While there is a paper trail from the sale of No. 2 jerseys back to Texas A&M and the NCAA, and a direct line to the word “hypocrisy” in your nearest Merriam-Webster Collegiate dictionary, there apparently is no paper trail here.
So we get a weird, almost surreal, joint statement from the NCAA and Texas A&M. Together, apparently, they have determined that the Aggies’ Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel will be suspended for the first half of the Rice game on Saturday, Aug. 31.
The statement said there was no “evidence” Manziel had received payment for signing 4 million autographs. OK, I made that number up. But he apparently signed his name a suspiciously large number of times out of the goodness of his heart, which was why he reportedly had about a six-hour chat with the NCAA last weekend.
He received the two-quarter suspension, the statement said, for violating an NCAA rule. In short, that rule prohibits a student-athlete (what a quaint term) from allowing his name or likeness to be used for any commercial purpose.
Do I believe Johnny Football probably accepted something more than Monopoly money for all those autographs? Yes, I do. And I’m guessing you do, too. Most certainly, the NCAA’s crack investigators believe that.
But they have come up empty, swinging and missing at every high-profile case they try to make as though it’s a Mariano Rivera cutter.
At SEC Media Days in July, when the latest Johnny Football controversy was “oversleeping” and missing meetings at the Manning passing camp, which led to Manziel going home early, he said: “I’m learning every day. There are situations you learn to shy away from. I used to be a person that watched ESPN and SportsCenter all day, every day. I shy away from it now.”
Count on video of him Saturday in College Station on the sidelines in the first half, and under center in the second half. And yes, this will dominate ESPN coverage and lead SportsCenter all day and night.
One of Manziel’s best traits is his elusiveness. He is now more elusive than ever, having scrambled through a web of allegations and accusations to emerge virtually untouched. His uniform will be clean and pristine when he hits the field for the second half of the Rice game.
More important for the College Football Industry, he’ll be front and center when No. 1 Alabama and current No. 7 Texas A&M play in College Station on Sept. 14. The Game of the Year has been saved.
Meanwhile, the NCAA investigation into the University of Miami athletics continues into infinity. Oh, and look over here, a fresh story coming from an advance copy of a book, “The System: The Glory and the Scandal of Big-Time College Football,” by Armen Keteyian and Jeff Benedict. A story that is the fire to all this Johnny Football smoke.
The book’s authors say that the father of a noted freshman told them two schools – one from the SEC and one from the ACC – offered $600,000 to get the prized recruit. The dad also says they ultimately picked a school that did not make an inappropriate offer.
The player in question? Texas A&M receiver Ricky Seals-Jones, who could be catching a pass from Johnny Manziel as soon as Saturday – in the third quarter.
If the pass goes for a touchdown, Seals-Jones should have Johnny-I-Beat-the-System autograph the ball.
No charge, of course.
Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.