The college football offseason certainly knows how to close.
On the final day of the 2013 offseason, its biggest storyline drew to a conclusion. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was suspended for the first half of the Aggies' opener versus Rice for violating the spirit of college football rules pertaining to commercial merchandise.
The 30-minute suspension was met with almost universal criticism. After all, if everything goes according to plan for the Aggies, Manziel was probably only going to play for a half versus the Owls anyway.
Make no mistake, this is a face-saving move for all parties involved. From a 40,000-foot perspective, everybody wins—to various degrees—by essentially keeping the status quo.
The rules in question that prevent Manziel—and all college athletes—from profiting off of his name is a big part of the problem. The NCAA knew it was behind the eight ball and had to do something—but it couldn't push too far, because the push back might push it out of business.
A&M had to get the NCAA out of College Station. The longer investigators hang around, the more likely they are to turn over the wrong rock and find something scandalous. When it became clear that the NCAA couldn't prove Manziel took money, A&M was best served to declare him ineligible and then apply for reinstatement to speed up the process.
For Manziel, it's closure. Even if you believe that no money exchanged hands, common sense tells you that if Manziel—or anybody—signs a bunch of merchandise in shady hotel rooms, somebody's profiting. That ultimately is what cost Manziel 30 minutes of his season.
College football gets to keep one of its biggest stars on the field for the majority of the season, A&M's title hopes remain intact, and the NCAA—even though it further proved it has no teeth—didn't create a bigger problem by overreaching and accelerating its impending demise.
Oh, and CBS gets to keep what's sure to be monster ratings Sept. 14, when Alabama looks to exact revenge on Manziel for last season's upset by the Aggies in Tuscaloosa. ESPN's College GameDay will also be must-see television when it hits town that week (which is inevitable).
Are you happy Johnny Manziel will play college football this season?
The NCAA doesn't hold those contracts but still benefits from the sport's popularity. That's the 900-pound elephant in the room—pun very much intended.
This whole scandal was ridiculous.
From the arrogance (or ignorance) shown by Manziel for participating in mass signings—whether he was paid or not—to the rules that make his actions illegal, to the apprehension from his accusers to go on the record, to the sentencing phase. It was all silly.
It was also everything that makes college football great.
From the uncertainty and inconsistency of 18-to-22-year-olds on the field, to their actions off of it, to the variety of systems, to the arbitrary nature of rules enforcement—unpredictability is what makes the game great.
All of those traits are wrapped up in the game's most polarizing player, Johnny Football.
He'll see the field Saturday and every other Aggie game this year.
Whether you love him or hate him, that's good for college football.