Supporters of change in college athletics have long used jersey sales as an example of schools profiting off the likeness of players. Though the jerseys had no names on the back, the numbers clearly represented the most well-known players and some NCAAShop.com search results from ESPN's Jay Bilas in Aug. 2013 furthered criticism of the NCAA's position that "fans are buying the name on the front, not the back."
According to ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell, at least three schools have decided to sell generic replica jerseys in 2014 instead of ones with the numbers of current players. Texas A&M will reportedly only sell No. 12, honoring "The 12th Man," next season. Northwestern will reportedly sell No. 51, the number head coach Pat Fitzgerald wore while playing linebacker for the Wildcats, and Arizona will sell No. 14, for 2014.
"We've been thinking about doing this for a while," said Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne, who wouldn't elaborate any further.
Officials with Northwestern and Texas A&M declined to comment, but college sports insiders have expected a move like this designed to lessen the legal exposure of the schools and change the public perception of taking advantage of college athletes, as they fight harder for their commercial rights.
If the report is true, each of the three major apparel companies (Nike, Adidas and Under Armour) are on board with this new generic approach.
The NCAA is the only remaining defendant in the Ed O'Bannon trial after the approval of a $40 million settlement with EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC). The trial is set to begin in Oakland, Calif. on Monday.