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Texas A&M Chancellor Not Happy With ESPN’s Rovell

Angry-man-steam-earsESPN’s coverage of the NCAA’s look-see into Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and his autograph habits isn’t sitting well most Aggies.  In fact, ESPN reporter Darren Rovell specifically has drawn the ire of Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp.

In an email sent to “Aggie community and business leaders,” Sharp took aim at Rovell and other “members of the media (who) have chosen to declare #2 guilty with no evidence whatsoever.”  He then linked to a correction Rovell once issued while working for CNBC and wrote that “Rovell… has been duped before.”

That wasn’t all.  Sharp also knocked ESPN and one of its sources saying the autograph broker Drew Tieman “was reportedly booked twice for possession of marijuana and placed on four years probation.”  (Oh, well in that case he must be lying about Manziel receiving a five-figure deal to sign autographs.  The guy has smoked marijuana.  Damn hippie.)  “It is surprising that the nation’s largest sports channel would support publication with this lack of corroboration.”

Here’s what we actually know:

 

1.  The NCAA is investigating whether or not Manziel received or asked for money for his autograph.

2.  ESPN broke the story on the NCAA’s investigation and has followed up with multiple claims from autograph brokers and with evidence of thousands of Manziel signatures.

3.  There is no three.

 

To our knowledge, Rovell has not “chosen to declare #2 guilty” as A&M’s chancellor suggests.  He’s written about the allegations several autograph brokers have made.  He’s written that if Manziel received money he would be in violation of NCAA Bylay 12.5.2.1.  But that’s just reporting.

Sharp, and many A&M fans, are doing what fans do anytime a media organization publishes an investigative report — they’re allowing their own passions to cloud what it is they are actually reading.

Would someone at A&M feel like the world is out to get Manziel and that ESPN specifically is claiming his guilt?  Of course.  Is that what’s actually happening?  No.  ESPN is reporting on a story and there are a lot of sources — aside from Tieman — who are willing to discuss Manziel’s multiple autograph sessions.

Here’s what Rovell recently said on ESPN radio regarding the most recent allegations:

 

“We don’t have the dollar figures.  And we don’t have him actually taking money, someone seeing him take money.

In a lot of these rooms (where the signings took place) there were few people.  The first two signings in South Florida, there were much more people in the room, there 15, 20 people in the room.  That was easier to nail down.  But in that case, we were told that he went into a room with his guy, Nate Fitch, and potentially, it’s assumed he was paid there, but not in front of everyone…

The NCAA is not a court of law.  They don’t necessarily have to prove that he got paid beyond a reasonable doubt.  If they think there’s enough circumstantial evidence they can go after him and, as we’ve been talking about, the NCAA is certainly at a crossroads right now.”

 

Sorry, but that’s a simple regurgitation of the facts as presented to ESPN, a network — like all news-gathering bodies — that practices investigative journalism.  ESPN didn’t lead the NCAA to investigate Manziel.  The NCAA’s investigation into Manziel led ESPN to track down some of the autograph brokers who’ve since claimed to them — but not to the NCAA, as far as we know — that Manziel was paid for signing his name.  They’ve also found evidence of more than 4,000 Manziel autographs on the market.

Asked on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike” radio show about the common sense approach — that Manziel had to have been paid for those thousands of autographs — Rovell gave his own opinion:

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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 CBSSports.com 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 MrSEC.com 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 MrSEC.com 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.

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