Numbers removed from souvenir jerseys as O’Bannon licensing trial begins

With the (Henderson resident) Ed O’Bannon vs. the NCAA trial over licensing money for college athletes getting under way in Oakland, Calif., some NCAA members already are taking actions to circumvent whatever judges may decide. They are removing the numbers of actual players from souvenir jerseys and other items sold to the public.

For instance, last year Texas A&M sold a ton of jerseys with a big No. 2 on front and back, which was Johnny Manziel’s number. This year all of the Aggies’ souvenir jerseys will feature No. 12, for A&M’s famous 12th-man tradition.

Northwestern’s jerseys will be emblazoned with No. 51 for coach Pat Fitzgerald, who wore that number when he played for the Wildcats and has strongly backed the school in its fight with some of his former players who want to form a union.

Other schools are expected to sell jerseys with nondescript numbers.

This is actually an old-school way of selling souvenir jerseys. A lot of schools simply used to put numbers on replica jerseys that corresponded with the year of the graduating class. When I was in college, that meant you could buy a football jersey with No. 76, 77, 78 or 79 on back.

But those were mostly unpopular numbers worn by offensive tackles and other linemen. That’s why I didn’t buy a Purdue souvenir football jersey until two years after I graduated (from another school.) It was gold, with a big, black No. 81 on front and back.

The last time I saw that jersey, a buddy’s girlfriend was wearing it as pajamas after a keg party went into overtime.

No. 81 usually was a wide receiver’s number, which was cool, or perhaps a defensive end’s number, which was still OK, provided the defensive end who wore No. 81 was credited with a lot of sacks.