Texas A&M’s half-game suspension of Johnny Manziel is one of the most ridiculous punishments meted out in NCAA history — and that’s a high bar. After an exhaustive investigation lasting several weeks into allegations that Manziel received payment for autograph sessions, the school decided to make Manziel sit out the first half of Saturday’s game against Rice.
What a crushing loss for a team favored by 27 points.
ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” first reported that Manziel took money for putting his “John Football” on items later sold by dealers on eBay. Less than a month later, the Aggies came up with their bizarre punishment, and the NCAA quickly rubber-stamped it after grilling Manziel on Sunday. He apparently didn’t confess.
Which is more egregious, the lightness of the punishment or the swiftness of the punishment? Yes.
Meantime, the University of Miami is still awaiting word on its punishment for the actions of naughty booster Nevin Shapiro. Remember him? No? Well, he’s so last year. Actually, he’s so 2011; that’s when the accusations were first made. Of course, the NCAA investigation ground to a halt when it had to investigate itself for wrongdoing by its investigators in investigating Miami. (You can’t make this stuff up!) The school made its final case before the NCAA two months ago — and still hasn’t learned its fate. The Hurricanes will play their first game of the season Friday against Florida Atlantic.
So one investigation is tied up with a bow and a faux punishment in less than a month and just in time for the subject’s season opener — and that subject happens to be last year’s Heisman Trophy winner. What a coincidence!
The other investigation is apparently a mystery wrapped in a riddle. Miami has taken to punishing itself — that sounds wrong — in an effort to anticipate what’s going to happen.
Miami’s college football program doesn’t normally garner a lot of sympathy because of past infractions, but should past behavior be taken into account? If so, Manziel’s behavior during this past offseason — not to mention the three misdemeanor charges stemming from an incident outside a bar a year ago — should be taken into account as well.
Maybe the half-game slap on the wrist isn’t so surprising, considering the source. For his arrest in 2012, Manziel was disciplined, according to Coach Kevin Sumlin, but he didn’t miss any playing time. In June, the Dallas Morning News reported that the university, not the football program, originally suspended Manziel for a year but that suspension was overturned, and it may or may not have been because Manziel said he would have to transfer to another school if it happened. So as a 19-year-old, he got away with producing not one but two fake IDs for police outside a bar, and the consequences were . . . nothing. Maybe he had to run stairs.
When the Manziel story first broke, I couldn’t help but think of former Georgia receiver A.J. Green, who was suspended for four games — that’s eight halves — for selling a signed, game-worn jersey (worn against Texas A&M in the 2009 Independence Bowl, if you can believe it) to a quasi-agent for $1,000. The NCAA looked at his bank records as part of a different investigation (involving Miami, if you can believe it; it’s the sports version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon), saw a $1,000 deposit and asked him about it.
“I told them,” Green said. “I’m not going to lie to them and jeopardize my whole season.”
What a chump. Green should have hired a lawyer, refused to talk to the media and threatened to transfer. Maybe then he’d have gotten a slap on the wrist as well. Manziel rewrote the record books during his freshman season; now he’s revising the playbook for rule breakers. Maybe he can wrap it up during the first half of Saturday’s game. He’ll have all that extra time on his hands.
For more by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.com/hamilton.