Some random thoughts on Autographgate:
- Proof is in the pudding. The NCAA has reason to suspect – probably even good reason to suspect – that something fishy went on. But as Stewart Mandel points out, suspicion is a long way from proof, especially for the NCAA these days:
However, the NCAA cannot suspend a player on mere suspicion. It needs hard proof. Even before the Miami misconduct scandal that led to a mass exodus of its top investigators, the NCAA’s enforcement department has done little to inspire confidence it can get to the bottom of such matters. This particular situation, however, may be fairly cut-and-dried.
As a current NCAA athlete, Manziel is required to cooperate with investigators or risk forfeiting his eligibility (see: Maurice Clarett and Dez Bryant). That includes supplying bank records if asked. If there’s a mysterious deposit somewhere, he’ll have to explain it.
First, keep in mind that no one claims to have seen any compensation pass between the two. But even if it did, what if Manziel was smart enough to get paid in cash? If the autograph broker refuses to cooperate and there’s no such mysterious deposit, what’s the NCAA got left?
- Fine for me, not for thee. It seems to me that there’s a real risk for the NCAA that this matter turns a bright spotlight on the unfairness of letting schools profit off a student-athlete’s likeness while denying the same opportunity to the student-athlete. From the ESPN article that broke the news: “The value of Manziel is clear in the memorabilia and appearance market: Independent merchandiser Aggieland Outfitters recently auctioned off six helmets signed by Manziel and Texas A&M’s other Heisman Trophy winner, John David Crow, for $81,000. Texas A&M’s booster organization, the 12th Man Foundation, sold a table for six, where Manziel and Crow will sit at the team’s Kickoff Dinner later this month, for $20,000.”
- Mr. Conventional Wisdom’s selective memory. I could not believe that Tony Barnhart actually compared Manziel’s situation to Herschel Walker without noting the circumstances surrounding Herschel’s early departure from Georgia in 1983. Walker’s agent at the time, you may recall, initiated contact with the New Jersey Generals of the USFL, an action which cost Walker his last year of college eligibility. What may not be so easily remembered, though, was that the USFL prohibited contact with college undergraduates. Presented with the fait accompli, the league folded on enforcing that rule because, according to its president, “… faced with lawsuits on the league’s denying a person the right to make a living, he considered it fruitless to challenge the arrangements made by Walker with the Generals.”
Meanwhile, somewhere in this great land of ours, Cecil Newton is chuckling.