The fantasy around the offices of the NCAA is that the jersey numbers produced by the manufacturers have little to do with the players who play in them. The reality is that schools give specific numbers to the Nikes and the Under Armours of the world that correspond to the numbers of their biggest stars.
No where is this more prevalent this fall than in Columbus, Ohio, where retailers are trying to deal with the glut of No. 2 Ohio State jerseys that they have. Embroiled in scandal, their star Terrelle Pryor is gone, but his jerseys are everywhere.
In the shop inside Value City Arena, where the Buckeyes play its basketball games, Pryor replica jerseys have been discounted by 66 percent, from $59.99 to $19.99. An employee confirmed the discount, but referred all questions to a manager, who didn't immediately return calls.
At the Ohio State Bookstore, No. 2 jerseys are still selling at full price as is the case online. But an official with Fanatics LLC, which runs the official team stores of many schools, acknowledged the fact that Pryor no longer playing with the team has had a big impact on sales. It became clear that Pryor would not return to the school for his senior season on June 8.
"Sales are down about 60 percent since that announcement," said Brian Swallow, vice president of business development for Fanatics. "But we don't have any plans to mark them down. There will be another No. 2 that will come along." Swallow estimates that the company sells about 65 percent of all sales of Buckeyes gear online.
Bryan Johnson, owner of Sports Wired Retail, which has a network of 20 unofficial shops including BuckeyesPlanet.com, isn't as patient. He's reduced the price of No. 2 Ohio State youth jerseys by as much as 50 percent.
"We're hoping Christian Bryant has a breakout season," joked Johnson, referring to the Buckeyes defensive back, who wears No. 2.
Pryor, who was one of five players who were suspended for five games of the 2011 season for selling $2,500 in memorabilia, left the team a week after his coach Jim Tressel resigned under pressure by the school from the scandal cover up.
Perhaps stores would have ordered fewer No. 2 jerseys if the ordering window wasn't so broad. One retailer told CNBC that in order to get specific jerseys with numbers for an upcoming season, they have to order 10 months in advance. In order to get the new jerseys in by mid-August, they have to order jerseys in mid-October of the year before. Pryor wasn't necessarily a no-brainer to return at that time, but if he did, he would have been one of the top Heisman candidates.
Nike spokesman Brian Strong would not comment on whether the company would work with stores to reduce the supply of jerseys should sales not suffice. Some might not want to buy the No. 2 jersey because the negative association that Pryor now has with the school. He is not allowed to have contact with the athletic department for five years because he refused to cooperate with the NCAA and Ohio State investigators.
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