Todd Gurley signing details emerge

ByBrett McMurphy ESPN logo
Tuesday, December 2, 2014

DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. -- The man who paid Georgia running back Todd Gurley $400 for signing about 80 items in the passenger's seat of a 2002 Lexus earlier this year says he never intended to hurt Gurley or the Georgia football program.

"I can't change any of that stuff -- any of those emails, me talking to the school, how it was handled -- I can't change any of that," Bryan Allen said in his first interview since Gurley was suspended for four games after admitting he accepted money for autographs. "If I could, I would.

"Because I never wanted to screw over Gurley. I never wanted to screw over their fans or anything like that. That was never my intention. I wish I had never even gone down there. It's not worth it."

Allen told ESPN and Sports Illustrated in an interview that Gurley signed anything and everything in the parking lot of his Athens, Georgia, apartment complex: footballs, helmets, jerseys and 8x10 glossy photos.

When Gurley finished signing, Allen pulled $400 from his pocket and placed it on the dash. Gurley took the money and walked away. Seven months later, the NCAA suspended Gurley.

So how did Georgia learn Gurley broke NCAA rules? From Allen, who said he emailed the media and contacted the school because he thought someone was "setting him up" and he wanted to tell his side of the story first.

He insisted his intentions were not financially motivated.

Allen, who was interviewed for more than three hours, provided ESPN and SI a nearly five-minute video documenting Gurley's signing. He also produced 25-30 signed Gurley items that he still owns that the running back signed that day.

In March, Allen said Shane Smith -- a man he had met when he ran a small memorabilia store called Players in Rome, Georgia -- called and told him he needed to go to Athens for a signing, but they needed $400 to do it.

"He's like, 'It's Gurley,'" Allen said. "So I said, 'OK.'"

Smith had only $150, Allen said, so he put up the other $250. Allen said Smith negotiated the price.

Two months earlier, Allen and Smith purchased some Georgia memorabilia to take to a signing at an area mall by Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, whose eligibility had expired. The line was too long, so they never got the items signed.

"I have this box of Georgia crap in my apartment -- I could give it all away," Allen said. "I wouldn't be able to make any money on this. I didn't care."

Since Smith's car had a bad transmission, Smith asked Allen to drive them to Athens, Allen said. He agreed. They drove, without a GPS, to Gurley's apartment.

Upon arriving, Allen said they saw Gurley in the parking lot. Smith talked to Gurley and told Allen to drive to the back of the lot. Allen got in the backseat, with Smith and Gurley in front.

"I'm kinda nervous," Allen said. "I introduce myself to Todd Gurley and sit in the backseat. He [Smith] tells me to hand him the stuff and bag it up. If you want anything special [personalized], tell him.

"They're doing their thing and Shane starts taking pictures of the inside of my car. We're in my car. I have all the money [Allen said Smith told him to put the $400 in his pocket]. Why would he ask me to hold the money? He's done this many times. He's taking pictures of my car. Am I being set up on this? Honest to God, that's what was going through my head. There's no proof of [Smith] being there and [Gurley] could identify me."

So Allen took out his cellphone and videotaped Smith and Gurley from the backseat. The 4 minute, 43 second video mostly shows Smith, who hands Gurley items to sign, gets them back and then passes them to Allen in an impromptu assembly line.

When Gurley finished signing, Smith told Allen to take the $400 out of his pocket and put it on the dashboard, Allen said. "It seemed like a drug deal," Allen said. Gurley grabbed the money and left.

"Y'all be good," Gurley said, according to Allen.

Allen said Smith admitted to Georgia officials he had been paying Gurley for autographs since Gurley's freshman year. When contacted, Smith said: "I'm done with it, man. That was all Bryan Allen's [expletive]. Not mine."

In mid-September, six months after the signing, Allen said he received a call from a blocked number. The individual didn't identify himself and asked Allen if he had done an autograph signing with Gurley. Allen said he lied and denied it.

Two days later Allen said he received a call from a California area code. The person said he had information about Allen's involvement with Gurley. This time, Allen said he told the truth.

"In my head I was thinking I shouldn't lie; what if it was someone that bought this piece?" Allen said. "They said they were investigating it. If you sell a counterfeit autograph, that's a felony, so I came clean with it. I told him I didn't want to talk about it and hung up."

Allen told a friend -- not Shane Smith -- about the two phone calls and his friend suggested to "nip it in the bud and get your story out before someone tries to leak something and screw you over."

Allen said that was the "the worst advice. That was the mistake I made."

Allen said he emailed at least two media members with ties to the University of Florida. The subject line in Allen's email: "I have a story I want you to leak"

The email read in part:

"I have video of Todd Gurley doing a private autograph signing from last march. He has been paid thousands of dollars for his stuff over the last 18 months. I personally paid him for this signing on the video. I have bought and sold game used equipment from him.

