With the NCAA focusing on the question of whether Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel got paid to sign thousands of autographs, the school that made millions from Manziel’s football performance last year is saying nothing.
“The focus of our coaches and student-athletes is solely on preparing for Rice this Saturday, and in the best interests of Texas A&M and the 100-plus student-athletes on the team, I have instructed Coach Sumlin, his staff and our student-athletes to refrain from commenting on or answering questions regarding the status of our starting quarterback, Johnny Manziel,” the school said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Manziel, who is destined to enter the 2014 NFL draft (making his situation relevant to the NFL), could face punishment for getting paid to sign or, under NCAA bylaw 18.104.22.168, failing to take steps to prevent the sale of items he has signed.
A cynic would suggest that the NCAA will sit Manziel for one or two games, allowing him to return for this year’s Game of the Century between the Aggies and Alabama.
Meanwhile, more and more folks are waking up to the inherent hypocrisy of the entire NCAA system. As Keith Olbermann explained it on his new, must-watch nightly show on ESPN2, college football is and has become “college pro football,” with everyone getting paid, except the players. As Olbermann suggested at one point, maybe Manziel wants to get caught, so that he’ll no longer have to expend the effort and assume the risks for no compensation.
Really, how much higher will Manziel’s draft stock go if he plays in 2013? How much can it fall if he gets injured or doesn’t play as well as he did in 2012?
Maybe Manziel secretly doesn’t want to play football for free any longer. Far better than quitting is being forced out, and maybe that’s what Manziel hopes will happen.
Which leads to the next question. Does he admit what he did to the NCAA (if he got paid), or does he deny it and hope they’ll still be able to shut him down?
Either way, it’s an issue that will haunt college pro football until politicians or judges force college pro programs to pay players — or to at least let them get paid to sign autographs.