Announcement: I’m going to start not only linking my college football articles to Crystal Ball Run, but only posting an excerpt here and sending you to Crystal Ball Run to read the rest of it, like Down Goes Brown does with Grantland. CBR actually pays me so they deserve the real article. But back to the story.
On Sunday, ESPN’s Darren Rovell, under the guise of Outside the Lines, reported that the NCAA is investigating Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel for allegedly signing autographs for money. While this seems like a minor, even pointless, accusation, it is nonetheless an actual NCAA rule, which has some historical precedent: Ohio State players were suspended for five games in 2011 because they traded memorabilia for free tattoos and Georgia’s A.J. Green received a four-game suspension for selling a jersey for $1000.
Manziel comes from a family with money, and he has stated in multiple interviews that he checks with Texas A&M’s compliance office before doing anything particularly questionable: like sitting courtside at an NBA game, or flying to Toronto for a Drake concert. Why would a 20-year-old athlete who comes from a family with Texas oil money accept a payment for signing autographs? Manziel has publicly commented through stories by ESPN and Sports Illustrated that he signs thousands of autographs for his family and others as a courtesy to his fans but he never alluded to ever being paid for them.
It doesn’t matter whether you think Manziel is guilty, whether you want him to be guilty, or if you think the NCAA rule should be changed, the rule is the rule and Manziel is accused of breaking it. The rule states that Manziel can sign as many autographs as he likes, but is not allowed to sell any, or be promised money in the future for signing. If Manziel violated NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199, he could be ruled ineligible for an undetermined period of time; While the NCAA has precedent, every case is different and they don’t have a strong track record of uniformity or competence. If a cooperative Manziel is found to be guilty, I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s back on the field in Week 3 when Alabama comes to College Station. TV ratings matter more than integrity sometimes.