"I want no compensation. Just want someone to leak this story that's deserving. If you have any interest, give me a call or email. I attached a photo of him in my car signing a mini helmet that I just sold last week on my eBay store.

"All I ask is some privacy until we can touch base. I live in Georgia and would (be) crucified if my name was released."

Allen also emailed Spencer Hall, a reporter at SB Nation, and another reporter who he thought covered Florida. That email was later forwarded to other media members. Allen said he eventually contacted the website Deadspin.

Multiple times during his interview with ESPN and SI, Allen said he was not vindictive and never sought compensation (he was not compensated for this interview). However, in emails to Deadspin on Oct. 2, Allen wrote:

"They (Sports Illustrated) aren't going to compensate me so it doesn't make sense to release it and accept that backlash. Some sort of compensation does though."

In another email to Deadspin, Allen wrote:

"Again, not trying to get rich. I spent a few grand on the signing and Gurley has since kind of screwed me by doing this with about 30 other guys. The stuff has lost a ton of its value. Just wanna recoup some of my money."

On Oct. 3, a day after emailing Deadspin, Allen said he left voicemails on the work phones of three members of Georgia's compliance office. A day later, a Georgia compliance officer called back. Allen said he gave them all the details.

"Within 30 minutes [Georgia compliance director] Jim Booz called," Allen said. "It was a panic. 'What do you know? What happened?'"

On Oct. 7, Booz emailed Allen, providing him with Georgia's compliance website login and password so Allen could upload the video. After Georgia officials saw the video, Mike Glazier, a high-profile attorney who specializes in representing universities facing NCAA penalties, contacted Allen. He wanted to know who was in the driver's seat in the video and where he could be located.

Allen told Glazier it was "Shane." He claimed Georgia compliance official uttered the name "Shane Smith?"

On Oct. 9 at about 1 p.m., Allen said Smith called him: "He's like, 'What the [expletive] is going on?'" Smith told Allen two people had come to Smith's house, according to Allen; Smith told Allen they were a Georgia compliance official and an individual working for Glazier.

Hours later, Georgia announced Gurley had been indefinitely suspended.

When Gurley was suspended, the media bombarded Allen with calls and emails. Because of the attention he received -- his identity was revealed by on Oct. 10 when he retained attorney Ed Garland -- Allen said he lost his job. He also said that after his name was posted online with connection to the Gurley situation, someone tried to break into his house, splitting the wooden door frame.

On Oct. 29, the NCAA announced Gurley's four-game suspension for "accepting more than $3,000 from multiple individuals for autograph memorabilia and other items over a two-year period."

Gurley admitted to violating NCAA rules. In his first game back from his suspension on Nov. 15, Gurley suffered a season-ending torn ACL against Auburn.

While Allen was part of the $400 signing, he said Smith admitted to Georgia officials that he had paid Gurley thousands of dollars since his freshman year to autograph memorabilia. A source confirmed Allen's claim. Brad McFall, Smith's attorney, told ESPN: "At this time, we see no benefit in commenting as to the accuracy or inaccuracy of Mr. Allen's comments."

Allen claims he never contacted Gurley.

"I have never contacted any [player]," he said. "I've never brokered a deal. I never called a player, never set up a signing. That's a huge part I want out there.

"This guy [Smith] came to me and asked me, will you help me with this? You can't put the blame on one person because everyone's equally to blame. All I had to do was tell him no and none of this happens. I do take responsibility; my intentions were never to get rich.

"I think people think I was this autograph broker that was dangling this carrot in front of these young college kids, and that's the furthest thing from it. I was not an autograph broker."

Of the 80 items Gurley signed for Allen and Smith, Allen said he sold only three for a total of $150.

Allen said he's given away some of the memorabilia, including an autographed Gurley helmet to a doctor -- a Georgia fan -- who saw him when he was hospitalized for an inflamed appendix.

Allen said he is considering moving to another state. He's unsure about his future, but he says it won't involve selling autographed memorabilia.

"People think it was just me [involved with Gurley], but it wasn't," Allen said. "All the parties were guilty. And I regret it. This [article] could come out and this could infuriate people. They could say this stupid guy is trying to get famous off this.

"I want everyone to know that I did not try to make money. Last thing I want is to be in the public eye. I can't go find a job right here. Perception of me is I was an autograph dealer that got wronged and I turned my back on one of the players and screwed him over. That's not what happened. That's not what I did.

"I'm not some secret Florida fan that is trying to sabotage Georgia's football program. I made the mistake of going down there."

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