Despite a big win Saturday against South Carolina, many still perceive LSU’s 2012 football season as a bit of a disappointment so far. The Tigers entered the year as a National Championship favorite, but with one loss already under their belts, it’s safe to assume that the Tigers have to win out to play themselves back into the BCS discussion. And even then it might not be enough to get them to Miami.
Unfortunately for LSU fans and their football program, the problems on the field might quickly be dwarfed by some looming dark clouds off of it.
That’s because on Tuesday morning Sports Illustrated released a report indicating that former superstar Tyrann Mathieu (who was suspended for the 2012 season) may have broken NCAA rules in using his likeness to help promote a few nightclub events. Even more concerning for Tigers fans, is that current defensive tackle Anthony Johnson (who has played in all seven of LSU’s games so far this season) may have been involved too.
First, the allegations via Sports Illustrated:
But what's good for Era Nation may not be helping Mathieu. Several of the Era Nation videos promote events at a Baton Rouge club called The Palace. One in particular encourages viewers to attend an Era Nation party at the club on March 10, 2012. Mathieu appears in the video, and an event promoter says "the whole LSU football team" will be there. A flyer for the party has two photographs of Mathieu in his LSU jersey and describes the event as an "Era Nation Album Release Party For Tyrann Mathieu." It also features photographs of former LSU standout Mo Claiborne and current LSU sophomore defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, who are listed as the party's hosts. Johnson denied any involvement; Clairborne says he was aware of the party but did not attend.
According to the report, “Era Nation” is a group of Mathieu’s friends from high school, all involved in sports and the music industry. And apparently they were using Mathieu’s likeness to promote events, and more importantly promote their own businesses.
And according to SI, this wasn’t the only time Mathieu may have been used as a headliner at a local night club.
More from SI:
Mathieu is also featured on a flyer for a Jan. 14, 2012, party at Club H2O in New Orleans. The flyers and videos may be a violation of NCAA rule 126.96.36.199, which says that anyone who "accepts any remuneration or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind" is ineligible.
According to the SI report, no one at LSU is currently aware of the situation. But you better believe that they are now.
But even with that said, it’s a little early to know, what, if any NCAA rules were broken. And ironically, it might have been Mathieu’s suspension from the team (largely to be assumed due to failed drug tests) which might save LSU here.
Even if Mathieu did use his likeness to promote these parties, and even if he did get a monetary kickback from it, go ahead and look at the dates: January 2012 and March 2012. Mathieu last played a game in an LSU uniform in early January 2012 and got kicked off the team in August of this year as well, and no longer lives or works out with anyone involved with LSU football. Meaning, it doesn’t appear as though he has competed in any games for LSU since the violations occurred.
Where the NCAA might be much more interested is whether Johnson- a sophomore defensive tackle- got any kickbacks for using his likeness in the promotion of these events. As the article states, Johnson’s name appeared alongside Mathieu’s and Morris Claiborne (who also left LSU in January 2012 to enter the NFL Draft) in promotion of the event.
Well, Johnson is still playing at LSU, and if he broke NCAA rules might not be eligible to play right now. Meaning, if the NCAA can prove that Johnson got some kind of kickback from the club event, he could be ruled ineligible for any and all games he’s played this season. And if LSU used an ineligible player, well they’d have to forfeit all their wins so far this season.
Safe to say there are a lot of layers in this story that need to be further evaluated before we jump to any conclusions.
It will be interesting however to see how LSU handles this situation, specifically with Johnson, going forward.
For all his articles, opinions and insight on college football, follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.