Tough Decision Looms for Texas A&M on Whether to Play or Sit Johnny Manziel

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterAugust 7, 2013

Another day, another new chapter added to the ongoing Johnny Manziel saga.

ESPN reported on Tuesday that an autograph broker paid the Texas A&M quarterback $7,500 for 300 mini- and full-sized Aggie helmets autographed over a two-day period in mid-January in a hotel room in New Haven, Conn.

A video of the signing was shown to ESPN's Joe Schad, where Manziel is reportedly caught on tape saying he has taken money for signing sessions in the past and telling the broker, "you never did a signing with me."

Per ESPN, the broker said he doesn't intend to cooperate with the NCAA in the Manziel probe.

It's the third broker in three days to claim that Manziel either was paid or representatives of the Texas A&M QB requested payment for signing sessions. This is all circumstantial evidence, and as such, it's going to be difficult for the NCAA to build a case. But the day-by-day trickle of information puts Manziel's season—or at least part of it—in doubt.

A&M fans won't want to hear it, but the story is getting bigger.

Since this story originally broke, the new broker has provided the most compelling circumstantial evidence yet. Whether you believe this broker or not, he's still providing more information for Texas A&M's compliance department and the NCAA to comb through to determine Manziel's eligibility.

Even if this is an open-and-shut case that isn't going anywhere without a paper trail, it's looking more and more like it's going to take time to shut it since new information keeps surfacing.

If these issues aren't cleared up prior to Week 1, A&M could be facing quite a difficult decision.

Does this situation seem eerily familiar? Say, to the one another Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback went through in 2010?

After about a month of speculation, former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was declared ineligible by the school for 24 hours the week of the SEC Championship Game before being reinstated by the NCAA. A&M may have to do something similar and declare Manziel ineligible prior to its opener against Rice.

That'd actually be a good thing for the Aggies.

The last thing A&M needs is to risk vacating wins. If there's any doubt, he should sit. With Rice and Sam Houston State to open the season, Manziel's absence likely wouldn't matter that much anyway.

The specifics of the two cases are much different, but this scandal is structured like the one that involved Cam Newton and his father, Cecil, in late 2010, when reports surfaced that Cecil Newton had a conversation with Mississippi State coaches about money during Cam's recruitment.

No evidence ever surfaced about Cecil having a similar conversation with Auburn or any other program, but for about two weeks, Cam's eligibility hung in the balance.

Manziel's issues aren't taking place in-season like Newton's did, but with three weeks before the start of the season, time is very much of the essence. 

A&M's actions over the next few weeks are going to be telling.

If backups Matt Joeckel or Matt Davis start receiving more snaps in fall camp, it's a clear indication that, at best, A&M feels questions surrounding Manziel's eligibility won't be cleared up by the opener. At worst, it means it isn't buying what Manziel is selling.

College Station is going to be an interesting place over the next three weeks.