LSU is investigating whether Leonard Fournette's family violated NCAA rules by setting up a website to sell merchandise with the running back's signature “BUGA Nation” catchphrase, according to USA Today's Josh Peter.
Bob Barton, an attorney representing LSU, has started looking into the operators of the website. The investigation is on the university level and does not involve the NCAA.
USA Todayreports that Paul Price, who has reportedly served as the Fournette family manager, allegedly made payments of about $10,000 to build a website and produce the merchandise to be sold ahead of the Tigers' 2014 season opener. The owners of the websites also gave $20,000 in discounts to the Fournettes, believing the running back's popularity would boost sales, according to the report. But the websites were shut down within a day of their launch when the NCAA caught wind of the site, Fournette's mother Lory told USA Today.
Any sales could violate NCAA rules that prohibit athletes or family members from making money off the name, image and likeness of the athlete. The Fournette family has said that Leonard Fournette's name and image haven't been used on the site, though LSU colors were reportedly used.
LorinStumph, who oversaw the development of the “BUGA Nation” site, told USA Today that orders were not filled to make sure the site didn't violate NCAA regulations.
Price sent the following email to website developers, according to USA Today:
“We want to reiterate based on our initial discussions and agreement that Leonard Fournette has absolutely nothing to do with the BUGA Nation website. We ask that if there are any photos of Leonard Fournette’s images or likeness on the BUGA Nation/Being United Generates Attitude website that they be removed effective immediately. This site is owned by Lory Fournette and we want to make sure that the website is free and clear of all photos and mentionings of Leonard Fournette.”
The website could re-launch after Fournette becomes eligible for the 2017 NFL draft after his junior year. His mother does not believe that her son will challenge the NFL and attempt to turn professional after his sophomore year, according to USA Today.
Fournette leads the NCAA in rushing yards with 1,383 in eight games with 16 touchdowns. LSU is coming off a 30-16 loss to Alabama.