According to NFL.com's Gil Brandt, who was (ostensibly) listening to some casual radio as he drove though the great south, a Dallas-area Dodge dealership was offering Johnny Manziel's autograph as a potential reward for test drives:
Just heard on radio a Dallas-area Dodge dealership giving away Johnny Manziel autographs w/ each test drive. Can't make that up.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) August 20, 2013
Like Brandt himself says, you can't make this stuff up.
NFL.com's Chase Goodbread goes into more elaborate detail, explaining that "the advertisement would represent an NCAA violation if Manziel or Texas A&M failed to take steps to stop the promotion."
According to dallasnews.com, which also has a recording of the radio advertisement, the school is aware of the situation and handling it:
Texas A&M, according to spokesman Jason Cook, is aware of the situation. The school intends to comply with the relevant NCAA bylaw in requesting the dealership cease the promotion in connection with a current student-athlete.
Manziel, of course, is already under investigation by the NCAA concerning memorabilia that he may or may not have been paid to sign. ESPN's Outside the Lines broke the story, which has since cast his college eligibility into doubt.
What's most troubling about this story isn't any new revelation about Manziel—everyone knows he's signed some stuff, the issue concerns his compensation—but the density of this car dealership. Given everything that's going on with Manziel, a very public investigation, did they think this promotion would go unnoticed?
Do You Think Johnny Manziel Accepted Payment for Autographs?
Did they think the opposite, that it would get noticed even more, and thus lead to more test drives? That's kind of a shrewd business move, but not exactly an ethical one. Or maybe they just live under a rock and had no idea about Signature-gate?
According to Goodbread's story, the dealership's general manager, John Zillioux, was not available when they reached out for contact.
As for Manziel, unless the dealership has some sort of proof he accepted money to sign the football, this probably can't be used against him in the court of NCAA bylaw. But as more and more signed objects start to surface, it can begin to indict him in the court of public opinion.
How many footballs would he (or anyone) really sign for free?