Texas A&M University and the NCAA issued a joint statement Wednesday, claiming there is “no evidence that quarterback Johnny Manziel received money in exchange for autographs”.
The announcement, at least for now, effectively ends speculation that the reigning Heisman Trophy winner might be suspended for the 2013 season. Several reports by ESPN earlier this month quoted autograph dealers as saying Manziel was paid to sign jerseys, helmets, photos and other items last winter. Accepting cash would be a violation of NCAA rules and Manziel would likely have been ruled ineligible.
The statement indicated, however, that the findings on whether Manziel was paid to sign large quantities of autographs for resale were “based on currently available information and statements by Manziel”. Reports indicated the quarterback met with NCAA investigators for six hours last weekend.
Due to what It called “an inadvertent violation regarding the signing of certain autographs”, Texas A&M declared Manziel ineligible but then proposed Manziel be suspended for a half game, address the team and “lessons learned” and promised to “revise its future education concerning student-athlete autographs for individuals with multiple items”.
The NCAA accepted those conditions and Manziel will sit out the first half of the Aggies’ game with Rice this weekend only because the school believes he should have known better than to sign so many autographs for those who were profiting from his signature.
In other words, without concrete evidence, neither the school nor the NCAA was prepared to investigate any further. However, the NCAA did apparently insist on leaving the door open a bit in case new evidence comes to light that Manziel violated rules by making this statement:
“If additional information comes to light, the NCAA will review and consider if further action is appropriate. NCAA rules are clear that student-athletes may not accept money for items they sign and based on information provided by Manziel, that did not happen in this case.
The sports memorabilia market was flooded with signed Manziel items after his phenomenal 2012 season and reporter Joe Schad says one of the autograph brokers showed him video of the signing session and told him Manziel was paid $7,500. On part of the video, ESPN says the broker offered Manziel additional money for inscriptions but was turned down. No money changed hands on video, even though the brokers said they recorded Manziel signing and talking without his knowledge.
“I am proud of the way both Coach Sumlin and Johnny handled this situation, with integrity and honesty,” said Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp. “We all take the Aggie Code of Honor very seriously and there is no evidence that either the university or Johnny violated that code.”
“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. “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.”
The question left unanswered include why Manziel, admittedly pressed for time because of the enormous demands of fans and others, would agree to sign so many items without compensation.