NCAA's punishment against Manziel is awfully weak

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Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. (Patric Schneider/AP)

WELL, AT LEAST the NCAA took the opportunity to confirm what many of us already believe. The governing body of collegiate sports is a joke.

On Wednesday, the NCAA and Texas A & M released a joint statement that said Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel would be suspended for the first half of the Aggies' season opener tomorrow against Rice.

After a summerlong drama about whether Manziel would lose his eligibility over an autograph-signing scandal, the NCAA and Texas A & M decided to give "Johnny Football" a dunce cap and sit him in the naughty corner for 30 minutes.

Texas A & M gets to pursue a berth in the BCS Championship game unencumbered by the specter of ineligibility looming over its best player.

I'm sure Penn State, Southern California and Ohio State understand the severity of the punishment dished out to Texas A & M.

Honestly, if the people running the NCAA actually had any integrity, they would be embarrassed that they issued such a meaningless punishment.

Still, that's what happens when no one actually can prove anything.

The NCAA conceded it had no evidence that Manziel actually received payment for autographing the hundreds of items that led to the investigation of the sophomore signal caller.

Yet, it still suspended him, no matter how lightly, for violating a rule he could not possibly be in control of.

I'm not getting into the circumstantial evidence against Manziel - namely, videos provided to ESPN of Manziel signing a large stash of items and memorabilia dealers saying they had paid him to do it.

Draw your own conclusion on that.

I just want to concentrate on the NCAA's dealing punishment to a kid without concrete evidence.

Officially, the NCAA said Manziel violated bylaw 12.5.2.1, which says "student-athletes" cannot permit their names or likenesses to be used for commercial purposes, including to advertise, recommend or promote sales of commercial products, or accept payment for the use of their names or likenesses.

That financial windfall is the exclusive domain of the NCAA, and the colleges, at least until lawsuits settle that issue.

Because the punishment is only the first half a game the Aggies should easily win, it's to the benefit of Texas A & M, Manziel and his lawyers to just accept it and move on.

The NCAA, which already is under increased negative scrutiny, dealt out less than a slap on the wrist, knowing that Manziel wouldn't fight it, in order to get this over with before the season started.

Nobody wanted possible sanctions to hang over a national champion contender because the NCAA could not decide fast enough whether the top player in the nation should be ruled ineligible.

Of course, "If additional information comes to light, the NCAA will review and consider if further action is appropriate."

What additional information? That's tough talk that means nothing. The NCAA ignored the smoking gun that was the video and remarks from the memorabilia dealers. It wanted the flash of light - namely, Manziel actually stuffing money into his pockets.

It's interesting that the NCAA's conclusion was "based on information provided by Manziel."

Hey, it's not as if "Johnny Football" would have any incentive to - possibly maybe - bend the facts a bit.

To be clear, the NCAA did not say Manziel was guilty of receiving money for his signatures. He was suspended for not anticipating what other people might do in the future.

The NCAA called it an inadvertent violation, saying Manziel should have known that signing numerous items in one setting would likely result in those items being sold later.

But that is also a catch. A broad ruling like that easily could be applied to every student-athlete who signs an autograph. The NCAA couched its ruling by throwing in the numerous items qualification, because it allows for later wiggle room when a similar case comes up in the future.

It wants no standing established for some future penalized athlete to look at and say, "How come me and not Manziel?"

By the way, a quick search on eBay yesterday morning had 190 original, autographed Manziel items. There were also 172 such items for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, 143 for Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, 101 for Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and 68 for Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron.

Most of these items are team helmets, jerseys or footballs, and they come with certificates of authentication.

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin, now a collegiate swimmer at the University of California, had 24 original autographs with authentication up for auction.

Although Kansas freshman basketball sensation Andrew Wiggins, who is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, has not played his first collegiate game, there were about two dozen basketballs with his autograph up for auction.

Call me naïve, but I don't think some kid asking for an autograph for personal memories will need a certificate of authentication.

It doesn't take much cognitive thought for every high-profile student-athlete to know that his/her autograph potentially will be sold on the secondary market.

So why exactly is Manziel being punished, no matter how small, while other Heisman Trophy favorites are not being punished?

If student-athletes should anticipate that their autographs will be sold, there are dozens of games this weekend where some star player should also have to sit out the first half as Manziel will.

It's simply the NCAA's whim as to whether it wants to deliver punishment.

Maybe the NCAA will decide based on which student-athlete's autograph the people in its offices are bidding for.

 


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com