Just when you thought Johnny Manziel would make it to fall camp without another off-field incident, Darren Rovell and Justine Gubar of ESPN reported Sunday that he is being investigated by the NCAA for profiting from autographs.
With Manziel’s eligibility now in question, the time has come for Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin to step in and try to control the young superstar before he completely implodes. Sumlin needs to intervene for reasons beyond damage control and manage to get Manziel through another firestorm.
It is about preserving the Heisman Trophy winner's career, saving the Aggies football program and solidifying Sumlin as the long-term leader at Texas A&M.
For a summary of Manziel's offseason, check out Bleacher Report's timeline of the festivities.
What’s the Big Deal?
In the words of Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports, “Manziel isn’t breaking any laws and he has the right to take pictures with Rick Ross and sleep in when he wants to and go to class online. He’s having the kind of offseason to make Mickey Mantle jealous, let alone the rest of us.”
Is it true that Manziel hasn’t broken any laws since his June 2012 arrest that led to his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge this past July? Well, no.
It’s simple: The legal drinking age is 21, and he is, as he has repeatedly claimed, a 20-year-old kid. Yes, an underage kid who has purportedly enjoyed alcoholic beverages from sea to shining sea.
To put this in perspective, underage drinking has cost other college students their academic lives.
Don’t think so? Check out the advice given to Texas A&M students by Gray Granberry & Jones, a law firm in College Station.
But did you know that Texas A&M metes out its own punishments for violating its alcohol policy?...In case you need a refresher, here is how Aggies could get punished for bad behavior linked to alcohol: under University Rule 24.3.8, having alcohol in a public area of the university or in any place “not approved for such activities,” drinking underage, driving while intoxicated and being publicly intoxicated are all forbidden. This means if you are 21 and have a glass of wine at a private reception for a professor’s paper, that’s fine – if you are 19 and shotgunning a Natty Ice in the quad, that is not.
The potential consequences for violating Rule 24.3.8 include being put on probation, a temporary dismissal from school, a notification to parents, required participation in alcoholic awareness workshops and community service.
Despite any NCAA investigations, should this guy already have been dismissed from school?
Being Johnny Football…in 2023
While everyone is caught up in how Manziel will fare in 2013 (if he plays at all) and his NFL draft prospects, Sumlin needs get involved to protect more than two years of potential glory.
Yes, while it’s intriguing to think of Manziel now, what will his life look like when he becomes a 30-year-old man?
Manziel may or may not have a brilliant ending to his college career, and he might be a draft bust or an NFL superstar, but either way, he’s going to have a life to live when football is over. And the choices he makes now will have a lot to say about what 2023 looks like for the Manziel family.
Sumlin’s intervention now, in 2013, and his success in getting Manziel to live the life of a responsible 20-year-old kid may not only make the next 12 months better. It may mean the next 20 to 30 years are better for Manziel, regardless of his future in football.
The Reality of Team Dynamics
Even though Manziel’s teammates have continued to support him publicly throughout his offseason escapades, you have to wonder what will happen if the wheels start to come off the bus.
Yes, what happens to the concept of “we’ve got your back no matter what,” when “what” becomes obscene and the team's fortunes start to fade?
If resentment rears its ugly head, then what happens to the delicate balance between team and superstar?
According to ESPN's Sam Khan Jr., Aggies offensive tackle Jake Matthews had this to say about Manziel during SEC media days last month:
I try not to concern myself with [his off the field] activities…He’s a great guy. Especially after winning the Heisman. One thing I’ve noticed is that he’s the same as he was before. He’s still determined and I’m faithful and I have trust in him that he’s going to be ready for this season and ready for what’s coming.
But what will Matthews and Co. have to say if things aren’t the same when the squad is back in the huddle? Yes, what if Manziel is not ready for what’s coming?
Sumlin must make an effort to control Manziel to protect the dynamics and potential of this year’s Aggies football team.
Putting the “Head” Back into “Head Coach”
Manziel is arguably under more scrutiny than any player in college football history. This is due to his rise to superstardom occurring during the full-blown reign of social media.
Manziel's antics in the Twitter, Instagram and Facebook era create the perfect storm. When you combine immediate, no-bounds information with a guy who is determined to be a normal mistake-prone 20-year-old, things can get ugly.
Indeed, now the sports world watches on with googly eyes, salivating over every tweet, status change and filtered photo.
This puts Sumlin in a difficult position because he must try to control a situation that is nearly impossible to control. But if he doesn’t, he stands to lose control not just over Johnny Football, but over his program now and in the future.
Sumlin is the head football guy at Texas A&M, and if the buck will ever stop with him, he must lay down the law with Manziel.
It may be the difference between Aggies football being the success it could be in the next decade or not. And it may be the difference in a coaching career still young enough to be at a crossroads.