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Friday, November 21, 2014
Dr. Paul Withers proposal to address issue of NCAA athletes signing autographs

Dr. Paul Withers, an astronomy professor at Boston University, recently emailed me an idea he has to address the issue of NCAA athletes--like Todd Gurley and Johnny Manziel before him--getting in trouble for signing autographs.

I've posted Dr. Withers' proposal in its entirety below.

Not sure if this is enough of a legal issue to fit in your usual portfolio of topics, but here's a way to solve the NCAA autograph problem. Seems extendable to other areas as well.

1. Current athletes sign $0 contract with company to sell their autographs. Since current athletes get $0, NCAA is happy. Or perhaps the current athletes pay the company $1 to sell their autographs and thereby improve and extend their personal brand and reputation.

2. Current athletes graduate into former athletes, then sign short-term $$$ contract with company to recruit next crop of current athletes. NCAA has no jurisdiction over former athletes. Current athletes, if they have any sense, will pay close attention to short-term $$$ contract received by former athletes.

3. There's room for multiple companies in this business, so no monopoly problem. Autographs can be immediately distributed into every possible avenue for sales with authentication, instead of needing to pass through an inefficient black market stage along the way, which will increase sales and profits.

4. All parties have incentive to honor the unwritten arrangements: companies need next year's athletes, who will recoil from any company that doesn't briefly employ well-paid former athletes, and current athletes can get surely get more money this way than via current shady and risky arrangements.

5. Worried that current athletes will lack information on which company to go with? Competition should ensure third-party verification of sales and obvious correlations between sales and post-university payments. Also, there's a market void for someone to set up a clearing house that buys information on post-university payments from former athletes (another income source for them), collates it all, and sells it to current athletes (worthwhile as a source of investment advice, plus likely to recoup some fraction of payment once they become a former athlete).

6. Why would a current athlete be the first to attempt this, without the benefit of clear precedent from prior years? First mover advantage. This individual would be the only current athlete whose autographs are available in vast quantities for sale via every legitimate channel imaginable, so sales would be higher than otherwise. Once they are a former athlete, the company can give this one individual a huge payment in order to ensure recruitment of dozens of next year's students and solidify its own first mover advantage.

Paul Withers

Paul Withers                            Astronomy Department
Office  +1 617 353 1531                 Boston University
Fax     +1 617 353 6463                 725 Commonwealth Avenue
Email                  Boston MA 02215, USA


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