Is Johnny Manziel Autograph-Gate Another Terrelle Pryor/Ohio State Tattoo-Gate?
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's eligibility remains in question as the NCAA looks into allegations that he cashed in a five-figure payday during an autograph session in Miami in January, via ESPN's Darren Rovell and Justine Gubar.
It's all about what can be proven at this point, and while A&M fans want to think that this is an open-and-shut case, we'll see what gets uncovered by the NCAA and the media members looking for the next scoop.
Until then, there are previous cases that can be used to gauge what might and might not happen to Manziel if these allegations are proven to be true.
One of the more prominent incidents was the "tattoo-gate" fiasco that got five Ohio State players suspended and eventually played a role in head coach Jim Tressel's resignation from the Buckeyes. In that case, five players—including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor—were found to have received tattoos in exchange for autographs and memorabilia.
Similar? Yes, in the sense that they both involve amateur athletes potentially receiving benefits from their status as college football stars.
Pryor had to pay back $2,500 for his 2008 Big Ten championship ring, 2008 Gold Pants from the Michigan game and his 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award, according to USA Today's Tim Gardner.
While the size of the alleged payday in Manziel's case makes it more concerning from an individual standpoint, it's far less concerning overall.
The specific five-figure dollar amount Manziel is reported to have received from memorabilia dealer Drew Tieman remains a mystery, but even if it's in the low end, the level at which he'd be profiting off his own name is still enormously greater than Pryor and the "Tattoo Five."
That's not the issue, though.
While Manziel's eligibility is far more tenuous than Pryor's and the rest of the Buckeyes due to the greater amount of money he is alleged to have received, there's nothing to suggest that this is something systemic that could spiral out of control and become a program- or institution-wide problem.
Let's just say, for instance, everything in the ESPN report is true, and Manziel took five figures to sign hundreds or thousands of items in South Florida. That still seems to be more of an individual problem that would directly impact Manziel's eligibility—not the program overall.
Unless head coach Kevin Sumlin knew that Manziel was planning on signing for cash during the season—and judging from the specific circumstances detailed in ESPN's report, that doesn't seem likely—he hasn't had the opportunity to lie by omission by signing the NCAA Certificate of Compliance form knowing a player could be ineligible.
Even if the follow-up report from ESPN claiming that a second broker was told by Manziel's assistant Nate Fitch that Manziel would no longer be signing for free during last season is true, there's nothing to suggest that the program knew or should have known.
It still could impact the Aggies' 2012 season. If Fitch was shopping Manziel's signature during the season, he could be considered an agent under the recently passed "Cecil Newton rule," which would call Manziel's eligibility late last season into question.
Which issue was/is more concerning?
Is the Manziel scandal related to what happened at Ohio State?
Absolutely. They're very much in the same family.
But as of now, Manziel's issues only seem related to Manziel—which is a good thing if you're a Texas A&M fan.
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