NCAA's Reported Meeting with Johnny Manziel Could Be a Game Changer
It's game week, and the wheels on the Johnny Manziel saga keep spinning.
In fact, they're going about 80 miles per hour.
According to ESPN.com's Travis Haney, the NCAA met with the Texas A&M quarterback for six hours Sunday regarding reports that the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner accepted and/or requested payments for organized autograph signings this offseason.
CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman (via Chip Patterson of the same outlet) confirmed reports of the meeting and added that Manziel denied taking money for autographs.
The ESPN report states that this was the initial meeting between the two parties, but it isn't known if the NCAA is satisfied with what they heard or if they'll require Manziel to answer additional questions.
So what does this mean for his status?
It could mean a variety of things, but it's an indication that the rubber is definitely meeting the road.
The NCAA meeting with Manziel was inevitable, but a six-hour meeting after a month of speculation suggests that the two parties had a lot to talk about. Whether or not the NCAA finds a "smoking gun" or has enough to build a circumstantial case against Manziel, ultimately, how the quarterback answered one question in the meeting will dictate his future.
"If you didn't sign 4,400 or more items during a one-month span for money, what other motivation did you have?"
Simply saying he couldn't turn down autograph hounds probably won't fly.
However Manziel sold it, he'd better have been thorough. ESPN's initial report on the subject indicated that the organization first started looking into the matter in June. Say what you will about the snail's pace in which the NCAA is handling the Miami case, but two-plus months to build a case before an official meeting with Manziel is still a lot of time to build a case.
Unless a master forger has duped professional memorabilia authentication services, it's clear that Manziel signed a lot of items, many of which came to those services in bulk from the same person or company.
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On the flip side, all signs still point to Manziel playing.
Media gag order aside, Manziel is still listed as the No. 1 quarterback on A&M's Week 1 depth chart. According to Feldman, the coaching staff didn't spend a lot of time getting either Matt Joeckel or Kenny Hill ready to be the starter during fall camp.
That suggests that A&M is confident that its star quarterback is telling the truth or—at the very least—comfortable with what he's selling.
Unfortunately for Manziel, the coaching staff is often the last to know the eligibility status, according to CBSSports' Jeremy Fowler.
The good news for A&M is that the NCAA should have a decision soon. According to John Lopez of AM 610 in Houston, the NCAA will give a recommendation on what A&M should do with Manziel on Wednesday.
The NCAA will announce its recommendation on Manziel play or no-play on Wednesday, according to an A&M source.— John P. Lopez (@LopezOnSports) August 27, 2013
So it's an apparently small time frame the NCAA has to decide whether Manziel answered its questions adequately, find a smoking gun or develop a "good-faith belief" that the allegations are credible—which was its stated burden of proof in the Cam Newton investigation.
Sunday's meeting was the game changer. It's the event that, despite all of the ebbs and flows of this story since it broke on Aug. 6, will ultimately decide Manziel's eligibility.
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin better hope Manziel was a good salesman.
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