In 2012, Johnny Manziel was the best player in college football. Now there’s a chance that he won’t be able to play in 2013.
Johnny Football is being investigated by the NCAA for possibly receiving money in exchange for his autograph. The Texas A&M quarterback allegedly signed hundreds of photos and sports memorabilia, according to ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.” Manziel reportedly agreed to receive a fee in the five figures for the autographs.
If Manziel is found to have profited from these signings, he will have violated NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199. Doing so could force the NCAA to rule him ineligible for the upcoming season.
Forcing Manziel to sit out the entire season would drastically influence the college football landscape. The Aggies are one of the favorites to reach the BCS National Championship Game, and are expected to compete with the likes of Alabama, Georgia, and LSU in the SEC. Without Manziel, Texas A&M could struggle mightily in the nation’s best conference.
Maziel has yet to comment on the allegations. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said the school was doing what it could to “find out the facts.”
It’s not just Manziel that could be in trouble, but the school as well. In preparation for an NCAA investigation, Texas A&M has hired Lightfoot Franklin & White, the law firm that represented Alabama and South Carolina during recent NCAA probes.
In 2011, Ohio State was under investigation for a similar scandal. The NCAA discovered that multiple players received $14,000 in money and tattoos for different types of memorabilia. For the players’ indiscretions, the Buckeyes were hit with a one-year bowl ban for the 2012 season. Ohio State wasn’t able to compete in the postseason, despite finishing with an undefeated record. The Texas A&M case involves only one player, but there is a precedent for the school to face a stiff penalty.
It could be hard for the NCAA to prove that Manziel was paid for his signatures. ESPN’s Joe Schad tweeted a picture of the 20-year-old signing pictures, which was provided by an autograph broker. However, there is no proof that his personal assistant Nathan Fitch told the broker that Manziel would require money for any future signings, which the broker claims.
Despite the allegations, Manziel began practicing with the team when they opened preseason camp on Monday. The Aggies will open up their season on Aug. 31 against Rice and begin conference play on Sept. 14 when they host Alabama.