The status of Texas A&M quarterback and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel has been up in the air for the last month, ever since allegations that he took money in exchange for organized autograph signings hit ESPN.com in early August.
So will he play in the season opener versus Rice or won't he?
According to Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com, Manziel will be suspended for the first half of Saturday's matchup with the Owls.
Latest on Manziel? Per multiple sources, he'll be suspended for first half of season-opener versus Rice on Saturday.— Billy Liucci (@billyliucci) August 28, 2013
The NCAA released a statement late Wednesday afternoon confirming the suspension, adding that Manziel was ruled ineligible by Texas A&M and reinstated by the NCAA on the condition of a half-game suspension, speech to his team on lessons learned and revisions to Texas A&M's education concerning autographs. Essentially, it's the same structural path that the Cam Newton scandal took in the fall of 2010.
So that's it. One half. Thirty minutes. Nothing more and nothing less.
Seriously, Texas A&M and NCAA? A half? That literally accomplishes nothing. In fact, it could open up Pandora's box.
McMurphy specified the rules that were in question.
To clarify: Manziel suspension for violating "spirit" of NCAA bylaw 22.214.171.124 & 126.96.36.199. NCAA couldn't prove he broke any rules source said— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) August 28, 2013
Bylaw 188.8.131.52 prevents student-athletes from knowingly accepting or permitting the use of his or her name or picture on commercial products or receiving benefits from promoting products. Bylaw 184.108.40.206 compels student-athletes and schools to stop sale of those items if the items are being sold without permission.
Basically, Manziel "should have known better."
Well, yeah. If you participate in organized signings, it's a pretty safe bet that somebody is going to profit off of it. If Manziel didn't know, it's only because he wanted to maintain a certain level of deniability to avoid serious punishment.
Well-played, Johnny. It worked.
What does this mean moving forward?
If a player covers his bases to ensure that the NCAA isn't going to follow the dollar signs all the way down the rabbit hole, who wouldn't participate in mass autograph signings? Especially if you have a cupcake opponent coming up and know that the broker's business model necessitates a certain level of secrecy?
It's another indication that if a player breaks the rules, all he has to do is cover his tracks, deny and let the lawyers handle it.
For A&M, this is nothing more than a window dressing. It admits that Manziel probably messed up, but an acknowledgment that the the absence of subpoena power is a big issue for the NCAA and that this specific matter—which would deal largely in cash—is next to impossible to prove.
It's punishment without punishment. After all, if he wasn't suspended, Manziel would probably sit out most of the second half versus Rice anyway thanks to a big Aggie lead.
Manziel's half-game suspension is another black eye for the NCAA. It further exposes that its hands are tied in regards to investigative procedures and a vulnerability in its enforcement process.
For fans, it's a win.
Manziel was a joy to watching as he posted an SEC-record 5,116 total yards last season. His 30-minute suspension for the Rice game won't have an impact on the Aggies' long-term outlook this season. That means BCS National Championship hopes will remain in College Station for the next few weeks and Sept. 14's matchup with Alabama will be one of the most important games of the college football season.
That's good for the game, even if the enforcement process is largely a joke.