Jay Bilas’s righteous indignation Tuesday over the Johnny Manziel brouhaha was a wonderful sight to see. Bilas’s tidal wave of tweets showed that the NCAA’s online store sells lots of numbered jerseys that could be found by typing prominent players’ names into the site’s search function. Players who can’t profit off their names are seeing their numbers sold for anywhere between $59.95 to $179.95.
Shortly after Bilas’s Twitter assault, the store disabled the search function. Fun!
Bilas is right: It’s hypocritical for universities and the NCAA to make money off its stars while not allowing them to make a penny. It’s one reason I’m on the record as being in favor of a stipend for college athletes. But there couldn’t be a worse poster boy for the issue — posters still available! make checks payable to “NCAA”! — than Manziel.
It’s not just because Manziel won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman, thus guaranteeing a pretty lucrative revenue stream years after his college playing days end. It’s not just because his nickname, Johnny Football, is a registered trademark. It’s not just his toxic and now-dead Twitter account, which revealed what seemed to be a delightful personality. It’s not just the fact that he doesn’t need a stipend because his parents are . . . comfortable.
It’s not just that he shoved a grad assistant during a spring practice. It’s not just that he was kicked out of the Manning Passing Academy, apparently for oversleeping. It’s not just that he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for a fight outside a bar last year. (That cost him $2,000 plus about $230 in court costs, which — if current allegations are even partially true — would not have presented a problem.) It’s not just that he was kicked out of a frat party at the University of Texas, not known for its loving relationship with its College Station counterparts. It’s not just that he compared himself to Justin Bieber (I’m not sure who should be more offended by that, Bieber or Manziel). And it’s not just because he tweeted that he “can’t wait” to leave College Station.
After this week’s spate of reports that Manziel apparently took money from every memorabilia dealer with a wallet to sign a slew of items to sell on eBay (the real news here may be that people are still using eBay), College Station may tweet back “even the 12th man wants you out of here.”
If Manziel is indeed found to have violated NCAA rules prohibiting players from accepting money for promoting or advertising the commercial sale of a product or service, he could be ruled ineligible.
And that’s where this will really get interesting. NCAA investigations are known for their snail-like swiftness. A&M plays its first game Aug. 31. If Manziel plays and is subsequently ruled ineligible, the Aggies would have to forfeit any wins. And does the NCAA want to suspend its Heisman Trophy winner and one of its biggest draws? That wouldn’t exactly be a boon to its “network partners.”
The NCAA is hypocritical; that seems obvious. If it finds these allegations true and doesn’t suspend Manziel, then what is its purpose? It already has ceded control of virtually every aspect of college football to the power conferences. Making and enforcing rules is all it has left on its “to-do” list.
And speaking of hypocrisy, Texas A&M’s booster club sold a table of six, one of whom will be Manziel, at the team’s kickoff dinner for $20,000. Manziel allegedly received a flat five-figure fee for an autograph session in Miami before the BCS title game. One of these actions is within the rules and one isn’t, and there’s something very wrong about that.
Three years ago, Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green was suspended four games for selling an autographed jersey for $1,000. He paid back the money and headed to the NFL, which was so outraged by his actions that the Bengals made him the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft.
By the Green scale, Manziel would never play another game of college football.
Manziel’s unforgivable sin is resetting the clock on the stipend discussion. Because the argument in favor of a stipend is that it would deter cheating and give players some walking-around money, something they currently can get only from their families. Some players don’t have families with money. Some players don’t even have families.
Now Manziel’s alleged actions have made it appear that greed, not need, leads to cheating. He’s shown a callous disregard for the rules of the NCAA, and the rules of life as well. If he were more likable, if he hadn’t spent the spring and summer embarrassing himself repeatedly, would we feel different about him now? We’ll never know. He has made his bed. And now he should be able to oversleep in it for as long as he wants, or at least until the 2014 NFL draft.
For more by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.com/hamilton.