Multiple players from Alabama's 2009 BCS National Championship team might have been paid for autographs during December of 2009, prior to the National Championship Game against Texas.
In a recent Sports Illustrated story by Luke Winn titled "Operation Stolen Base", former Crimson Tide players Marquis Johnson and Terrence Cody are among a group of players named who allegedly received cash for signing Alabama memorabilia.
In the story, Winn writes about the connection between Cliff Panezich and Adam Bollinger, who sold signed sports memorabilia, and how they spent time around the 2009 Alabama team during the school's winter break.
Panezich and Bollinger arrived in Tuscaloosa during winter break, when the football team wasn’t practicing, so finding players required improvisation. The first member of the Crimson Tide they say they encountered—and asked to sign, outside of a dorm—was cornerback Marquis Johnson. The two collectors had 40-odd white-paneled footballs, each emblazoned with Alabama’s logo, laid out in the rear bed of their SUV, and "[Johnson] signed a few," Panezich says. "[He] talked about getting paid to do the rest. . . . We paid him up front and . . . he recruited everybody else to come and sign. He’d go into the dorm, grab a couple guys—$20, $30, $40, depending on who the player was—and they’d all come sign 40 team items."
Panezich says Johnson was paid roughly $200, but "not everyone took money. [Defensive tackle] Terrence Cody was probably the biggest. He got paid to sign all the team stuff—and then we heard he was interested in making some more money. So he came out and signed a bunch of mini helmets that he inscribed, like 2X ALL-AMERICAN, or 2 BLOCKED FGS AGAINST TENNESSEE, very specific stuff." Panezich recalls that they paid Cody around $400 total. (SI obtained cellphone video from Panezich that shows Johnson, fellow cornerback Rod Woodson and tight end Colin Peek autographing items; Panezich says that Peek, as well as running back Ali Sharrief and QB Greg McElroy, signed but declined compensation in order to comply with NCAA rules. Cody, through his agent, declined to comment. Says Johnson: "I never got paid. I don’t know [Panezich]." Woodson could not be reached for comment. When asked if the school had knowledge of the signings, an Alabama spokesman said, in part, "As part of our comprehensive compliance and education program, we routinely review all situations of potential concern and address matters such as these with all of our student-athletes.")
Cody, Johnson and McElroy would go on to play in the NFL after leaving Alabama.
The 2009 Crimson Tide were the first Alabama team to win a national title since 1992. It was also the third season of Nick Saban's tenure at Alabama.
You can read the full story by Winn here.