Keeping Score

Johnny Manziel “Suspension” Is The World’s Most Confusing Punishment

The defending Heisman champ received no money for his autograph, according to the NCAA and Texas A&M. Then why is he being suspended at all? The answer might make your head hurt

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Scott Halleran / Getty Images

Johnny Manziel at a game on April 13, 2013 in College Station, Texas.

The NCAA has unfortunate rules. One of them does not allow a player like Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the defending Heisman trophy champion whose football team delivered $52 million in revenue to his school over this past year–thanks in large part to his astounding ability–to accept money from people who want to give it to him. In early August, ESPN reported that Manziel signed autographs for money, a clear violation of NCAA regulations. An outcry followed, not because most fans and commentators were upset that Manziel “cheated.” No, they wondered, “what the hell is wrong with accepting cash for your autograph?” We should all be so lucky, to have people want to pay us for scribbled ink.

So when word came down that Manziel would be suspended for the first half of Texas A&M’s opening game against Rice on Saturday, forgive me for thinking, for a second, that at least the punishment fit the crime. It was almost a tacit admission: we know this rule is kind of ridiculous, so we’ll give him a ridiculous penalty. Wait: make that “penalty.” Because a punishment that involves sitting out the first half against an inferior opponent – and addressing his team about the lessons he learned, like a fourth grader — deserves sarcastic quote marks.

But then you start to think a little more. Well, if violating a rule has such little consequences, why have the rule in the first place? Then, you read the joint NCAA-Texas A&M statement explaining the penalty: “Texas A&M University and the NCAA confirmed today that there is no evidence that quarterback Johnny Manziel received money in exchange for autographs, based on currently available information and statements by Manziel.”

Let’s all scream together. “THEN WHY ARE YOU SUSPENDING HIM AT ALL?”

(MORE: Johnny Manziel Could Change The NFL’s Rules Forever)

The next sentence says that Manziel committed an “inadvertent violation.” Huh? If whatever Manziel did was “inadvertent,” why slap his wrist in the first place? Anyway…so what did Manziel accidentally do? Searching, searching … the statement doesn’t say. So much for basic transparency.

Look beyond the statement, however, and you’ll learn that an NCAA spokesperson confirmed to ESPN that Manziel violated NCAA bylaw 12.5.2.1. The rule says, in part, that a college athlete is ruled ineligible if he or she “accepts any remuneration for or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind.”  Manziel did not “accept any numeration for” his autograph, according to the NCAA and Texas A&M. So, he’s being punished for “permitting” someone else to sell his name.

Texas A&M, its football coaches, its athletic department, the television networks, and so many others already profit off of Manziel. At the same time, if Manziel inadvertently permits another person to profit off his name, he gets punished. And how, exactly, do you inadvertently offer someone permission to do something? Stubbing my toe: that’s inadvertent, that’s an accident. Letting someone enter my office, or drive my car, or sell my autograph: these may be things I regret. But they’re not accidents.

“Student-athletes are often asked for autographs from fans, but unfortunately, some individuals’ sole motivation in seeking an autograph is for resale,” said NCAA Vice President of Academic and Membership Affairs Kevin Lennon in the statement. “It is important that schools are cognizant and educate student-athletes about situations in which there is a strong likelihood that the autograph seeker plans to resell the items.”

So not only is a “student-athlete” prohibited from profiting off his autograph. He must also police others who are trying to profit off his autograph. Are football players supposed to scan the crowd while signing stuff after a game, and try to figure out who is going to resell it on eBay? Hey, look at that kid: I just signed his hat, and he just ran it over to his father. Dad looks a bit too happy to have that signature. I bet you he’s going to resell it. Call the NCAA!

The NCAA’s enforcement apparatus is in such disarray, and is so toothless, that there’s little reason to trust that Manziel actually received nothing for his signature. The NCAA even left a little room to change its mind. “If additional information comes to light,” read the joint statement, “the NCAA will review and consider if further action is appropriate.”

Uh oh. Manziel’s status for A&M’s clash with mighty Sam Houston St., next Saturday, is clearly in jeopardy. At least for a few possessions.

(MORE: Today In NCAA Injustice: A Grieving Player Is Benched)

10 comments
Javierbolt
Javierbolt

@AdamDiDa La mayor contradicción es que las universidades y televisiones ganan millones gracias al juego de deportistas que no cobran (2/2)

AdamDiDa
AdamDiDa

@Javierbolt Lo se, pero sin pruebas no se puede sancionar. La sanción es tan ridícula como la norma. Eso si, se lo toman en serio. jaja!

Javierbolt
Javierbolt

@AdamDiDa la sanción (medio partido) es de chiste, eso desde luego. No he seguido el caso a fondo para conocer las pruebas que había

Javierbolt
Javierbolt

@AdamDiDa es lo que le diferencia de los profesionales, pero hay grandes contradicciones que no se cuanto tiempo aguantarán así

AdamDiDa
AdamDiDa

@Javierbolt Exacto, en plan, no os creais que por ser estrellas no os vamos a vigilar. Cuidan mucho la competición, y casi siempre muy bien.

Javierbolt
Javierbolt

@AdamDiDa Cada vez los jugadores de NCAA tienen más popularidad, Manziel era el caso extremo, puede servir de llamada de atención

AdamDiDa
AdamDiDa

@Javierbolt El artículo dice que no se ha podido probar y aún así se le sanciona. Es más la actitud que el hecho, 'chicos, esto va en serio'

Javierbolt
Javierbolt

@AdamDiDa en la NCAA hay leyes muy restrictivas sobre amateurismo, con duras sanciones (en este caso no lo ha sido) (1/2)

stevek77536
stevek77536

" ... sitting out the first half against an inferior opponent ..."  As mentioned, the reference is to Rice University.  Probably most readers realize the comparison involves the football teams.  But in addition to football Powerhouse vs. Weakling, the Wall Street Journal has another dimension on their "College Football Grid Of Shame" - Admirable vs. Shameful: 

http://tinyurl.com/pbabb8s

While A&M is high on the Powerhouse scale, its only so-so on the Admirable scale (due in part to three defensive players also on suspension).  Rice is the reverse (although they did win a bowl game last year and are likely to qualify this year).  I know where I would go to school (and as you have guessed, did go).


DanBruce
DanBruce

The problem is not that the NCAA has too many rules. The problem is that the fox is watching the hen house. Congress, not the NCAA, needs to pass strict laws that will keep college athletics from becoming any more corrupt, and then let the U.S. justice system be the watchdog. That's what it took to clean up the Penn State mess. The media and money merry-go-round that has infected collegiate athletics (coaches, players, university presidents, and even state governors) is ruining the amateurism that has made college sports something of whch to be proud. Now college sports is no different than the money-grubbing-hustling pro versions it is trying to emulate, corrupt from top to bottom. 


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