LSU is investigating whether or not Leonard Fournette’s family committed an NCAA violation by owning a website intent on selling “BUGA Nation” merchandise, USA Today reported Tuesday. School spokesman Michael Bonnette, when reached Tuesday, declined comment. The NCAA has declined comment, according to USA Today.
USA Today reports, through an anonymous source, that LSU attorney Bob Barton has begun interviewing people regarding the website, which launched days before Fournette’s first game at LSU and was shut down one day later. Barton declined comment on Tuesday when reached, according to a report in The New Orleans Advocate.
A USA Today story published last week detailed the Fournettes’ purchasing of a web site to sell T-shirts and hats emblazoned with “BUGA Nation,” an acronym for “Being United Generates Attitude.” Fournette and friends developed the acronym during his star-studded prep career at St. Augustine High in New Orleans.
NCAA rules prohibit athletes or their family members from profiting off the athlete’s name, image or likeness. At the Fournettes’ insistence, Leonard’s name, image and likeness was not used on the site, according to the story.
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A source told The Advocate that LSU compliance officials consulted with the Fournette family about the website in August 2014. The family made a decision to close the site just a day after it opened to prevent possible NCAA violations. Fournette’s freshman season began days later with the season opener against Wisconsin.
LSU did not report any violations to the SEC or NCAA regarding this matter in the fall of 2014, according to documents obtained by The Advocate last year.
Paul Price, described by Fournette’s mother as the family’s manager, made payments of about $10,000 to build the website and produce the merchandise to be sold, the owners of three companies involved told USA TODAY Sports. No merchandise was ever distributed, according to the original USA Today story.
The owners of the site said they gave Price and the Fournettes more than $20,000 in discounts because they expected strong sales driven by the star running back’s popularity. Even with the discounts, one of the business owners said he has yet to be paid in full.