On Sunday, ESPN reported that the NCAA is investigating Johnny Manziel for allegedly signing autographs for a Florida autograph dealer.
ESPN reported as follows:
"Two sources tell "Outside the Lines" that the Texas A&M quarterback agreed to sign memorabilia in exchange for a five-figure flat fee during his trip to Miami for the Discover BCS National Championship. Both sources said they witnessed the signing, though neither saw the actual exchange of money."
The report cited three sources that claimed Manziel signed "photographs, footballs, mini football helmets and other items" at the request of a broker named Drew Tieman. Tieman allegedly approached Manziel on Jan. 6, when Manziel arrived in the Miami area to attend the BCS title game.
It was after the meeting, the report said, when Manziel allegedly went to Tieman’s residence and "signed hundreds of items in the main room of the apartment despite the fact that there were many people in the room."
The important detail here is that none of ESPN’s sources can prove that Manziel actually received payment for these autographs. Under NCAA rules it isn’t enough for Manziel to have merely signed the autographs. The NCAA must prove that Manziel profited off the sale of his autographs.
The relevant NCAA bylaw that governs this situation is found here:
"126.96.36.199 Advertisements and Promotions After Becoming a Student-Athlete. After becoming a student-athlete, an individual shall not be eligible for participation in intercollegiate athletics if the individual: (a) Accepts any remuneration for or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind."
Now, using a student’s likeness to profit is an NCAA violation — but so long as that student doesn’t actually receive anything in return, there is no significant punishment that can be levied by the NCAA. So all Texas A&M would need to do is send a cease and desist to this autograph broker and assert that Manziel received no payment for his autographs. Manziel can argue that he signed the autographs as a gesture of good will — a point hammered home in a recent ESPN profile — and had no idea that his autographs would be sold.
Provided there is no direct evidence to contradict Manziel’s assertion that he wasn’t paid — and if he was paid in cash, how could you prove it for sure? — then Manziel’s eligibility would not be impacted.
Interestingly, the offshore betting line for this season’s Alabama-Texas A&M game, after sitting at Bama -6.5 for months, suddenly bounced eight days ago, surging to Bama -9.5. That three-point line move became big news. In an appearance on my NBC Radio Show on July 27, Todd Fuhrman — Las Vegas odds expert for Outkick the Coverage — explained that the only Texas A&M player who could possibly move the line this much was Johnny Manziel. Fuhrman’s suspicion was that something had happened that might impact Manziel.
In the wake of ESPN’s report that the NCAA has been investigating Manziel since June, that line move makes sense.
Someone was putting money down on Alabama offshore, likely thinking that Manziel might miss some games.
Only if the NCAA can prove that Manziel profited off the signatures.