Why Nothing May Come Of The Johnny Manziel Autograph Scandal

Texas A&M quarterback
Johnny Manziel is under NCAA investigationfor allegedly selling his autograph, according to an ESPN report.

If the NCAA proves the accusation is true, he could be declared ineligible.

But there’s still a long way to go before that happens, and considering the specifics of the allegations, the NCAA’s limited investigative powers, and the Manziel family’s financial ability to defend itself, the NCAA is facing an uphill battle.

Here’s the entirely of the evidence against Manziel right now:

  • Two sources told Darren Rovell of ESPN that Manziel got a “five figure” payment for signing a bunch of memorabilia for Florida broker Drew Tieman last January. Both sources specified that they did not see the alleged transaction take place.
  • One source told Joe Schad of ESPN that Manziel’s assistant told a broker in Alabama that Johnny Football would no longer sign autographs for free. That source specified that Manziel was not given money for his autograph.

There’s also a photo, uncovered by ESPN, of Manziel signing an autograph in a hotel room. It’s important to note that there is no NCAA rule against signing autographs, or even signing hundreds of autographs at a time at a shady memorabilia broker’s house, as long as you don’t take money for it.

If you wanted proof that Manziel has signed an autograph before, you could have just checked out the dozens of authenticated items on eBay.

So while this photo seems to imply ILLICIT ACTIVITIES, this is entirely meaningless:

In short, there are currently zero people who claim to have seen Johnny Manziel sell his autograph.

To prove that Manziel sold his autograph, the NCAA would have to find that alleged five-figure payment in Manziel’s bank records or, by some miracle, uncover video of him getting passed a stack of hundred dollar bills as he slides a signed mini helmet across the table.

The NCAA doesn’t have subpoena power. NCAA investigators aren’t officers of the law. While they can look into Manziel’s bank records, they can’t force people to testify or dig into the financial lives of people like “Uncle Nate” — Manziel’s 20-year-old friend and assistant who might play a key role in the scandal.

Under NCAA rules, family and friends aren’t required to cooperate with any investigation, only the student is question is.

Another issue for the NCAA (as Dan Wetzel points out in his column on the issue) is that the Manziel family is going to be totally lawyered up.

The school already hired the same law firm that defended Cam Newton when he was under investigation at Auburn, and the Manziel family is wealthy enough to pull out all the legal stops.

The NCAA is going up against a wealthy family who knows its rights, they have no witnesses to the alleged violation, and they can’t legally compel people to talk to them.

That’s a tall task.

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