Sports Illustrated just released a new investigative piece on a man Clint Panezich who claims that he had several member of the 2009 Alabama football team sign memorabilia and make money off it. Panezich had a legitimate business selling sports memorabilia on eBay, but he and his partner went a step further and went down to Tuscaloosa, per the report.
According to the story, the first member of the Crimson Tide they say they encountered—and asked to sign, outside of a dorm—was cornerback Marquis Johnson. The two men had 40 or more white-paneled footballs with the Alabama logo on them laid out in the rear bed of their SUV, and “[Johnson] signed a few,” Panezich says. He also asked about getting paid to sign more stuff according to Panezich.
“[He] talked about getting paid to do the rest. . . . We paid him up front and . . . he recruited everybody else to come and sign. He’d go into the dorm, grab a couple guys—$20, $30, $40, depending on who the player was—and they’d all come sign 40 team items.”
However, not everyone who signed things took money as Panezich went on to explain to SI. However, one of the biggest stars, both figuratively and literally, on that team to allegedly take money was defensive tackle Terrence Cody.
“Terrence Cody was probably the biggest. He got paid to sign all the team stuff—and then we heard he was interested in making some more money. So he came out and signed a bunch of mini helmets that he inscribed, like 2X ALL-AMERICAN, or 2 BLOCKEDFGS AGAINST TENNESSEE, very specific stuff.”
Panezich says that he and his partner in Adam Bollinger paid Cody a total of $400 for his signature on memorabilia. Other players signed items, but did not take any compensation to stay within the rules of the NCAA. Some of those players are said to have included quarterback Greg McElroy, running back Ali Sharrief and tight end Collin Peek.
Alabama released this partial statement when asked if the school had knowledge of the situation:
“As part of our comprehensive compliance and education program, we routinely review all situations of potential concern and address matters such as these with all of our student-athletes.”
Alabama beat Texas 37-21 in the BCS Championship Game that year and went undefeated that season. It was coach Nick Saban’s first title in Tuscaloosa and his first undefeated season as well. That team featured other stars like Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram who would both end up getting drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft.
This isn’t the first time the SEC has seen anything like this as Todd Gurley allegedly did something similar in 2014 at Georgia while Johnny Manziel also did it at Texas A&M in 2013.
[h/t SEC Country]