NCAA in a tricky situation with Manziel
Posted August 15, 2013
Updated August 16, 2013
Another summer, another crisis for the NCAA.
Johnny Manziel's alleged autograph-selling raises more than its share of questions for an organization whose management seems to be under fire daily. From a big-picture perspective, why shouldn't an athlete – college or pro – be able to trade on his or her own name? I mean, what's more personal than your name?
The common argument against allowing such practices by athletes is the "slippery slope" theory. If an athlete is allowed to profit from signing his/her name on an item, then what's to stop a big-money booster from buying the autograph at a hugely inflated price? (With a wink and a nod, of course...) Such "extra benefits" have probably been around for as long as collegiate athletics have been played, but when they're not out in the open, it's easy for the NCAA to turn a blind eye.
Which brings us to Manziel. On the one hand, I have no problem with him being paid to sign autographs. It's his name, after all.
But right now, that's against the rules, and if the NCAA is able to prove Manziel really did receive payouts in the five-figure range, then he should never play another college football game. None of this "sit him two games and see what happens" talk I see occasionally online – when the benefits (and that's what these payouts would be considered) number in the tens of thousands, you should be done as a college athlete. Just ask Marvin Austin. Manziel's benefits would dwarf those reported for Greg Little and Robert Quinn, who also lost their eligibility.
I'm sure the folks at UNC, Ohio State and USC will be watching to see what the NCAA does. And then there's Dez Bryant. If anyone has reason to be angry if Manziel skates on this, it's him.
I never had a problem with the Austin/Quinn/Little dismissals – they broke the rules. But is there really a big difference between accepting money from autograph brokers (who want your business as an athlete) and accepting money from agents or jewelers who also want your business as an athlete? If Manziel broke the rules, he should be punished accordingly regardless of whether or not he's the Heisman Trophy winner.
The bottom line is the NCAA needs to be consistent when handing out punishments – and the perception is they haven't always been very consistent.
This is a tricky situation for the NCAA. Manziel is a popular, high-profile player, and in truth, it's hard to fault a guy for accepting payments for his signatures – especially considering the memorabilia brokers will profit immensely from his autographs. And let's not forget the NCAA has been profiting as well from team and player-related memorabilia.
But if the NCAA allows Manziel to slide (assume there is proof of the allegations), the old Jerry Tarkanian quote will come to mind - the one about the NCAA being so mad at Kentucky, they punished Cleveland State.
Luckily for Cleveland State, they don't have football. Yet.