An in-depth search of the verification page on the James Spence Authentication website reveals the company has authenticated more than 2,000 signatures by Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, up from the more than 900 signatures that were found on the site’s database earlier this week.
James Spence, the authentication company’s owner, told ESPN on Thursday he will not reveal the identity or identities of the customers who submitted the signed Winston items for authentication. Spence also won’t verify the number of items because he says his database is not searchable by name.
But Spence does stand by his company’s opinion that the signatures are real. Spence also said that no one at his company has any knowledge of whether the clients who submitted the Winston items paid the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for his signatures.
Spence said that as of noon Thursday, no officials from Florida State had called to inquire how Spence’s company authenticated as many signatures as it did. ESPN reported earlier this week that Florida State’s compliance department was looking into how so many Winston signatures were submitted to JSA.
Asked if anyone has talked to JSA, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said Thursday, “I have no info. That’s our compliance and the AD and those guys handle that stuff. I’m coaching football.”
Winston has signed a tremendous number of autographs in public, particularly at baseball games, but the fact that hundreds of signed jersey numbers and more than 50 signed jerseys, photos and minihelmets were sequentially numbered by the authentication company’s website suggests the possibility that the signatures might have come from an organized signing event.
“No one who is not a dealer is going to submit that many autographs at one time,” said Matt Powers of Powers Collectibles in Kansas City, which sells the autographs of more than 1,000 athletes. “But besides the number, the giveaway of the JSA authenticated items that you can see on eBay, that suggests it was a sit-down signing, as the consistency of autograph, the cleanliness of the autograph and the fact that the autograph is signed in the perfect place over and over.
“Jameis might have signed a lot of autographs, but when he is doing so in public, he’s not 100 percent focused,” Powers continued. “Someone might be chatting with him, he might be signing with different pens on different surfaces like on someone’s hand or shoulder. What’s out there being sold is just too good.”
Fisher was asked Thursday if Winston has said why there are so many authenticated signatures at JSA.
“No. That’s between them and their investigation,” the coach said.
Fisher told reporters after the team’s victory against Syracuse that Winston told him he did not get paid for signing the items. No one has publicly alleged Winston got paid for these items, unlike the case involving Georgia running back Todd Gurley.
Gurley was suspended indefinitely from the team Oct. 9 while the school investigates whether he got paid for his autographs. University representatives met with the NCAA eligibility staff in Indianapolis on Thursday regarding the matter, the school said in a statement, but no other information was provided.
On Sept. 30, a memorabilia dealer named Bryan Allen sent an email to ESPN and several other media outlets, claiming he has video of Gurley doing a private autograph signing last March. Allen also said he paid Gurley for the signing seen on the video and claimed Gurley has been paid “thousands of dollars for his stuff over the last 18 months.”
Georgia hasn’t revealed the information it has that might have led officials to suspend Gurley. And it appears Gurley will not play for a second straight game this weekend, when Georgia plays at Arkansas.
Bulldogs coach Mark Richt tweeted Thursday morning:
Former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, when he played at Texas A&M, also had thousands of autographs authenticated by JSA, as well as its competitor, PSA/DNA. Manziel was suspended by the school for the first half of its first game in the 2013 season, though an NCAA investigation did not reveal details about the quarterback being paid to sign.
Information from ESPN.com’s Jared Shanker was used in this report.