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Could The NCAA Drop The Hammer On Manziel Even If No Money Changed Hands?

rule-book-holyEarlier this week, we pointed out that while lots of people are drawing Cam Newton/Johnny Manziel comparisons, their two sagas differ in a couple of ways.  First, the investigation into Newton opened midseason and didn’t become public until November.  Second, there was a loophole for Newton to fit through.  That loophole has since been closed and would not be available for Manziel.

Or would it?

Tony Barnhart lays out the differences and the similarities between the two cases at today.  Regarding one of the similarities he writes:


“What if money changed hands for Manziel’s signature but it never touched Manziel’s hands?  What if it went to one of the ‘personal assistants’ who travel with him?  And what if Manziel didn’t know — or claims he didn’t know — that somebody else got money?

In that case, the NCAA might have to make yet another rule to cover this particular situation.  Now do you understand why the rule book is so thick?”


Everyone seems to have a different view on whether or not the Newton rule would apply to Manziel.  The view at is that the above scenario would be covered by the rule that closed that loophole.

In January of 2012, the NCAA added the rule which expanded the definition of an agent.  Any third-party influence — like Newton’s father, Cecil, for instance — who markets an athlete for profit could cost the player his eligibility.  In addition to family members, contract advisors, financial advisors, marketing representatives, brand managers “or anyone who is employed by or associated with such persons” would be considered agents.

NCAA Bylaw 12 also states that “an agent is any individual who, directly or indirectly, represents or attempts to represent an individual for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics ability or reputation for financial gain.”

Let’s say that Manziel’s friend/handler Nate Fitch asked for cash for Manziel’s signature on memorabilia (as is being reported).  Fitch would clearly qualify as an agent as he quit school to help Manziel manage his schedule and fame.  He also would have attempted to represent the player for the purpose of making money off of his reputation.

But, would it matter — as Barnhart puts forth — if Fitch and Manziel both said that the quarterback didn’t profit from the attempted rule violation?  Knowing that the NCAA tends to make decisions on the fly, we at aren’t sure that it would.  Southern Cal was smacked around based in large part on the word of a man who’s testimony wouldn’t have help up in an actual court of law.  The NCAA expanded its powers and jurisdiction in order to pile on Penn State a year ago.  So if the NCAA believes Manziel knew what Fitch was doing, the NCAA could punish Manziel.  Even if both parties say the player didn’t know about it and didn’t profit from it.

The NCAA is not a court of law.  There have been numerous stories over the past few days stating that the NCAA will have a hard time proving that Manziel received cash for autographs.  But the new rule says nothing of cash changing hands.  It states that a third-party — obviously one who has contacts to the player in question — need only “attempt to represent an individual for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics ability or reputation for financial gain.”

The rule was created to close the Newton loophole.  That loophole allowed Newton to play because his father had unsuccessfully attempted to profit from his son.  The new rule suggests that no actual profit is necessary, just asking for cash is enough to render a player ineligible.  Thus the closing of the Newton loophole.

So the burden of proof on the NCAA might not be as strict as many people suggest or as many Aggie fans hope.  And with the NCAA’s long history of moving goalposts, no one in the Manziel camp should be thinking, “Well, let’s see ‘em prove it.”  Anyone studying the Southern Cal/Reggie Bush case would tell you that there is still a great deal of doubt as to whether the NCAA really had enough “proof” to hammer that school as it did.

That said, the fact that so many writers and columnists see the Manziel scenario playing out in so many different ways reveals just how confusing this investigation might become.

The best case scenario for Manziel — in our view — does not involve the NCAA failing to prove he received cash.

The best case scenario would be for Manziel and Fitch to deny ever asking for cash in the first place.  If the autograph dealers who reportedly took part in all of this remain mum when queried by the NCAA — and it appears that they will — then this investigation could be kiboshed.  If a representative asking for cash is enough to get Manziel in trouble, then in the best case scenario for Texas A&M, no one will ever admit to the NCAA that cash was even requested in the first place.




I disagree that Fitch would clearly qualify as agent as defined in Bylaw 12; a reasonable case can be made either way.  

More to the point, TAMU likely goes 11-1 or 10-2 with Manziel playing; 9-3 or 8-4 without him.  The team and University should stand by their players, but if the preponderance of  the evidence suggests he has been playing fast and loose with the rules, then University and it's football team would likely be better off to suspend him (from the team, not the University).  JFF will be OK.  The team will be OK.  Some in the media and at the bar will have to feed themselves from another trough.


I have been reminding everyone about this issue this week. The NCAA can punish off of smoke, even if it never finds the source or the smoke, or fire. USC was a perfect example. JM is noted that he wanted the money for rims. Well if JM got a new set of smoking hot rims in January. I am sure there are pictures of said rims floating around. Red Flag. The NCAA does have the power to interview staff and athletes about JM rims. They are compelled to tell the truth, or lose their eligibility. I doubt there are many on the team risking a Bruce Pearl to back JM. If JM got the rims, it will be up to him and his family to provide the paper trail for the rims, and where the cash came from to buy them. If he cannot, expect him to be sitting some games or most of the season. I think it is just a matter of time before the videos are public. Someone will buy them from the broker just to air the story and web-hits. With his actions this off season, he does not have good will in his corner. He is on record as saying that He does not care, and he will do what he wants to due, **** the consequences.


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