CHAMPAIGN — Nathan Scheelhaase has become accustomed to seeing people don his No. 2 Illinois jersey.
The quarterback first saw it during the 2010 season when he became the starter.
He joked Thursday evening that people were picking it due to him and not Martez Wilson, the linebacker who wore the same number before he started his NFL career with the New Orleans Saints.
“When I saw my first jersey in stores, that’s something that’s exciting, and the same thing with the video game,” Scheelhaase said. “Those things are exciting to see yourself on a video game. There’s a part that’s really cool ... from a kids’ mind-set, but when you’re talking business and you’re talking figures and the profitability of just what the NCAA is making and what EA Sports is making off of our numbers, I guess you kind of recognize those things a little bit more.”
Selling a college football player’s jersey isn’t a laughing matter anymore. At least not on the NCAA’s official web site.
NCAA President Mark Emmert acknowledged it was “hypocritical” on Thursday for the governing body to sell jerseys of players and other college athletes on its web site.
“I think seeing the NCAA sell those kinds of goods is a mistake,” Emmert said during a conference call with reporters. “It’s not what the NCAA is about. So we’re not going to be doing that any longer.”
ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas brought the issue to light Tuesday on his Twitter account. Bilas would type in a player’s name in the search function on the website and their jersey would appear.
“I didn’t follow the Jay Bilas stuff,” Scheelhaase said. “I’ve heard a little bit about it since then. Definitely with athletes, there’s a point the NCAA is trying to make just with being exploited. It’s something a lot of athletes, in a sense, deal with.”
Autographs are another hot-button issue this week in college football. Particularly among quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and Braxton Miller of Ohio State. Reports surfaced earlier this week that Manziel was paid to sign memorabilia, and items Miller signed were sold online.
“There’s just been a lot of bad heat those guys have taken,” Scheelhaase said. “Those are two great players, so the spotlight is definitely going to be on them.”
Scheelhaase signed autographs at Big Ten Media Days, like every other player who was present at the Chicago Hilton, before the conference’s annual luncheon on July 25.
“I got a chance to meet Braxton at Big Ten Media Days,” Scheelhaase said. “I saw him signing a number of autographs, just like we all did down there in that lobby. You wonder what actually is going on behind the scenes. I would, obviously, give the players the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, how the sporting world is today, it’s kind of guilty until proven innocent.”
Scheelhaase said he enjoys signing some of his replica jerseys for younger fans.
The recent episodes, however, might have the fifth-senior reconsider his position.
“That part is fun,” he said. “The world is changing as far as players being exploited, so that’s something you may not see as much of.”