With the news yesterday that the NCAA met with Texas A&M‘s Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel over the weekend for several hours, fans across the college football world are eagerly awaiting the governning body’s decision as to the eligibility of the sophomore quarterback for his alleged involvement in accepting money to sign autographs for brokers to sell for profit.
At this point, if one is being honest with himself, the evidence against Manziel is overwhelming. According to reports from ESPN, six different brokers have come forward claiming that he signed thousands of autographs for them in different hotel rooms throughout the country. Until recently, thousands of those autographs could be found on Ebay. ESPN reporters even stated that they witnessed a video tape of one of these signings. If they are telling the truth, and if the NCAA itself had access to this same evidence, then Manziel could find himself sidelined for quite awhile.
Unfortunately for Manziel, the NCAA does not share the same burden of proof as a court of law. They do not have to find physical evidence beyond a doubt that money changed hands; they simply need to believe that Manziel signed autographs with the knowledge that they would likely be sold for profit. Again, if they were privy to even a small amount of the evidence that reporters have witnessed, this seems like a fairly open and shut case.
We all know that the NCAA has been very inconsistent over the years. We don’t yet know if they will clear Manziel or if they will suspend him for an entire season or just a few games, but one thing is certain; their decision in the this case will be one that defines the organization’s future role in college athletics.
If they find that yes, Manziel did indeed accept cash in exchange for his autograph knowing it would be sold, yet decide to turn a blind eye and allow him to play, they are all but declaring that it is ok for student athletes to accept money in exchange for selling merchandise with their likeness. Such a decision would render them completely useless as the governing body in charge of making sure amateur athletes remain such. After all, that is the primary purpose of the NCAA. If that is no longer the case, what will their purpose be?
On the other hand, if they decide that the evidence, circumstantial though it may be, shows Manziel violated their bylaws and decide to discipline Manziel accordingly, then they will be making a firm statement that it doesn’t matter who you are; if you break the rules, you have to pay the consequences.
Either way, the future role of the NCAA will rest on whatever decision they make in the case of Johnny Football.