It appears the first ever freshman to win the Heisman is having problems behaving like an amateur athlete. Is anyone surprised?
Maybe some were fooled by how smoothly Tim Tebow's return to the Florida Gators went after winning the Heisman. But the reality is that the current climate of the NCAA and the rules governing a player's eligibility for the NFL draft are begging to turn college football's biggest stars into scandalous cheaters.
We need look no further than Manziel to prove it.
After winning the Heisman, Manziel has spent the offseason in the spotlight. While there had been plenty of time devoted in the media to discussing Manziel's exploits, there was nothing to suggest that anything Manziel was doing was going to land him in hot water with the NCAA.
Then came the shot heard around the world:
Alleged Johnny Manziel autograph "proof picture" broker claims he shot pic.twitter.com/RR7oExSp4o— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) August 5, 2013
Manziel allegedly signed autographs for cash. This is the kind of thing that catches the NCAA's attention. Of course, we don't have to tell Texas A&M this:
Report: Texas A&M picks prominent law firm amidst Johnny Manziel investigation http://t.co/d0eyNt6zlr— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) August 6, 2013
I'm not privy to the agreement between A&M and that law firm, but I feel safe in saying the university will be handing over some sizable checks for services received, and it is certainly a justifiable cost.
College football is huge business and Manziel's stellar freshman year has helped raise the profile of Aggies football in a way that would be tough to quantify in dollars and cents.
Therein lies the problem. Manziel is generating money for people left and right, yet he can't profit from this himself.
Not surprisingly, autographs are at the center of this issue.
In an article by Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples, the enormity of the issue of autographs is highlighted:
[Manziel's] therapist asked him to make a list of the stressors in his life. Autographs topped the ledger. The solution was simple. Instead of signing everything sent his way, Manziel would dedicate one hour a week to fan mail and autographs. Everything else would go unsigned. In public Manziel would sign for children but steer clear of adults.
Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated's Stuart Mandel recounts a story that adds perspective to how this issue plays itself out in Manziel's life. Mandel:
[Manziel was] approached in the Dallas airport last December by a man who asked him to sign a sheet of helmet decals for troops overseas, only to later find them on eBay.
It is easy to see how this could be a difficult thing for Manziel to swallow. He thought he was doing something for those protecting our nation, and it turned out he was only helping to line the pocket of a con man with no apparent shame.
It isn't surprising that Manziel was approached like this. The 20-year-old quarterback is bleeding money and the sharks are swimming. If Manziel wants to play football this season, he's had little choice but to watch it all happen or break the rules and try not to get caught.
It is easy to see how someone would slide to the latter part of that equation. It is the college athlete's only real move to take some measure of control over the money they are generating.
Manziel needs another season under his belt before he can enter the NFL. He could choose to sit out the season, but that would seriously jeopardize his potential earning power. Not to mention, it would keep him from playing the game he excels at.
The system is pushing youngsters like Manziel towards making a choice that turns them into cheaters. This is not to erase the guilt of any person who knowingly breaks the rules, it is to say that proposition shouldn't be so appealing in the first place.
The NCAA needs to ensure that the young men and women participating in athletics are in an environment that helps them succeed in life, and not one that makes them cheaters for profiting off the value their hard work has created.
There is no easy fix to this problem. Anything that allows a player to profit off of their image would allow boosters, or whoever else, to filter money to a recruit to help lure them to certain schools.
However, just because the answer is hard does not mean it should be avoided or delayed.
It is time to start putting college athletes in a position to succeed instead of fail.