Johnny Manziel will open the 2013 college football season just like his many fans and detractors: He'll be watching. Unlike all of those folks, Johnny Football won't be watching for long.
The Texas A&M quarterback has been suspended for the first half of the Aggies' season opener against Rice on Saturday. After two quarters on the sidelines watching the rest of the No. 7 Aggies take on the unranked Owls, Manziel will be back on the field and back in the good graces of the NCAA. According to a joint statement from the NCAA and Texas A&M, Manziel is being sidelined for "an inadvertent violation regarding the signing of certain autographs."
Per the statement, Texas A&M declared Manziel ineligible and presented the NCAA with the half-game suspension as one of three conditions for reinstatement. The NCAA agreed to A&M's suggested punishment, with other prerequisites being that Manziel addressed the team about lessons learned from the situation and the university updated its education relating to autographs.
“I am proud of the way both Coach Sumlin and Johnny handled this situation, with integrity and honesty," Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said in a statement. "We all take the Aggie Code of Honor very seriously and there is no evidence that either the university or Johnny violated that code.”
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On Aug. 6, ESPN's ESPN's "Outside The Lines" reported that the NCAA was investigating whether the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback accepted payments for signing memorabilia. According to two unnamed sources who spoke with ESPN, Manziel "agreed to sign memorabilia in exchange for a five-figure flat fee" while in Miami to attend the BCS National Championship Game in January. Neither source claimed to have witnessed the exchange of money. A subsequent "OTL" report included allegations from an autograph broker that Manziel signed approximately 300 mini- and full-sized helmets in exchange for $7,500 while attending an event for the Walter Camp Football Foundation later that same month in Connecticut. The broker provided ESPN with two videos of Manziel signing memorabilia. According to ESPN, the video did not show Manziel accepting money.
When announcing the half-game suspension on Wednesday afternoon, the NCAA and Texas A&M indicated that "there is no evidence that quarterback Johnny Manziel received money in exchange for autographs, based on currently available information and statements by Manziel." The NCAA did, however, acknowledge that harsher punishments could be forthcoming if more evidence came to light.
Given Manziel's profile, the NCAA's less-than-stellar reputation for rules enforcement and the financial hypocrisies exposed as this pay-for-pen saga unfolded, the brief suspension and statements generated plenty of conversation on Twitter.
Calling a bit more attention to the financial hypocrisy exposed by the investigation of an athlete possibly profiting off his signature was A&M's apparent attempt to sell an image of Manziel on the very web page announcing his suspension.