Cliff Panezich, who sold signed sports memorabilia, told Sports Illustrated that he and Adam Bollinger paid Alabama players Marquis Johnson and Terrence Cody $200 and $400, respectively, in December 2009. Johnson denied that he was paid for his autograph and told the magazine that he did not know Panezich. Cody declined comment.
It’s unclear whether the allegations would have fallen within the NCAA’s statute of limitations, which covers four years unless it is shown that there was a “pattern of willful violations” that began before the four-year window but continued into the current four-year window, or a “blatant disregard for certain fundamental rules” such as recruiting, extra benefits, academics, ethical conduct or an “effort to conceal violations.”
According to the report, some Alabama players, including quarterback Greg McElroy, signed the memorabilia but refused payment in order to stay in compliance with NCAA rules.
Panezich and Bollinger told Sports Illustrated they waited for players outside of the athletic dormitories during winter break while the team wasn’t practicing, first encountering Johnson, who then allegedly recruited other players to participate.
An Alabama spokesman told SI, 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.”
In December 2016, Panezich pleaded guilty in Youngstown, Ohio, to aggravated theft, identity fraud, telecommunications fraud, money laundering, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and three counts of forgery with a forfeiture specification.
In April, he was sentenced to six years in prison. Prosecutors say he was the mastermind behind an enterprise that sold sports items with fake athlete signatures to close to 20,000 people.