DESTIN, Fla. — Ben Simmons, who at times has been rated the nation’s No. 1 basketball recruit, approved of LSU marketing him for season ticket sales, school athletic director Joe Alleva said Wednesday.
“Ben and his family totally signed off on it and are excited about it and thrilled,” Alleva said from the SEC spring meetings.
LSU is promoting Simmons’ pending arrival — “He’s Coming” — through print, billboard, online and social media advertising. The school’s website states that the campaign is focused on the arrival of Simmons “and his chosen jersey number 25,” and encourages fans to lock in their season tickets that start at $100.
The decision to market a season-ticket campaign around a college athlete has raised eyebrows. It comes at a time when the NCAA — and thus, its member schools — are appealing the Ed O’Bannon decision in which a federal judge ruled that college athletes are allowed to be paid for use of their names, images and likenesses.
As the ruling currently stands, colleges can begin offering players deferred compensation on Aug. 1 for use of their names, images and likenesses. The amount could be capped at no less than $5,000 per year and start in the 2016-17 academic year. The appellate court’s decision will likely come before Aug. 1.
When asked what he would say to those who say marketing Simmons shows players possess a value beyond their scholarship, Alleva said, “I would respond that we’re trying to fill the arena and have our fans be aware that we have an exciting basketball team. Period. It’s just to have the fans come and let them know what’s in store.”
LSU coach Johnny Jones said he has never had a single player marketed “because I’ve never had the fortune to have a player of this magnitude. It’s the first time in LSU history to get the No. 1 high school player in the country.” Jones said Simmons has handled himself well during the recruiting process and can deal with a school marketing campaign.
A 6-foot-9 power forward originally from Australia, Simmons led Montverde (Fla.) Academy to three straight national high school championships. His godfather is LSU associate head coach David Patrick.
Jones noted that the Sugar Bowl Classic set an attendance record when Simmons played at the event in New Orleans.
“I’m excited that our marketing and promotions department decided to be very aggressive in trying to encourage our fan base to get excited about our program with what we’ve built over the last three years,” Jones said. “Coming off an NCAA Tournament year, I think they felt the need to get out there as early as possible to retain the interest we have in our program.”