August 29th, 2013 09:14 AM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
Tags: Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, NCAA, Nick Fitch
In the end, it’s now pretty obvious that the NCAA really didn’t want to open the Pandora’s box otherwise known as “cash for autographs.” The idea that the NCAA was out to get Texas A&M or Johnny Manziel? Nope. If they were out to get either of the two, they would have cooked up a stiffer penalty as it’s their call.
By slapping a one-half suspension on the Aggie quarterback, college sports’ governing body has created a standard penalty that future autograph claims — at least until next summer — will draw. And it’s a pretty small penalty.
Some are claiming that this proves the NCAA had nothing on Manziel. Well, it proves the NCAA had nothing it could use as proof that the star player took cash. Technically, if the body believed he or a handler (buddy Nick Fitch, for example) had even asked for cash, they could have handed down a strong penalty. That’s how gray the rule is.
Instead, the NCAA decided something had to be done. (The “Blazing Saddles” line, “We’ve gotta protect our phoney-baloney jobs, gentlemen!” comes to mind.) So the NCAA decided go the fallback route and slap Manziel’s wrists for not trying hard enough to stop autograph brokers from making money off of his image/signature/brand.
If someone now claims that South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney was paid for his signature and NCAA investigators find even a scintilla of incriminating evidence… a one-half suspension will likely be the result. The same for anyone else.
A few Aggie fans — rather than breathing a sigh of relief — have already emailed this site asking, “What about (fill in the blank)?” Again, to our knowledge, no brokers have claimed that any other players received payment for their signatures. Is it likely any of those guys with hundreds of sequentially-numbered items on eBay were paid for their signatures? Absolutely. But that’s hard to prove. As the NCAA found out with Manziel.
So now there is a small penalty attached to the violation — or the apparent violation — of this rule. It’s a small penalty, but it’s a penalty. When the issue arises, a related-rule will be cited rather than the bigger “you sold your signature” rule. A small suspension will then be meted out.
Catastrophe has been averted for now.
Once the offseason rolls around, expect the NCAA to try and craft new legislation for the autograph issue. The typical NCAA reaction to a problem is “Alright, you’ll receive a slap on the wrist, but the next guy to do this is gonna get it.” Remember, Cam Newton was suspended for about 15 minutes of real time and then cleared to play for Auburn in 2010. By the time the next season rolled around, the NCAA had tried to close the Newton loophole (though there are still so many holes in the NCAA rulebook that it looks like the world’s largest block of Swiss cheese).
So what do we know?
We know that autograph brokers claimed that Manziel asked for cash. We know that the NCAA investigated. We know that brokers said more to ESPN’s reporters than they did to the NCAA (not a surprise). We know that the NCAA either couldn’t or didn’t want to find hard evidence proving Manziel violated this rule because that would open the door for a thousand more claims of the same nature. And we know that the NCAA has now put a small penalty in place should new claims about other players arise.
Here’s hoping that when we have to write about Manziel over the next three months… it’s all about his actions on the football field, and not off it.
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