA, and others may have sold autographed game worn gear. Ohio State has made it impractical for athletes to sell their awards and gear by requiring them to present them from time to time to prove they still have them. However, items were sold before the new monitoring was started. Even if the athlete was punished for not being able to produce the award or gear, he may not have admitted to selling these items, leaving him undisciplined from the NCAA's perspective.
The NCAA already determined this was an individual offense so the program isn't likely to be sanctioned (OSU sanctions were for separate issues), but players could be suspended.
It took 2 seconds to realize it was best to report this.
If I don't report, Ohio State could unknowingly play ineligible players in 2013, or the information and suspensions could come out at the end of the season rather than the early easy OOC games.
It took 10 minutes to realize there wasn't a viable option to reporting.
...but I didn't have to report immediately. It is the off season, so 2 weeks isn't a big deal.
June 24 – Confirmation
You are about to read something that is almost never declared by sports writers... a 2nd source confirmed my discovery.
SellerB (another sports memorabilia dealer) confirmed by e-mail: "As for (SellerA), if you want to buy from them then you can but be warned, you'll be part of a huge tattoo gate round 2 as they are currently being investigated by the Ohio State's Compliance Dept. as well as the NCAA investigations comity for doing exactly what the Ed Rife did." I find SellerB credible because he is smart enough not to risk passing false information in e-mails.
I followed up with SellerB. On July 7 he replied "Just watch and see. You'll know soon!"
This was a relief - I wouldn't be reporting anything new.
June 26 – I still reported
In a letter to Gene Smith, Ohio State University Athletic Director, I included key e-mails I exchanged with SellerA and SellerB and my testimony including the seller hiding the athletes names from the general public... but this letter, e-mails, eBay messages, and identities is material for another day (how's that for a hook?).
I have not gotten a response from Gene Smith after 3 weeks.
SellerA was e-mailed on July 10 and sent an eBay message on July 11 for additional comment, and given a chance to object to sharing information. He did not respond.
I did take the opportunity to promote a broader solution in the letter to Gene Smith. The difficulty of preventing these infractions is the limit of NCAA authority to its membership.
The legal system can be accessed to expand authority by having the programs retain ownership of all awards and gear until the athlete leaves the program. If the athlete cannot present an item when he leaves the program, ownership would not transfer, and the item could be reported as lost or stolen. Anyone buying, selling, or in possession of these items would be in possession of lost or stolen merchandise which the programs can legally reclaim from anyone at any time. The market disappears because few would want to risk dealing in lost or stolen merchandise.
This may not be the last chapter.
It would be naïve to believe that only players from 1 program would sell their gear and awards if presented the opportunity. I suspect many recent NCAAF rings offered for sale by sports memorabilia dealers, where the athlete's name is kept private, were in violation of NCAA rules. Autographed game worn gear adds another source of infractions.
If the NCAA broadens the investigation to other sports memorabilia dealers the number of athletes and programs involved could grow. Programs with larger followings, highly decorated programs, and programs that have not started verifying athletes still possess their awards and gear would be most vulnerable.
The extent may not be as broad, and discovery of infractions may not be as common, as I suspect.
So far only 1 sports memorabilia dealer may have been investigated. Only 1 individual (Ed Rife) was caught, and that was thru an unrelated federal investigation.
Seller's practice of concealing names makes it difficult to catch violations. Gear sold to individuals for their private collections would be almost impossible to detect.
Not all programs have enough fanfare to create a true market. Not all dealers will purchase from current athletes limiting the buyers. SellerC (a reputable sports memorabilia dealer not associated with possible NCAA violations) declared in a July 11 e-mail "My company has never been in any trouble with any college etc... I purchase only from the Athlete directly and make sure they either graduated or are no longer affiliated with school."
The publicity of the 2010 Ohio State infraction deterred athletes from selling awards and gear. The elapsed time makes it difficult to catch athletes who broke the rules before the Ohio State infractions. Some programs may have instituted monitoring similar to Ohio State's requirement that athletes periodically present awards and gear.
The NCAA is currently preoccupied with an internal investigation of its own unethical conduct and practices, and defending lawsuits. The NCAA may not be in position to initiate a broad investigation.
I intend to post more soon.
For now, know it probably isn't over, and it may not be limited to Ohio State.